Integrated Children’s System A “Burden” To Social Workers

The government’s IT system for social workers is putting children at risk, University of Nottingham researchers have found.

The research, based on a two-year study of five local authorities in England and Wales, found that the computerised Integrated Children’s System (ICS), undermines good social work practice.

The system, which was introduced following the 2003 Laming report sparked by the death of Victoria Climbie, was found to “burden” social workers.

Researchers claimed using the system could be “dangerous” to children in local authorities where staff turnover or sickness rates are high.

David Wastell, professor of Information Systems at the University of Nottingham, warned that ICS was unfit for purpose, because it was developed by central government with little input from frontline social work practitoners.

He said: “ICS is a crude technological attempt to transform social work into a bureaucratic practice to be governed by formally defined procedures, involving sequences of tasks to be accomplished within strict deadlines.”

The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The full report is due to be published in the British Journal for Social Work in early 2009.

A spokesperson for the Department of Children, Schools and Families said: “Most local authorities have told us that they believe the Integrated Children’s System will be more efficient and effective than previous systems and enable better outcomes for children.”

The spokesperson added: “It is for directors of children’s services to ensure that the right balance is struck, that social workers are managed well and their time deployed in the best interests of children’s safety.”