back to article Munro report: Child protection staff hindered by IT

A number of social workers interviewed for a government-commissioned review (177-page PDF/2.1MB) of child protection in England said that their locally procured computer systems were "substantial obstacles" to good practice. The workers were participating in an online conversation as part of the report by Professor Eileen Munro …


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All about the spec

This sounds like a prime example of poor specification gathering. We software engineers are not the mind reading boffin-geniuses we appear to be, and actually require decent specifications that take into account how people need to store and use data.

The spec for this software was probably never approved by a SME in child protection, or if it was, the SME probably wasn't as much of an expert as they made out to be.

Still, if the client signs it off..


Yes, but

...they say nothing about the users. You can have the best systems in the world, but if staff are not trained to use them (or don't learn how to) then they ain't worth Jack.

We've had an issue with exactly this; installed a new system which cost millions, but some staff are still using spreadsheets to maintain certain data. The system will allow them to do it faster and easier, but they are so obsessed with producing the spreadsheet, they refuse to use the new system instead.

And of course even if the system is used properly, you will always have people that don't enter all of the data when they should (usually because they better things to do like making comments on the Register!).

I'm just saying is all. Yeah, I'll get my coat and hat.

Anonymous Coward

more B.S.?

I've been supporting social services for over a decade at varying levels. What IT does, is that it implements the mandated systems that don't let social workers run their own agendas and emotions over procedure. It makes sure they follow procedure and don't allow their racial biases to either overly persecute parents with allegations, nor does it easily allow them to let others off the hook because of their "culture". It tracks their effectiveness and makes sure they're not sitting on their @ss at the office all day logged off and makes sure their paperwork gets in on time.

Give 'em a login and shared drives so they can access any system in the building and do their work, they sit and read the paper all day until a tech arrives to replace a balky keyboard instead of logging on the PC in the empty cubicle ten feet away. Monitor resolution buggered so things are a bit too large? Leave for long breaks most of the day instead of trying to get anything done-even though the application they need is not resolution-affected. The network printer next to their desk is down? Don't use the one *right f'n next to it* but wait until the printer vendor arrives to remove that paper jam. IT is the excuse for every missed deadline, every forgotten paperwork, every mistake they make or job they forget.

Now they escalate the kvetching about IT. They file union complaints. And when the (IT implemented but Management mandated) metrics show that the social workers' caseloads are so light that a third or more of their time is wasted on shopping trips or working on their second job on government time, they blame the system instead of their over-negotiated Union contracts. Contracts that are now getting many of them laid off.

So when i see yet another story saying some IT project "failed" after X billions of quid, I have to wonder-did it "fail" because it was delivered poorly, or did it work exactly as needed but the government drones and management didn't like the truth?

Technology is not politically correct. It doesn't care who you work for, what color your skin is or how entitled you think you are. The results are the same for everyone who uses it. And that bothers a LOT of people in government, from the bottom to the very top.


Thanks, AC

for the useful insight. Apart from confirming the prejudice that one third of public sector staff could be dismissed with no visible change in outputs, you suggest that existing systems are built with some interesting constraints. Inquiring minds should like to know more.

Gold badge

Do social workers take typing tests?


Only if recording *detailed* notes into a computer is needed I'd guess unless someone is a fair typist (shall we say 20WPM minimum?) *very* few of those notes they have been scribbling are going to end up on some child's record. Handwriting recognition (scanned or tablet entry).? Voice to text perhaps?

Let's note that in some ways child protection IT is a lot like *many* local/central government IT systems including social work, NHS patients and "offenders" from arrest to trial to prison to (possibly) parole.

1) Population of people moving through *multiple* jurisdictions/locations.

2) Notes may need to be attached to their record, possibly by *multiple* organisations. The classic "problem" family with parents on welfare, children misbehaving at school or committing crimes up to and including daddy being a bit too "affectionate" with his children could need input from at least social services, police, schools, hospitals, GPs.

3) Individual authorities have the right to procure their own systems.

4)The systems should be able to report on staff to some level of detail.

5)The system (whatever it is) *will* change how staff work.

Perhaps they should concentrate on *core* functions and make damm sure the data can be transferred

But at heart the system needs staff who will do their *jobs*.

It took 60 visits to kill Peter Connelly.

it would have taken *one* (by someone *authorised* ) to save him.

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