Children’s social care: What about tech?

Featured article - 19 November 2021
By Julie Tyas, registered social worker and Senior Business Application Consultant at Servelec.

Children in radio studio

Released at the start of the summer, the independent review of children’s social care outlines the challenges facing the children's social care system in England. The report highlighted that social workers are children’s social care’s “greatest asset”, but they are being “staggeringly misused” because of the lack of time they have for direct work, and career pathways that take too many away from frontline practice.

Has tech been overlooked?

Flicking through the report to page 77, we see the first and only mention of technology – a brief nod to the importance of case management systems and how they’re helping to make positive change. It’s very surprising to see that in a report entitled, ‘The Case for Change’ something as crucial and integral as technology is so overlooked.

This raises so many questions from technology providers like us. Why is interoperability and integration not mentioned in a report that talks about social workers not having the time for direct work?

Streamlined cost-saving systems help front line professionals work smarter and safer. Day after day, I see first-hand how joined-up technology can free up social workers to spend more time caring for people, or help them spot early intervention and prevention opportunities. We’ve seen they’re willing to learn how to use new digital tools if it helps them improve the way they support those who need their help.

Digital tools bridging the gap

In the healthcare sector, we see and hear successful tech use cases every day. During the height of the pandemic, we saw how digital tools were being used to bridge the gap between patients and healthcare professionals and keep core services running.

Much was the same for social care, albeit on a smaller, more muted scale. We saw social workers using mobile solutions to ensure they could still provide vital services to people who desperately needed them; we saw them conducting visits virtually; we saw them doing all they could to ensure those most vulnerable didn’t fall through the cracks.

The key to long-lasting change

So, after the events of the past 18 months, it’s disappointing to see this landmark review overlook such a crucial component of children’s social care reform. Covid-19 has revealed just how crucial data-driven decision-making is across the care sectors. If we don’t highlight the capability of technology in our guidance and policy, I fear that the sector will never use it to its full potential.

The review’s next phase will examine how additional investment could deliver improvements to the system and bring long term savings, both through better outcomes for children and a shift in demand away from acute crisis intervention. I really hope we’ll see technology feature more heavily in this phase; it’s the key to positive, long-lasting change.

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