Wednesday, 20 July 2011

ICS – they just don’t get IT

Community Care reports warnings by ‘experts’ that government proposals on national performance data collection may result in an increased “bureaucratic burden” on child protection IT. David Grigsby, of ICS provider Liquidlogic, is quoted as saying that new performance measurement data requirements will have a significant impact on children’s services IT and “… could even affect the processes they have to run." The implication is that ICS systems will be even more strongly specified from the centre.

What I like least about this kind of talk is the pervasive assumption that we have to have ICS whatever happens and that all that there is to discuss is how we can modify it to cope with changing requirements. This type of crude cultural hegemony is really an insult to our intelligence because the truth is that we don’t have to have ICS at all – there are better alternatives.

In previous posts I have mentioned Professor Darryl Ince of the Open University. He strongly believes that ICS is misconceived and that a simple ‘chronicling’ system may be a much better alternative. ICS is based on the mistaken assumption that working with abused and neglected children is largely a matter of completing pro forma assessments. If, on the other hand, we accept Munro’s argument that what is important is forming relationships with children and their families and making sound decisions, then a system that captures narrative is essential. And that is what Ince is advocating.

Of course lots of important (and some not so important) people have invested lots of time and money in ICS. That’s a shame but there is no point in continuing to try to make a square peg fit in a round hole. We need to cut our losses and accept that ICS is not what we require. Then we can move on.

Incidentally, I don’t think that Munro’s suggestions for performance data require a lot of sophisticated software to collect the data. The idea that performance measurement always requires a massive database is just naïve. Often a great deal can be done quickly and simply using spreadsheets.