Friday, 16 August 2013

The future of the Munro Reforms and attitudes to IT

There is an interesting article in June’s issue of Practice: Social Work in Action reporting research looking at the views of experienced social work practitioners on the Munro Review. [1]

The respondents strongly agreed with Munro’s analysis and warmly welcomed her recommendations. However, they doubted whether the review would result in lasting and sustained change. Members of the group questioned the political will to implement the recommendations in a climate where cost cutting had become endemic.

Interestingly it is reported that members of the group had a lot to say about IT. Participants were reported to believe that “… key tasks were too regimented” and were “… dictated to by the demands of computer systems”.

Munro does not say a great deal about IT in her report. One way of looking at badly designed IT systems, however, is to see them as ways of unnecessarily bureaucratising activity. The IT system forces the practice by requiring that particular fields (mandatory fields) are completed in particular ways, even though practitioners perceive no value or purpose in so doing. The exemplars of the ICS system are a particularly good example. There are lots of boxes to check, but whether of not checking them helps any child, or records anything that is true and useful, or saves any time or cost is not apparently an issue.

A useful adjunct to trying to successfully implement Munro’s reforms would be to revisit the issue of IT and to devise an approach that was useful to, and supportive of, practitioners. Give people something that will make their working days easier by reducing, not increasing, unnecessary bureaucracy. Give them something that does not impose arbitrary constraints, which have no justification, and give them something that actually helps them do a demanding professional job more easily.

Surprisingly it is NOT rocket science. It just takes a little bit of sensible thought. We could do far worse than asking practitioners what they think they need - although to do so may be anathema to those who led on failed projects like ICS.

[1] David Edmondson, Ann Potter and Hugh McLaughlin, “Reflections of a Higher Specialist PQ Student Group on the Munro Recommendations for Children’s Social Workers”, Practice: Social Work in Action Volume 25 Number 3 (June 2013), 191–207