Information outputs for children's social services
2007-07-02T08:41:02Z (GMT) by
Outputs are whatever is retrieved or extracted, in whatever form, from an information system. They include not only printed reports, but information viewed on the computer screen, alerts that may appear on screens, e-mail and other messages and notifications and the information that can be selected and browsed like books on a library shelf. However, the information systems in current use in children’s social services are generally designed more for recording information than for retrieving and using it, especially in daily practice. This severely limits their usefulness and reduces the quality of the data they contain. This report sets out a description of different types of outputs, identifies some of the obstacles which prevent them from being obtained and used and proposes a framework for identifying and classifying them. It identifies a number of the key outputs that are required by staff at each level in social service departments, and suggests that in a ‘virtuous’ information system, operational and management information outputs can complement and reinforce one another, with those available to team managers being particularly important. Research evidence from recent childcare studies is evaluated to identify some of the key questions for social work practice and management and to demonstrate how specific outputs might be used to provide answers for each. While these may be considered to be the critical outputs for improving outcomes for children in need, it emerges that in most cases they are the same ones that would be required for effective day to day operation, administration and management at case, team and service level. Outputs implications for the Integrated Children’s System are considered, especially the way in which exemplars may be implemented in an electronic information system (EIS), and suggestions are made for both a chronology and a ‘rolling record’ to relate assessed need, planned action, actual intervention and outcomes on a continuous basis. This report suggests ways of improving common outputs for effective day-to-day case and team management. These include alerts built into the EIS to give advanced warning of actions required, shortcomings or failures in service delivery; notifications to improve communication between teams, departments and agencies; and exception reports to identify, flag and follow-up the cases of individual children who have specific needs which are not being met. A principle of ‘subsidiarity’ is suggested, whereby staff at all levels of children’s services should be encouraged, required and provided with output tools to enable them to analyse their own work, make comparisons with others and contribute data to service-wide performance evaluation.