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Social workers bemoan paperwork mountain

So much paperwork is being generated by a new system for managing children at risk that case notes have had to be taken to conferences in a wheelbarrow, according to a senior Kent social work manager.

Government reforms introduced in 2007 have compelled all councils to adopt much more stringent measures when recording and detailing information about cases involving children in need.

The shake-up came about over concerns not enough data was being recorded by authorities looking after children.

But a senior manager for Kent County Council says the framework - known as the Integrated Children’s Service or ICS - has proved too complicated and the complex electronic assessment requires social workers to fill in up to 900 separate pieces of information.

Donna Shkalla, head of management information for children, families and education at KCC, told a conference: "We actually have an example of a social worker having to take conference reports to a case conference in a wheelbarrow because they couldn’t physically carry them.”

She added: “Social workers say the processes they used before ICS protected and managed cases but they feel the ICS framework doesn’t do the same thing.”

Staff at the frontline were increasingly frustrated by the need to complete lengthy computerised forms and often felt the need to add notes because those forms did not allow the circumstances of a child’s situation to be properly explained.

Bill Anderson, KCC director of children’s social services, said the system put pressure on staff and their ability to talk directly to families.

"The ICS framework requires social workers and their managers to input data into the system. While this ensures they are accountable for the data within a child’s file, the constraints and length of the system mean that face-to-face time with families is under pressure.

"In Kent we have and will continue to support the ICS framework while working alongside DCSF and other councils to address the pressures and issues highlighted."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it was a matter for councils to decide how social services staff managed time.

A spokesman said: "Proper recording is a fundamental necessity for good social work practice as well as a legal requirement. It is for Directors of Children’s Services to ensure that social workers are managed well and their time used is in the best interests of children’s safety."

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