The former government’s implementation of the integrated children’s system (ICS) has been compared by leading academics to a belief in magic.
David Wastell, professor of information systems at Nottingham University Business School, and Sue White, professor of social work at the University of Lancaster, argue that the Labour administration believed ICS was a “magic bullet” that would solve all the problems within children’s services.
They make the claim in a new book, Children’s Services at the Crossroads, which is launched on Friday.
They compared it with research of ancient societies which found that magic had such authority that even a contrary experience was not enough to destroy a person’s belief, but was held to be the work of counter-magic or an error in performance of the ritual.
Comparing the beliefs of a Pacific island tribe with the ICS, the academics wrote: “They beat the log with a bunch of dry lalang grass and utter a spell, we try to change the world by writing a software programme or a policy document which embodies an idealisation of how the world should be.”
Wastell and White point out that even in the early pilots of the ICS there were “unmistakable symptoms of practitioner disquiet” and a University of York evaluation had found that the system unfit. “However, these were all dismissed by the government as ‘teething problems’ with issues invariably attributed to unreliable IT, inefficient local authorities or ‘confused practitioners’.”
Requests to simplify the forms were routinely ignored because “the magic itself is never questioned; nothing is every wrong with the design of the ICS”.
The academics noted that the recent relaxation of the model had improved matters, but it had come five years after the start of the pilots and only as a result of the Baby P tragedy.