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iPads for social work assessments: a good idea?


Would equipping social workers with iPads or other tablet computers cut down on paperwork or see them “mugged within ten minutes”?

The moneysavingexpert forum has a discussion thread on the issue that’s worth a read. There’s contributions in there from social workers, patients and even a vicar who keeps his sermon notes on an ipad.

So what were the pros and cons raised of giving tablets to social care staff?

Saving social workers’ time

Firstly many felt that using tablet computers would cut down on paperwork. They could also save social workers from having to scribble everything down at assessments and then “type things twice” once they got back to their desks, with potential cost savings in the long run.

In the words of one contributor to the discussion:

“I work in the community with families, and from my point of view, if we were issued with laptop/ipad/a.n.other technology which allowed me to enter the data/information etc at the time, rather than have to transcribe stuff once back in the office, it would be a massive improvement.”


“Most forms have to be completed in electronic form, so I frequently print off blank forms, to complete by hand out in the community, and have to spend ages transferring the information onto the system back at base.”

In the view of another poster: “I think a cost effective tablet would be a good idea – if it allows them to record the necessary information quickly and accurately. If you have to write things down quickly it can become illegible which with CAF assessments or the like cans cause important points to be missed out and it just shouldn’t happen with such important documents.”

Wifi or 3G access on tablets could also allow social workers to submit forms instantly, minimising the risk of forms being misplaced. Important contact details, legal info or other important information could also be accessed on the spot.

Presenting the “wrong image” to clients?

The downsides? Well one issue raised was the “showiness of an iPad.” One view is that social workers turning up with an iPad it could give clients the impression that councils are spending the budget on flashy IT equipment for staff rather than services.

A blunter assessment came from tiny_courageous who said: “There’s no way in hell I’d be visiting some of the areas we cover with anything expensive like an ipad, I’d be mugged within ten minutes. For the same reasoning, I drive an old battered car.”

Plus news that local authorities had splashed out on tablet computers for their social workers could also present an open goal to elements of the press that love nothing more than giving the profession a good kicking.

But, perhaps as LondonDiva wrote:

“If we’re serious about putting frontline staff where they are most needed, that means using available technology to streamline the reams of government issue paperwork, rather than letting a Daily Mail headline about iPads and images of social workers lounging about watching videos or whatever you do on an iPad make a difficult job unnecessarily more cumbersome.”

Exploring the potential for technology to aid social workers makes sense – and some councils have trialled giving social workers tablet computers

At the end of the day the most important issue will always be the quality of the work or assessment, not the equipment its produced on.

As one contributor to the discussion wrote: “If the meeting meant my child got the help they needed, I wouldn’t care if they wanted to use my blood and my best bed sheets to write on!”

Would you like to use iPads for social work assessments? Give your views on our CareSpace discussion.

This guest blog was written by Charlotte Callingham.

Image: Flickr (Sean MacEntee) 

About Andy McNicoll

Andy is community editor at Community Care, with a focus on reporting on mental health. He has previously worked for titles focusing on the NHS and substance misuse sectors. You can contact him at

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