‘I ended up using paper’: 15 times social work IT systems got in the way

Community Care's survey highlighted some of the most frustrating experiences had by social workers when using their computer systems

Photo: Zorandim75/Fotolia

As part of Community Care’s 2019 IT system survey, we asked social workers to describe their most frustrating experience with their case management or IT system.

Here are just 15 responses:

  1. “New system introduced, since then nothing works. The IT system is hard to navigate, it’s hard to find things, we have not been shown how to use the system, the system routinely doesn’t work daily, we cannot print from the case management system which impacts on sending letters and care plans to service users, it causes so much stress to staff, we can’t phone IT for support, we have to log a job via an icon on our desktop and we don’t always get a response from IT and sometimes they close a job without fixing it, we all feel senior managers and the organisation are not listening to us.”
  2. “Being ‘locked out’ of worksteps because the system has timed out – it has caused me to lose an entire assessment before now.”
  3. “Known faults that lead the system to crash to individual SW’s on a daily basis that are not rectified due to [my provider] appearing to have little interest in working on a system that is not used by enough LA’s to make it financially viable.”
  4. “It does not have an auto save so you can be typing a big piece of work, the internet will cut out and you lose the lot.”
  5. “First our case management system was changed with us only being given rudimentary training (employees who joined later weren’t given any); that training purely showed the system but was unable to teach how the system is to be used within our processes so that – six months down the line – we’re still struggling. It also doesn’t help that I’m working on a site where we’re only a limited number of LA staff, so that our team never makes the cut when they have to decide which sites they have capacity to support (e.g. floor workers and drop-in sessions).”
  6. “It is difficult to navigate and to find the info I’m looking for. The [child in need] and [child protection] system is confusing and writing up visits is an exercise in tick boxing. It’s truly awful. The forms are convoluted and I have to answer the same things over and over again. Then it needs to be approved before the task is complete and very often the managers have as much difficulty navigating the system so things go out of timescales. It’s an awful system. It feels like the system is taking up so much precious time that I should be spending either with service users or planning my interventions with families. I feel like my practice is compromised as a result of the computer system.”
  7. “You are unable to move forward with a form without multiple authorisations by [a] manager. For example a meeting record can take a week to complete with the initial bit done, authorised, another button pressed and another bit of the record completed and then authorised again. The forms have multiple boxes of duplication and more boxes for the same things are being added. The new system has added more time and frustration for day to day work.”
  8. “Being unable to record the same information on multiple family members (sibling groups) at the same time. Separate recording system for paper documents to be uploaded and viewed so cannot establish chronological timeline.”
  9. “The system was so rigid it would only let me follow a set process. I ended up using paper until the system caught up! Frustrating – doubling admin not reducing it!”
  10. “Crashing and not operational for hours [or] days. We use technology for everything which often means when it is not working we come to a standstill.”
  11. “The most frustrating, devaluing, de-motivating and highly pressure adding experience is [the] network going down very regularly. Work gets lost, work has to be re-done, work is unable to be carried out, details are not able to be accessed in order to make calls etc., everything can come to a standstill.”
  12. “When filling out a form for sourcing care we type in the minutes needed into individual boxes and the system deletes it every time you enter figures; so you have to constantly re enter so it registers and the process takes forever.”
  13. “I needed to send a referral to the placements team. Spent an hour trying to open the appropriate form, with the help of the case management support team. Waste of time I could be spending with families.”
  14. “Feels like you have committed a crime when you make a claim for the expenses, takes too long to complete the claim and [is] a complicated way of doing so. It is meant to deter people from claiming due to frustration [and a] lack of time. The cut off for the claims makes people lose out, simply because they have no time to claim due to high caseloads that are considered a priority.”
  15. “Unable to complete reports within timescale due to failure of the system. Spent 1.5 hours on travel expenses on two occasions only to lose the whole claim and have to start again.”

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3 Responses to ‘I ended up using paper’: 15 times social work IT systems got in the way

  1. Pauline Davis June 7, 2019 at 1:27 pm #

    I worked on two different systems over a period of time, the replacement system was big better (just cheaper) the spcial workers had very limited access to training and managers were required to authorise all work, but dud not attend training so delayed all work being processed.
    Lots of historical information did not migrate, so new workers had no access to this information, which resulted in lots of information being requested from service users over and over again.
    Not enough support was made available to social workers, as cutting support staff was not seen as an issue.
    Social workers expected to sit for long periods of time seeking support rather than having on site support.

  2. Mike June 7, 2019 at 4:50 pm #

    It’s actually unlawful to refuse to pay expenses because a claim form was completed late.

    The right to be paid expenses is a statutory right – the only proviso is that they must be genuinely incurred.

    If someone fills the form out late in breach of the organisation’s expenses policy, that’s misconduct, and the employer’s recourse is under the disciplinary procedure.

    So they can give you a warning, or even sack you – but they can’t not pay the money back.

  3. john stephenson June 7, 2019 at 5:20 pm #

    As a complaints investigator I refused to work for one L.A as their I.T. system was appalling leading to important information being missed.If it was like that for me how was it like for S.W’s.However any mention of inadequate I.T. system was not allowed.I am afraid there is a massive scandal waiting to be exposed re the commissioning of I.T. systems.