Council plans early replacement of ‘problematic’ social work IT system criticised by Ofsted

Timetable for procuring new case management software under discussion despite £2.5 million allocation for existing setup

Image of a computer keyboard (Marcie Casas / Flickr)
(Image: Marcie Casas / Flickr)

A local authority rated ‘inadequate’ last year is planning to replace a social work IT system criticised by Ofsted, despite having three years left of an existing £2.5 million contract.

Inspectors’ summer 2018 report into Wakefield’s children’s services found widespread failures, leading to a commissioner being appointed to oversee progress. The inspection report said the CareWorks CareDirector case management system was causing “serious problems” for social workers, even though the council was investing in updates.

“Due to the poor quality of recording, even basic performance management information is not available to the authority,” the report said. “Without accurate data, the local authority cannot know and address the serious and widespread weaknesses across its services.”

Research by Community Care published last week found almost 60% of social workers have their work disrupted on a weekly basis by case management systems, with half describing ‘mostly negative’ relationships with IT.

‘Likely to delay improvement plan’

The CareWorks system, which our research found is used by just 3% of councils, has been in place at Wakefield since 2005 across both children’s and adults’ services.

Its contract was renewed in 2017 for five years at a cost of just over £1 million, expected to rise to £2.5 million by the end of the 2020-21 financial year due to ongoing support.

But councillors at the West Yorkshire authority will this week be asked to approve moves to procure a new system to meet future needs, at a total cost of £2 million.

A cabinet report warned that leaving the existing system in place until nearer the end of its contract would be “likely to delay the implementation of some aspects” of Wakefield’s improvement plan.

It added that there is currently “no cohesive case recording and only limited information being captured that relates to the child’s journey”.

“An electronic records management system that supports reviews in practice and drives changes in behaviours is fundamental to assure the organisation and external inspectors that children are being safeguarded,” the report said.

Vicky Schofield, Wakefield council’s service director for children’s social care, said there was “no intention” of simply terminating the existing contract but that discussions were underway with CareWorks.

A council spokesperson confirmed that the talks included the question of how soon a new system could be developed and implemented.

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