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11 February 2010

Victoria Climbie, Baby P and the technological shackling of British social work.

Location: Meeting Room 10, 2nd Floor, JLB
Time: 12:30pm - 13:45pm

The appalling death of Victoria Climbie lead to the wholesale reorganisation of British childrens’ services. My talk will look at how one small part of that reorganisation—the computer system known as ICS—lead to an inordinately large effect: a situation where social workers can spend up to 80% of their time at a computer instead of carrying out important tasks such as home visits. The only good thing to say about ICS is that it is a remarkable case study—the most remarkable I have ever come across— in terms of both quantity and quality of errors. I will describe the chronology of ICS starting with the death of Victoria Climbie and finishing with the release of an ‘improvement’ document by the Department for Children, Schools and Family (DCSF) in December 2009 and the current position where social workers are more familiar with a baroque computer system than the children in need they are meant to look after. I will examine the mistakes made by the DCSF acting as the proxy customer and the front-end developer and indicate how these can be recovered from using very simple means. About 10% of the seminar will be technical; the remainder will be understandable by members of the university who are not versed in systems development and computing. BIO: Darrel Ince is Professor of Computing at the Open University. His current research focuses in simplicity in software development.

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Contact: mailto:r.power@open.ac.uk