Even outside of the business, social care reporting is seen as something callous and unfeeling. “You’re only doing this to meet your adoption targets,” used to be a common complaint from parents across the country.
At this time of year, the same argument is even stronger, as this is when the Department for Education collects all its data through statutory returns. These are the months where social workers are nagged to fix where they have accidentally clicked on the wrong code or entered slightly the wrong date - it is hardly transformative social work.
What does the average social worker get as a reward for this hard work? Well, there is a report on the government website, explaining that numbers of looked-after children have gone up slightly, and numbers of child protection plans have gone down slightly. It is no wonder that many social workers see the entire process as a fruitless exercise.
Against this backdrop, a number of local authorities are using data and reporting in innovative ways that actually support social workers. This is often a balance of resources. How can a local authority, with limited resources, do all the statutory tasks and still have time to do the more exciting things?
At Liquidlogic we believe that the solution is twofold. Firstly, the social care software solution must contain trustworthy statutory reports, which can be run from the system, cutting down on the workload needed to produce them manually.
Secondly, the system must have decent validation checks throughout its operation, to make it more difficult for workers to accidentally key in the wrong statutory information to begin with. We work closely with relevant government departments to ensure that the returns we provide are up to date and meet expectations.
With the returns done, we need to look at what other information social workers and managers need to do their jobs. Most modern systems, including Liquidlogic, have built-in tools to identify key information, such as caseloads, due tasks, and case statuses, but there is so much more that can be done with the masses of information held within the system.
Reporting teams using Liquidlogic are part of a nationwide reporting community. We provide space on our web forums for reporting professionals to share ideas and talk about what works well. It is evident from our conversations with reporting teams that this sharing of ideas, and tweaking one authority’s approach to match another’s needs, is key for evolution of social care reporting.
We support bespoke reporting by ensuring that as much information from the system as possible is in our data warehouse. Any field inputted in any form is available to report on, and we work alongside our community of users to ensure that their reporting needs are met.
Since lockdown, we have held numerous webinars with local authority reporting teams, discussing the plans that the reporting teams are making for the future and encouraging customers to share ideas. We have seen colourful and easy to understand dashboard solutions that exist to help workers rather than judge them.
We have also seen some incredible analysis on how the risks and protective factors of individual children have changed over time. Also from our series of reporting webinars, it has become clear that a huge number of authorities are starting to interrogate the Liquidlogic Data Warehouse using Power BI, which lends itself to even more intelligent analysis and a very friendly interface for social workers to see their data.
All this leads us to think that there are exciting times ahead for reporting in children’s social care, moving away from mere data collection and towards telling meaningful stories that benefit social workers and service users alike.
David Wilson is Management Information Lead at Liquidlogic