NHS Digital has commissioned SCIE in partnership with market research agency, GfK, to gather insights into how the social work role can be supported, now and in the future, through the use of information and technology.
Technological shifts have had far-reaching effects in recent years; however care and support systems have remained relatively immune to these changes. In 2014 the Department of Health made it clear that whilst human interactions would always be the foundation of good quality care, these could be “… better informed, more efficient and better organised if supported by data and technology services.” Despite recognition that technology can be a key enabler of good care, evidence on its use in frontline social work is relatively scarce.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many social workers are keen to embrace the opportunities afforded by mobile technology and the ability to access and edit records on the move is seen as a positive that will lead to increased efficiency and productivity. Many also see these technologies as a new means of engaging with service users. However, support for these new tools is not universal and concerns surrounding governance, information-sharing and confidentiality issues have been raised by some commentators.
SCIE and GfK are exploring how social workers are currently using IT in their role, and what could be done better, to bridge the gap between current availability and their requirements. The work will then feed into the development of existing and future products. Further to this the research process also seeks to raise NHS Digital’s profile with the sector, with a role in leading innovation and new thinking around the use of technology in social care settings.