Gadget's trial to help frontline staff

PUBLISHED: 09:31 18 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:21 03 July 2010

FRONTLINE social workers in Norfolk could be issued with hi-tech pens and digital notebooks in a bid to help them spend more time with clients instead of in front of a computer screen.

FRONTLINE social workers in Norfolk could be issued with hi-tech pens and digital notebooks in a bid to help them spend more time with clients instead of in front of a computer screen.

County Hall has been piloting the technology among a small handful of staff to see how they coped with it.

Equipment included digital pens and tablets which would allow staff to write down details which could then be stored directly on a computer or easily downloaded.

The moves come after union leaders voiced concerns that an overhaul of the children's services teams last year has forced staff to spend more time at their desks typing up notes after a tier of admin posts were scrapped.

Last week Lord Laming's report into the death of Baby P said the government needed to urgently address the issue of social workers spendomg too much time on red tape or tied to computers.

In Norfolk the county council has already spent £70,000 on a trial to see how new technology might help.

Staff were giving different gadgets to try out including digital pens and tablets, and laptops where you can write straight to the screen.

David Jarrel, children's services ICT operations manager, said the results of the trial would now be studied to see if front line workers could be issued with the new equipment.

“Some staff were uncomfortable with taking the digital tablets into people's homes because they felt they distracted from their jobs as social workers,” he said. “It mustn't detract from the work they are doing and it's got to be safe and secure because you cannot compromise the security of the information they are collecting.

“What seems to be coming out is that different bits of equipment are better suited for different types of social workers jobs,” he said. “What we might end up doing is saying for one particular person this is the best bit of technology. We need to be targeting different groups of people so that we can see how effective it will be in a front line service.

“If they found they couldn't get on with it, they just stopped using it, that was part of the trial. If it doesn't work then there is no point in having it,” he added. “Once we have identified the technology what we will then do is target a group of people to pilot it in a real life situation.”

Rosalie Monbiot, cabinet member for children's services, Norfolk County Council, said the project was aimed at taking advantage of technology to help social workers.

“It is pleasing to see that Lord Laming recommended that more should be done to limit the amount of time social workers are having to spend at their desks, and even more pleasing that long before his recommendation, we have been trialling cutting-edge technology to enable them todo just that,” she said.

“Some of our social workers trialled a number of different types of technology, and gave us honest feedback about how appropriate it is for their day to day use.

“We will now be evaluating that feedback, before choosing the best kit to purchase to help them in their work with children and families in Norfolk.”

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