Mark Denton: 3 minute read

Digital Capability within social work

Like it or not the digital world is here and it is here to stay. Those that embrace it will thrive and those who do not will fall. Social Work is no different. The difference with Social Work is that the cost of failure is so much higher.

Updated insights are available here.


Original text

A recent guest blog from Lyn Romeo invited a registered Social Worker, Tommy Reay, to talk about digital capability and the opportunities it brings. It reflects the digital struggle that Social Workers go through and why we exist as an organisation, to make a difference through the use of digital technologies.

The original blog is available to read here but we felt inspired by the entry as it resonated with us.

Back to Basics
Tommy used to work on the frontline of social work and has now transitioned into working for NHS Digital as part of their Clinical Fellowship programme. Within this new role he is looking at how digital and data is used across the adult and social care sector and how it could be improved.

One of the initial points that jumped out to us was the lack of access to technology, that is taken for granted at home.

One of the biggest assumptions with digital technology is that at work you have the same access to technology that you do at home. This is rarely the case and in some industries, such as social care, simply being able to access your emails outside of work is not possible.

Tommy commented upon this;

I didn’t and couldn’t in my social care roles. Yet in my personal life I don’t have to be at home to communicate with other people, order a taxi, plan a holiday or sort out my finances. So why are our work lives digitally behind?

Now this may seem like an innocuous addition but in practice it can make a real difference. The simple addition of mobile technology in the workplace can break the shackles of the past. It can provide freedom from the office to ensure that those who need assistance can get it, quicker, easier and more effectively.

We have said this many times and will keep saying this, digital technology can save time and money, freeing Social Workers to spend more time with those in need. With mobile technology, you do not need to go into the office, unless it is for a specific meeting or training session. What you do need to ensure is that you are using the correct piece of technology to support the process.

ECLIPSE Case Management
ECLIPSE is not just a case management system, it is a mind-set of a future that embraces efficiencies to safeguard the most vulnerable. It frees up time for Social Workers to spend with those who need attention in order to improve their situation in life.

We developed ECLIPSE alongside practitioners. We didn’t create it to line the pockets of our shareholders, of which we have none. We are proud to be the only independent UK-based social care technology provider who is still making a difference 27 years later after our inception. Our Chief Executive is also our founder, who has steered this organisation through four separate technology incarnations, to the point today where we have ECLIPSE.

Simply put, ECLIPSE is the answer to your problems and can provide freedom and independence for your Social Workers.

Person-centred Practice
Within Tommy’s blog he talked about his training and in particular the emphasis that was placed on person-centred practice and the value of theories. Nothing however, as he says in his own words, was taught to them, ‘..relating to digital capabilities, use of technology or use of data in the workplace’.

Here we have a real disconnect, as for us, you cannot have a person-centred process without the assistance of technology. Why do we say this?

Digital technology when done right and harnessed correctly can save time, in order to spend with those who need help. It can:

  • Save that half an hour car journey from home to the office x2
  • Get you on the road earlier
  • Help you see last minute updates to a case
  • Avoid duplication of notes. Record once and once only
  • Provide you with the opportunity to see the progress of other cases within the team whilst on the go

Tommy emphasises this point with the additional knowledge that the Professional Competency Framework for Social Workers makes no mention of being digitally minded. This once again is surprisingly as digital = freedom and it seems as though Tommy agrees.

Considering how fundamental digital technology is in everyday life, there is surprisingly little weight given to it in social care settings.

We need more people that think as Tommy does because digital technology will unlock the future and allow for the effective sharing of data. The sharing of data is key to safeguarding. We learned this lesson from Baby P. If the organisations had the infrastructure and technology in place then the tragedy could have been avoided.

At NHS Digital, they are working to support the relationship between the social work and technology. We believe in this purpose and are proud to continue supporting organisations in this quest.

Please use the most available form of technology that you have to contact us today and we can help you on your digital journey.