Mark Denton: 4 minute read

Will robots replace Social Workers in ten years?

If you are of working age then you have no doubt thought about this question at least once in the past ten years.

Updated insights are available here.


Original text

Will machines replace me?

The age of the machines is here and whilst it is not the rise of the machines that the Terminator franchise alluded to, it is the age of automation. Machines are becoming more intelligent each year and as they do people’s insecurities grow. Should Social Workers be thankful or fearful of this advancement in technology?

The transformative automation of Social Care
Technology and the automation of roles are not limited to one industry, such as the automotive industry. Robotics have automated production lines within this industry and for similar functions for the past 50 years. Why? Simply put, they are more efficient and do not require sleep but the rise in artificial intelligence takes this one step further.

Artificial intelligence is defined as the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

Artificial intelligence can take many forms. When used in environments such as Social Care, it can discover and understand trends in unstructured recording and highlight risks through the analysis of data that might otherwise be missed. Recent research in America offers a fascinating finding: machine learning—a future frontier for artificial intelligence—can predict with 80% to 90% accuracy whether someone will attempt suicide as far off as two years into the future. The algorithms become even more accurate as a person’s suicide attempt gets closer. For example, the accuracy climbs to 92% one week before a suicide attempt when artificial intelligence focuses on general hospital patients.

However, what AI can’t do is to understand the emotional, the subtleties and the detail of a case. Understanding the complexity of a social care case and applying professional judgment when dealing with a situation is something AI is unlikely to master in the near future. This is why Social Workers have been listed as the 8th least likely profession to be replaced by machines.

Therefore, it is very unlikely that social workers will be replaced by robots and automation, but instead will be bolstered and supported by this new age of technology. Social workers say that huge caseloads and related administrative burdens, which consume anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of their time, keep them from working effectively and make them consider leaving the profession. High turnover rates can increase training costs, force even larger caseloads on those who stay while positions are backfilled and create significant instability for individuals and families who rely on caseworkers for help.

Population increase
In 2004 there were just over 59 million people in the United Kingdom.

In 2014 there were just over 64.4 million people in the United Kingdom.

In 2024 there will be a projected population of just over 69 million in the United Kingdom*.

This is an average growth of five million people every ten years, with more than 51,000 children were identified as needing protection from abuse in 2017.

If we take the projections from the National Statistics office above, then we can extrapolate that there will be an additional 5,000 children that will need to be safeguarded by 2024. Couple this information with the evidence that reports of sexual offenses against children have increased sharply in England, and you can see the need for efficiency.

Figures from a Department for Education (DfE) report on the social work workforce, published in 2017, point to every children’s services Social Worker having 16 cases at a time. This is a staggering figure and with the population growth set to continue and the funding available to reduce, you begin to see the problem.

Intelligent case management
ECLIPSE case manaement is not here to replace all Social Workers. It is here as an enabler. It is here to cut the strings of processes from the last decade that do not serve the number one process of Social Work and that is to safeguard the most vulnerable. It is the efficient re-invention of 20th century technology that is no longer fit for purpose.

ECLIPSE is not the T-1000 emerging from the ashes to terminate you. It is Arnold Schwarzenegger emerging from the dust to protect you and help you to do your job easier. It can prevent worker burnout and help you to get through the day, the week and ultimately the year whilst safeguarding as many people as possible.

ECLIPSE provides workers with the key to reset the system. It provides the level of automation in repetitive tasks such as workflows to reduce the time in the office. Currently, within an average working week for a Social Worker, they spent nearly 30 of their 45 hours in the office updated case notes. Imagine if this time could be halved.

Current case management systems require the repetition of basic tasks and do not push through information. For example, if a Social Worker is looking after a family of five, then they need to enter the family details such as address, telephone, and history into the system five times. This can be easily automated and ECLIPSE excels in areas such as this, 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
  • Automate key tasks through dedicated workflows
  • Provide you with the opportunity to see the progress of other cases within the team whilst on the go

2,500 children being shunted around the system last year. With population increase, this figure will increase unless the pressure valve that is Social Care, is released. Children need stability, especially when they are young and vulnerable, they need to build relationships, not be transferred from pillar to post. ECLIPSE can provide this to local authorities and Social Workers. It enables those who need to do their job, to safeguard the most vulnerable, in the most efficient manner possible.

ECLIPSE gives time back to local authorities to safeguard as many as possible for as long as possible.

Imagine being able to record on the move from your phone, tablet or iPad. Imagine not needing to go into the office unless there is a particular reason such as a training day, team meeting or review that is taking place. Imagine waking up and being able to head straight to your appointments, whilst checking your case notes on the move.

If you would like to join the future and be more efficient and safeguard the lives of the vulnerable, then please contact us about ECLIPSE today.

*Source National Statistics