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Making and managing electronic children : e-assessment in child welfare.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>04/2008
<mark>Journal</mark>Information, Communication and Society
Issue number3
Volume11
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)375-394
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

'Every Child Matters' (ECM) is a government response to longstanding concerns about child welfare and protection. A key feature is the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve information sharing and inter-professional communication. One of the proposals requires the establishment of an index, ContactPoint, which is a database containing information on all children in their area, to be used by child welfare professionals to indicate their involvement with a child and, where there is 'cause for concern', to facilitate joint action. Whilst these proposals for harnessing ICTs within child welfare are a central part of the government's modernization strategy, plans for the Index have been heavily criticized for its panoptic potential to invade privacy and override professional discretion and judgement. This paper reports findings from an ethnographic study funded by the ESRC e-Society Programme. Drawing on data collected in one 'Trailblazer' local authority area during the pilot phase, it describes the introduction of a local child index and the ways in which professionals and the technologies are drawn together within the local child welfare network. For the Index to achieve its original purpose of improving information sharing and inter-professional communication it must be 'used' by child welfare practitioners. But establishing the Index as a friend to the child welfare professional is not a straightforward process. The research suggests this is dependent on a set of relations that are being constantly negotiated and accomplished in everyday practice. It is clear the deployment of ICTs in professional practice is highly contingent upon local policy implementation, the local arrangement of services and the everyday practices of busy and sceptical practitioners.