On 8th June 2016, iNetwork held a “Paperless Social Services” round table. Twenty delegates attended the packed out meeting which was kindly hosted by Knowlsey Council. The objective of the day was to explore the barriers for implementing paperless technologies and processes, and how we can achieve the goal of the paperless social worker.


The Day: As it happened


After initial introductions, the delegates were introduced to Alistair Lumley and Sabrina Gother, from NDL. Alistair then went on to give a presentation which shared NDL’s experiences of supporting social care departments around the country to meet their paperless goal through mobile and integration technologies. Alistair provided specific examples of how different local authorities (such as Argyll & Bute and Medway) have reduced paper and made efficiencies through the use of apps and toolkits.

Alistair then demonstrated a couple of NDL’s excellent social care apps to the group which provided delegates with a really helpful visualisation of the kinds of paperless technology which can be used to help streamline social services and integrate public services in general.

Next on the agenda was a demonstration and video presentation from Andy Garden, Head of IT, Knowsley Council and his colleagues from Children’s Services, Anna Travis and Vicky Caplin.  They shared perspectives on their journey towards achieving the paperless social worker in their transformation of Children’s Social Care through mobile working. 

As part of this, they discussed in detail the specific technology they used and how they handled the culture change as well as performance management issues etc.

Vicky Caplin talked through the key advantages of paperless technologies in social services. Vicky explained how the mobile technology is very light and ideal for use of onenote and a stylus. This technology allows notes to be stored electronically and hand written quickly, avoiding the impersonal barrier of a laptop screen. These notes can then be amended at a later date. This is a vast improvement on giving barely legible handwritten notes to an admin colleagues or writing/typing them all out again.

Following on from this, there was an extensive discussion between delegates and the Knowsley team about how Microsoft Onenote can be used to easily segment, organise and annotate notes for different families and cases. It was discussed how Mobile working is also much better for the work and home life of the social workers, it allows them to work efficiently from remote locations, saving time and effort whilst maximising productivity. Put simply, it can be very motivational!

Another key advantage in social services is that technology, on the whole, is familiar to children, it can be used as an icebreaker or for activities which help to build a rapport with vulnerable children. “Kids love technology!” There was a discussion about the possibility of developing an app specifically for use by younger people who are involved with social services.

There was a further discussion about how existing mobile apps and technology can help support social work teams in a range of different endeavours. The use of WhatsApp was discussed in terms of how it can help to maintain contact with both fellow team members and vulnerable families who may not have a landline or credit on their mobiles.

After this there was more of a technical discussion about how various existing and emerging mobile and paperless technologies can integrate with software systems such as liquid logic. The growing use of both council staff and citizen portals was also discussed at this point. The conclusion to these discussions and the question of introducing new technologies was simple though: Don’t ask what technology your team wants, instead ask what functionality they need to create efficiencies. Focus on the user journey and outcomes.

After several hours of honest and insightful discussion, the day drew to close with delegates sharing a final thought on the progress and challenges for driving further paperless innovation in social services going forward. It was agreed that this is a project which, if done correctly, can have huge benefits for all involved; Social workers, council staff, citizens, patients, carers and doctors to name a few.

Delegates were eager to be involved in future events, meetings and workshops on this topic which iNetwork will be hosting, facilitating or supporting. So if this is a space in which you are involved/passionate about, stay tuned for forthcoming updates and events, we’d love to see you in the near future.


For more information about this meeting or the paperless public services agenda in general please contact: shelley@i-network.org