Social Work Informatics USES, Merits and Demerits Research Paper

Pages: 6 (1824 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Education - Computers

Social Work Informatics


Social Work Informatics and Its Use in Child Protection

Social informatics refers to a large, varied and expanding research, which looks into the social and organizational aspects of computerization (Sawyer & Tapia, 2002). These aspects include the roles of computers in social and organizational change and how organizational structures and decisions influence computer use. It provides sound principles, which bring out the particular elements of socio-technical side of developing, disseminating and using computers (Sawyer & Tapia). Simply put, social informatics tackles the relationship between society and the information-communication technologies (Miller, 2012). It fuses social science with computer science. Experts who use it are interested in the social effects of these technologies at the personal, organizational and social levels as well as in the study of social phenomena (Miller).

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Technology has been rapidly incorporated into social work practice in the past 10 years (Oliver & Demiris, 2006). Telephone, interactive video and the internet have gained popularity in the field as clinical interventions. It is out-of -- the ordinary to the discipline, which traditionally relies on face-to-face interaction. While it is not entirely a new phenomenon, it is considered rather novel because of its controversial nature. Its advocates point to increased opportunity and access to social work services, lower cost, improved coordination of services and privacy for clients as among its advantages. Critics, however, argue that technological difficulties deter the required interaction in social work. Other issues are inequalities in access to resources, threats to confidentiality and depersonalization (Oliver & Demiris).

Research Paper on Social Work Informatics USES, Merits and Demerits Assignment

Informatics manages and processes data and changes it into information placed into a knowledge base as guide to decision-making (Young, 2000 as qtd in Oliver & Demiris, 2006). Informatics consists of data, information and knowledge. Data are variables, which are described objectively. Information is data formatted into a specific form. And knowledge interprets information within an appropriate format useful to decision-making. Information must be accurate, error-free and meaningful. It is for sharing with the right person at the right time, in the right place and in the right amount. It is meant to provide information to decision-makers and to expand knowledge in delivering efficient and well-managed services (Young as qtd in Oliver-Demiris).

Social workers always perceived themselves as people-oriented persons (Oliver & Demiris, 2006; Reardon, 2010). They have been trained to deal with clients on a face-to-face basis. In line with this perception and this training, they have always rejected technological interventions, which create distance between them and their clients. Through practice, availability of equipment, amount of use, and training, they have, however, been able to reduce their anxiety. The incorporation of technology into the practice has impacted the expectations of consumers and clients, social workers' efficiency, and the potential advantages and disadvantages of social informatics tools (Oliver & Demiris, Reardon).

The New in the Now

Oliver & Demiris (2006) and Reardon (2010) commented on the slowness of the entry and acceptance of technology in social work practice and education (Oliver & Demiris, 2006; Reardon, 2010). However, it is now officially recognized. Official recognition necessarily requires the ethical use of technology and the acquisition of appropriate skills for its application and for the protection of clients from its misuse. Bioinformatics is a multidisciplinary field is one human service profession. It has begun experimenting on integrating and collaborating with informaticians and participating in the function of the medical librarian, called bioinformationist. The bioinformationist has a knowledge of information sciences and technical and biological knowledge and skills at the same time. These skills include the application of knowledge in a research or clinical setting. The role of the bioinformationist encompasses communication, collection and systems development, knowledge management and training, and writing (Oliver & Demiris, Reardon).

Barriers and Issues

These are inequality of access to technological resources, ethical use in practice, legal and licensing matters, depersonalization, and technological difficulties (Oliver & Demiris, 2006; Reardon, 2010). While the cost of the technology itself has become affordable at present, financial burden remains in resources, such as hardware, software and internet connection for low-income families and populations. The use of computers in public places threatens the privacy of communication between social workers and their clients. The high and frequent possibilities of hackers and spies and text residues, which remain even after data files are deleted, also threaten confidentiality. Vernberg and Schuh (2002 as qtd in Oliver & Demiris), however, contended that the anonymity of the internet in itself assures confidentiality. At the same time, it helps improve access to service to those who may not otherwise gain it. Persons suffering from stigma and shyness are faceless enough to participate in internet groups on controversies and delicate issues. A study conducted showed that 86% of patients with anal fissures could share experiences in the internet on their condition (Vernberg & Schuh as qtd in Oliver & Demiris).

Social work informatics also creates legal and licensing problems because it breaches geographic and regulatory boundaries (Oliver & Demiris, 2006; Healthcare Network, 2012). A social worker may be in one country and her client, in another. A client may also consult and receive care from an unknown giver through the internet. This giver's credentials are not always verified as qualified, according to a 1997 study. This situation led to the modification of the Model Social Work Practice Act. The Association of Social Work Boards emphasized that social work practice requires specialized knowledge of the profession as well as the technology used. Moreover, by its very nature, social work informatics depersonalizes. It is thus unsuitable for counseling. As it is, much human suffering has grown out of personal disconnection. This new e-therapy is another form of disconnection. Alienation or separation cannot heal brokenness through a merely virtual connection in the internet. The lack of a face-to-face interaction limits the social worker's ability to observe and assess the client. The issue of identity and deception in virtual communities is an additional issue. The social worker must know the identity of the client in order to understand and evaluate her interaction with him or her. These "cues" in the real world are non-existent in cyberspace. And lastly, social work informatics cuts off the person-to-person connection needed to understand human behavior in its natural social environment. The social worker must also learn new technological skills in order to solve the client's problem. This is compounded by the problem of most social workers and clients' lack of formal computer training (Oliver & Demiris, Healthcare Network).

Social Work Informatics in Child Protection

A social worker usually spends more than 10 hours just to complete the first assessments on the Integrated Children's System (Healthcare Network, 2012). It will be recalled that this System was launched in response to the death of Victoria Climbie and the need to improve the handling of child abuse cases. But it soon became evident that social workers use more than 100 hours for every case they handle. This length of time is used in filling out forms and takes the time away from making visits, which are the very essence of social work. Of the 100 hours, an average of 48 is given to core assessment. The System is not only costly to implement but also exacts deadlines, which further reduce time for family visits. The case of 17-month-old Baby P. who succumbed to more than 50 injuries despite child protection coverage, illustrates this. Bureaucratic pressures tie social workers to their desks to cope with deadlines more than dealing with missed visits. They reported that the System regularly consumes 80% of their work day. The System replaced the manually done case notes written in narrative form. Many officials said they found this form more convenient in reading complex cases. The System has tick boxes, which monitor the accuracy of inputs. Social workers who use it no longer chat among themselves as they were accustomed to. Only the sound of computer taps can be heard. Local authorities had already asked the government to allow them to drop this System, seen as detrimental to children and their cases (Healthcare Network).

Retrieved or extracted outputs from an information system are printed reports and other information viewed on the computer screen (Gatehouse et al., 2004). These are on-screen alerts, messages, notifications and other selected information from sources much like a library shelf. The information systems presently used in children's social services are formatted for recording, retrieving and using information. This form significantly limits the usefulness of the information and reduces its quality (Gatehouse et al.).

A recent research project by the Department of Education and Skills in coordination with the Welsh Assembly Government (Gatehouse et al., 2004) identified the obstacles to improving social work practice as technical issues and attitudes towards the tasks. Among the technical issues are inadequate computing infrastructure and the lack of access to personal computers by social workers. The other obstacle consists of social workers' attitudes towards recording, using and sharing derived or created data. The System sets the provision of work outputs… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Social Work Informatics USES, Merits and Demerits.  (2012, February 8).  Retrieved October 29, 2020, from

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