Collaborating Authors

ethics review

Algorithms in children's social care: call for understanding of risks and benefits


In a country where removing children from their parents is perhaps the most severe intervention the state can make in relation to its citizens, it's no wonder that involving computerised decision-making in the process causes disquiet. Over recent years there have been regular stories in the national media raising alarms over resource-starved councils plugging citizens' data into systems – including within children's services – that seek to predict futures, and advise professionals what to do next. Just a few weeks ago, one of the schemes that has attracted most controversy – Hackney council's Early Help Profiling System (EHPS), commissioned from private provider Xantura – was dropped after it did not "realise the expected benefits". The grant-funded pilot project, profiled last year by Community Care, was intended to help social workers identify children most at risk of harm. Hackney did not respond to an interview request for this piece but, according to a council statement, problems with data quality meant further investment could not be justified.