Broadhurst, K., Wastell, D., White, Sue, Hall, Christopher, Peckover, Sue, Thompson, K, Pithouse, A. and Davey, D. (2010) Performing 'Initial Assessment': Identifying the Latent Conditions for Error at the Front-Door of Local Authority Children's Services. British Journal of Social Work, 40 (2). pp. 352-370. ISSN 0045-3102

This article draws attention to the faulty design elements at the front-door of children's local authority services, arguing that current attempts to increase safety, through the formalization of organizational procedures and their enactment by IT systems, may have had the contrary effect. We argue that the analysis of errors in organizational settings should focus on immanent systemic weaknesses, particularly the ‘latent conditions’ for error that generally increase the risk of failure. Reporting the findings from a two-year ESRC-funded ethnographic study, and examining the local adaptations of practice arising in the performance context of the ‘modernized’ front-door of children's services, we draw attention to the short-cuts that the current configuration of the initial assessment system appears to necessitate, given the immutable timescales and excessive audit requirements. New modes of governance can clearly play a central role in error management, but the design of an effective system needs to be based on the needs of users and on a thorough understanding of their working practices.

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