Managing the electronic turn

Jochen Devlieghere, Rudi Roose, Tony Evans

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Information systems have become ubiquitous across social work, leading to an electronic turn. A key tension is that IT embedded procedures can be counterproductive, encouraging those involved to direct their behaviour to comply with specific measures, rather than address the real issue for which the measures are just a proxy. This is particularly an issue for local managers, who have direct contact with service users and who increasingly mediate the impact of systems of control, such as ISs. We interviewed 30 local managers in the field of Child Welfare and Protection (CWP) in Flanders, Belgium to grasp their position towards this electronic turn. The interviewees identified aspects of the IS as suitable and useful to manage their team, but also expressed their concerns regarding the impact of the inflexible implementation of IS for the development of responsive social work. Most of the managers also talked about how they used strategies of management discretion to bend, reshape or even ignore IS procedures. The result seems to be a mock bureaucracy where official rules and procedures are in place, but local managers develop a parallel system of work that better reflects the needs with which they have to work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-778
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
Issue number5
Early online date19 Feb 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Feb 2019


  • Child Welfare and Protection
  • Discretion
  • Electronic Information Systems
  • Managers

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