This report presents a thorough and detailed consideration of the issues of machine learning, and how it sits in a children’s social care context.
It tries to make clear what principles should be followed to use machine learning in an ethical way in children’s social care. It also delineates some barriers – about data quality, representativeness, and availability – which will heavily curtail the number of circumstances in which these tools can be ethically deployed – at least in the current context.
The review is intended to be a guide, and a spur to further debate and discussion.
- The responsible design and use of machine learning models in children’s social care should be mandated via national standards.
- Open communication between social workers and data scientists across local authorities should be encouraged to improve the national knowledge.
- Local authorities that develop machine learning applications should engage with citizens to gain consent for their use.
- The use of data science should be refocused away from individual risk and towards exploring “deeper social-structural problems” driving rising social care demand, and also be focused on promoting better outcomes for families and strengths-based approaches.