Algorithms and the care system « McAlister Family Law

Contact

Algorithms and the care system

Isabelle Chatterton

11.02.2019

This month, the Law Society will hold sessions in Cardiff and London in February 2019 to consider the use of and ethics of algorithms in the justice system In England and Wales.  It will examine “ what controls, if any, are needed to protect human rights and instil trust in the justice system”.

Algorithms are a process, or set of rules, which have been used by many local authorities across the world. Amid financial pressures and funding cuts, local authorities are using a range of data to identify children who are at risk of harm or abuse, allowing them to focus their limited resources more effectively. This process is often carried out and completed by a computer and considers a range of data including children being excluded from school, youth offenders and incidents of domestic violence.

This data does not allow for a local authority to be subjective; it does, however, allow a local authority to identify vulnerable families quickly, and then provide support. Some local authorities, facing a significant lack of funding, are using this method to assist social workers in an effort to apply limited resources more effectively.

But there are drawbacks.  Prof Ruth Gilbert and Rachel Pearson of University College London and Prof Gene Feder of University of Bristol, writing in The Guardian, said: "The stakes are high in terms of potential harms. The purported benefits of algorithms must be supported by transparency and robust evidence of benefit."

Algorithms typically stereotype families. The data takes into account characteristics of children who are currently in the care system, and ‘flags up’ potential vulnerable families. This data does not, therefore, allow for anomalies, and uses private personal data in order to predict child abuse.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which regulates the use of personal data by public and private bodies, is tasked with ensuring whether councils’ use of algorithms complies with data protection laws.

“All organisations have a duty to look after personal information in their care but records involving children – often sensitive personal data – require particularly robust measures,” said an ICO spokesperson.  

Ultimately, we have to find a balance between protecting the rights of the many and protecting the vulnerable in society.  We look forward to the results of the Law Society's upcoming sessions.

16 Jun 2020

Back to school?

Due to Covid-19, many separated parents are trying to manage the shared care of their children, manage home schooling, and ensure that they are protecting themselves and their families from the virus. In recent weeks, we have seen in the press that many separated parents are fighting each other through the courts over whether their children should return to school as the lockdown is eased. Solicitor Jonathan Casey examines the issues.

Read more

26 May 2020

Prenuptial agreements - not just for the wealthy

It used to be that prenuptial agreements were something only the very wealthy had, but this is no longer the case. Partner Fiona Wood explains.

Read more

11 May 2020

Occupation order: what you need to know

As the COVID-19 lockdown continues, some people find themselves forced to socially isolate at home with partners and spouses on a 24/7 basis. In some very difficult instances, this may lead to a situation where they are stuck in a property with an abusive partner. What protections are available?

Under Section 33 and 35 to 38 of the Family Law Act 1996, the court have powers to make a protective order known as an occupation order.  Assistant solicitor Aaron Williams explains.

Read more
;
Close

Book an appointment

It starts here.

Book your appointment here. Your first consultation is free.

Thank you for your message

We will be in contact shortly to arrange your appointment

Arrange another appointment?
Book an Appointment