Emma Toublic, head of education information and business systems at Essex County Council explains how the secure sharing of key information can make a difference to the support received by children and families
When key information can be shared securely and efficiently between teams working with children and families, it can make a real difference to the timing and impact of the support they receive.
For multi-agency teams providing support for children and families, it is mission critical to be able to record and share key information securely and simply to get them the help they need.
But if the information practitioners need to do their jobs is held in a variety of databases, spreadsheets and paper files, this can create an unnecessary obstacle when it comes to ensuring the right help is put in place, at the right time to make a difference.
In Essex County Council, we are doing things differently. We have embarked on an initiative to bring over 700 disparate data sources together, enabling our education support teams to see the completed jigsaw of a child’s life in one place. And we are already seeing the benefits of taking this approach.
Uncovering the issues
If a child suddenly stops coming to school, their caseworker needs to be able to quickly understand what issues might be behind this to help get them back into the classroom.
With the right information to hand, the caseworker could discover that the child has a history of poor attendance or exclusion, or that there has been an ongoing concern with their behaviour in the playground over the last two weeks.
They might find details of a problem at home that the child is struggling to cope with or that their family is receiving some additional support from the council. Knowing this could have an impact on the decisions made around what action needs to be taken to reengage the child in education and prevent them from falling behind in their learning.
Pulling together the strands
Bringing data from different places together can be transformational to the way local authorities work, as we have found. It means that authorised staff can access the information they need from the authority’s computer system – ours is Capita’s One management information system – in a few clicks.
By creating this single view for every child, we have brought together records from early years, through school and youth services. The aim is for information on a child to be stored securely and centrally, from birth into adulthood, so teams with the appropriate permissions can see at a glance how many times the family has moved to a new house, whether the child receives free school meals, and even if there is a dangerous dog at the address. This helps us to ensure children and families get the help they need.
With data held centrally, the authority can also forecast for what help children and families might need in the future too.
If we receive details from a children’s centre that a toddler with a disability has just been registered, for example, we can ensure the relevant team is equipped to provide support to the child’s family. We can also plan our budgets for the additional provision that will be required when the time comes for them to start school.
Looking at the longer-term picture, we can prepare for the child’s transition to secondary school and into work, by forecasting transport services and any support they might need to live independently, wherever this is appropriate. This is set to transform the way we work with children and families now and in the years ahead.
This initiative has had a major impact on our internal processes too. Previously, when we arranged a meeting to discuss a child or family’s circumstances, up to 10 different people would need to come in and sit around the table, each bringing their notes and files. Now, the relevant practitioners can record and view information on the families they are supporting on a single device, so everyone involved is kept in the loop.
In addition to this, our data is stored securely in the cloud, so staff no longer spend time managing routine systems maintenance tasks or carrying out software upgrades.
By bringing together different pieces of data on children and families, our teams can join the dots and see the bigger picture of their lives. This is essential for providing us with a golden thread of information that will help us to plan and deliver support, where it is needed, to improve outcomes for the people of Essex.
Head of education information and business systems
Essex County Council
Tel: +44 (0)345 743 0430
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