The subject of vulnerable people is a burning issue at the top of the agenda across those Public-Sector bodies that exist to safeguard individuals and families in our society; but is it a battle that they can win with people alone? What role might technology play to enable better outcomes?
With continuing austerity and the need to do even more with less, these organisations exist in a world that is becoming more and more complex, especially when it comes to safety, crime and technology.
But what does the term ‘Vulnerable Person’ cover?
According to the College of Policing in the UK:
‘Vulnerable and at-risk individuals, who have become (or are at risk of becoming) victims of:
Child abuse; child sexual exploitation; domestic abuse; female genital mutilation; forced marriage; honour-based violence; modern slavery; prostitution; serious sexual offences; stalking and harassment.’
There is much written about the cause and effect across society. But most of us would agree that the proponents can originate form all aspects of society. From the underprivileged, to the over privileged, from all Ethnic and Cultural backgrounds, from dysfunctional (or maybe functional looking!) families to seriously organised cross-border crime gangs.
How can these government agencies manage to keep up with this tsunami of a challenge? Undoubtedly more expert resources would help, but will resources alone suffice?
The one obvious and well recorded opinion from the professional and academic communities is that proactivity outweighs reactivity in every instance. What is the cost of saving a child from abuse or from violence, protection of any person in society from being abused or people being shipped into slavery or prostitution? It is well proven that earlier intervention leads to better outcomes for individuals, our communities and saves money.
To become truly proactive, authorities need information to make decisions at the right time and with the most authentic and credible data sources, ideally in real time. Technology is a key enabler in this situation – most of the perceived ‘data sharing and information governance’ issues are related to organisational culture and behaviors. Numerous case studies have shown that is possible to share data, collaborate from a multi -agency perspective and deliver better, more targeted services to our constituents.
These data sources may be owned at different sources and by different organisations, but the question is: If this data can be shared, then as a Police Officer or a health worker or a social care professional surely this makes common sense? Each of these stakeholders is trying to profile their (often silo’ed) information so that they can make the right decision at the right time.
Technologies such as automated data matching, predicative analytics, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are now regarded as mature. If deployed, these approaches present a great way for public sector bodies to identify people at risk and free up our professional resources to do the things they signed up to do – help people, prevent crime, safeguard and improve the wellbeing of our communities.
The question now must surely be “why not”?