How technology is helping vulnerable children

As of July 2018, there were 61,500 children on the child protection register or subject to a protection plan in the UK. A sobering statistic but one that only hints at the scale of the challenge.

Child protection investigations are amongst the most high-risk across law enforcement, health and social care. Not only are they commonplace, they are also complex to investigate, requiring commitments and expertise from multiple agencies, with serious and potentially life-changing impact for the victims.

At the same time, the child protection and safeguarding landscape is fragmented. Information relating to risk and harm around children is spread across many agencies, making it difficult to see the total picture of risk, while numerous reviews have highlighted poor data sharing amongst agencies as a weakness of the system

At the moment, existing data sharing processes kick in when serious “red-flag” events are seen and a threshold of risk is breached – but if a child is subject to multiple mid-to-low risk events over a sustained period of time, no one will see the developing picture unless and until a single event breaches that threshold. So it is easy for vulnerable children to slip through the safety net.

With a growing population and constrained budgets, pressure is increasing on already-stretched child protection professionals across the sector. Is there a way technology can help tackle these challenges?

Our solution

BAE Systems Applied Intelligence has teamed up with the Gloucestershire Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub to address these problems. We have known how to bring together disparate pieces of data and make sense of them for a long time. After all, we’ve have been doing it for commercial organisations for years.

So we asked – why can’t we do the same for child protection?

Working alongside our colleagues in Gloucestershire, we designed and delivered a multi-agency data analytics and risk identification solution tailored to the child protection system. This tool automatically and objectively searches for over 100 risk indicators across three years of data, identifying candidates for support and for early intervention.

In addition, we have redesigned the processes around child protection to exploit this analytical capability, as well as engaged the Informational Commissioner’s Office, prepared new governance structures and developed a new Privacy Impact Assessment and multi-agency data sharing agreement.

This was a collaborative effort, bringing together data and technology experts from BAE Systems with the subject matter and risk experts from the child protection agencies. Over a three month pilot, together we analysed three years’ worth of data in just four hours; reduced the review time for a referral from 150 minutes to just 15 minutes; and developed a new operating model which put data and analytics at the heart of the child protection response. We also identified a gang, despite this not being the focus of the project – opening up the exciting possibility of pivoting to other threats in the future, such as violent crime and county lines.

The development of this tool is an example of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence using deep-rooted data expertise. But it’s how the tool has been used by the police and social services which has made the difference.

In other words, this is a partnership of people passionate about protecting children. And we’re just getting started.

About the author

Ravi Gogna is a consultant and data analytics SME with BAE Systems Applied Intelligence

Twitter: @ravi_gogna

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