The LGiU’s Annual State of Local Government Finance Survey alarmingly highlights that Children’s Services is now the top immediate pressure for councils. This is above Adult Social Care for the first time in at least three years, suggesting that councils are no longer able to shield these services from the worst of the ongoing budget cuts in local government.
Back in January techUK and LGiU held a joint event bringing together our two communities to interrogate the challenges faced by children services and explore how the technologies of today and tomorrow can help manage demand on children services and support prevention strategies. At the event we had a 50/50 split of local government and industry in attendance to understand the role digital can play in improving outcomes for children and young people. It was great to have a mixture of Councillors, directors and heads of services part of the conversation.
The first part of the day attendees gathered in groups to review the challenges that cut across key areas of Children’s Services provision from collaboration to family support. Below is a summary of the key points raised and attached below are some rough notes from the sessions.
- Digital leadership is important in making collaboration a success, as is having a high-level strategy that teams can buy into.
- Lack of interoperable systems provides an unnecessary obstacle and hinders data sharing.
- Technology can enable collaboration, but the right processes and culture needs to be in place. Service redesign can support collaboration.
- How can we use procurement to better facilitate collaboration?
- When collaboration we can’t forget the user, and how do we really engage them?
- Consensus that collaboration is the way forward and tech has a pivotal role in this.
Early Intervention and prediction
- National level data solutions could be used more widely e.g. crime mapping hotspots.
- Councils have different ways of identifying families at risk making linking of data sets difficult.
- Lack of common language across local public service agencies can make data sharing difficult.
- Tech could be better used to help people communicate and collaborate.
- Before we even look at the data there should be an understanding of what the user need is.
Intelligent use of data
- Need long term planning to enable intelligent use of data.
- Collaboration can enable the better use of data.
- Need to take into consideration ethical issues of data use – when and how to use. Councils can get ahead of the game by looking at data ethics now.
Tech that works for everyone
- It was agreed that this challenge area needed reframing. Most people now have smartphones so access to some form of technology, should the questions focus on what tech do we want to use and engage with?
- Consider accessibility of tech eg. for low income families/people with disabilities, and public engagement in this conversation
- Doesn’t need to be super high tech e.g. social workers using WhatsApp
After better understanding what the problem areas are, groups then participated in a design workshop on ‘what does the Children’s Services of the future look like? And what technology do we need to support this vision?.’ Each group was given a specific service area – from care and adoption to Special Education Needs and Disabilities with a scenario – to workshop through what an ideal service and user journey would look like.
If you were at the event or would like to share your views on how technology can re-imagine children service, please share using the hashtag #CounciloftheFuture @techUK
If you would like to get involved in the Local Government Programme contact Georgina Maratheftis.