Developing a single data sharing framework for London – London Fire Brigade’s experience

Andrew Mobbs,
Head of Business Intelligence,
London Fire Brigade

We recently spoke to Andrew Mobbs, Head of Business Intelligence at London Fire Brigade about the cultural challenges he faced, and the approaches he took, as part of a collaboration team with the Greater London Authority (GLA) to develop a pan-London data sharing framework. Below is a summary of our conversation so you can read more about the approaches Andrew and the team have taken.

Why share information?

Sharing information is important to the London Fire Brigade as the people who are most at risk of fire tend to be the same people who need extra health care and support, allowances and benefits, help heating their home and many other services provided by their local council and other London care organisations.

What’s working well?

The benefits of sharing information (such as better safety and welfare of vulnerable people) means that there is clear support across public services in London for sharing the data associated with these people in a clear, transparent, responsible and legally compliant way, especially as are the consequences of not doing so are also well understood.

What are the challenges?

London Fire Brigade are involved in more than a hundred different data sharing agreements. These agreements support information sharing with the 33 London Boroughs, and their wider partnerships with other public sector and voluntary organisations. Each agreement is drafted by the lead organisation, and works in a slightly different way, and to different standards, but all in the belief that each agreement is the best way to demonstrate compliance with data protection legislation.

Previous attempts to create single pan-London ISAs have been perceived by some organisations as being imposed on them, focused just on one-way flows of information, and often impose standards that are impossible to comply with due to the local practices of the recipient organisation. For example not every organisation will have a ‘fully secured premises’ or ISO 27001 accreditation. So, to ensure this project gets the support and buy-in it needs to be a success, We have made sure we consider the cultural aspects of multi-agency information sharing.

How are you addressing these challenges?

The team at the GLA, are working hard to involve and get agreement from all the London Boroughs, health trusts, emergency services, voluntary organisations and all of their partners across London for a single data sharing framework. One way of getting buy-in, is to focus on common benefits of a single data sharing framework - such as improving transparency and trust (in public services) for citizens across London.

We've also ensured that the framework isn’t seen as an end it is own right (it’s not just structure, for structure’s sake) but as a way of supporting a wider transformation in London’s public sector, using and sharing data to improve services and people’s lives. Specifically, the single data sharing framework, has been firmly positioned to align with the strategic ‘City DataStore’ initiative which are being led by the GLA teams behind the London Office of Data Analytics (LODA) and SafeStats.

Whilst I'd ideally want every part of the public sector to agree to the single framework, I'm trying to be pragmatic and honest in my conversations with partners. Making it clear that adoption of the initiative will depend on the wider interest and support of the London Boroughs and their partners. So, the wok is being taken forward by a core of interested boroughs at first, to prove the concept and build confidence. Then only when there is sufficient support in place will it be rolled out, or progressed to the next stage.

What does this look like on the ground?

  • Stage 1 of the initiative is to build a centralised repository for existing data sharing agreements. Using the technology behind the Lancashire & Cumbria Information Sharing Gateway portal the London information sharing project will build a document repository into which any existing data sharing agreement can be uploaded for view by partners and the public. A minimal schema will accompany the upload so that the documents can be easily searched and retrieved.
  • Stage 2 of the initiative will then be to agree a set of data sharing templates that comply with all information governance principles. These templates would be ‘pre-approved’ as acceptable for use in any data sharing arrangement. This work would be initially lead by a core of interested boroughs and would take advice from the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing, or legal advisers as necessary. If agreed, this would become the standard for any new agreements added to the repository.

Find out more
Read Andrew’s blog on the London Datastore website.

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