Guest post from Mark Fisher, Universal Credit and Social Justice Director, DWP
Over the last two years, the IISaM project has demonstrated that it is possible to help local areas and central government work together to resolve issues around information sharing. The work done by the Ending Gangs and Youth Violence task force – dear to my heart, as Director for Social Justice at the Department for Work & Pensions – illustrated that getting information sharing right helps us to make progress and improve the way that the public sector delivers services. The IISaM project supported the task force by helping practitioners and managers start to overcome the barriers to information sharing. IISaM has also worked with the Troubled Families programme, which again requires a wide range of public services to work together more effectively. During the lifetime of the project, it has become clear that information sharing has the power to unlock improvement in public service delivery across a range of policies, so I am delighted with the Government announcement in the recent Spending Round that a centre of excellence is to be developed, building on the foundations laid by the IISaM project.
Earlier this week, colleagues from a range of central government departments , national and local agencies , including local government met to explore how best to develop that work. As I said in the session, the information sharing centre of excellence is an idea whose time has come, and the enthusiasm and commitment from those participating in the workshop is testament to that fact. The aspiration is to make the centre of excellence the place to go for practical and impartial advice on information sharing issues. The centre will need to be able to engage proactively with emerging agendas, such as the better integration of health and social care services. It will need to identify new and promising practice around information sharing, which might include working with academics and drawing on international experience. And it will need to continue to draw together the range of partners who have been involved to date, along with some new ones, in order to ensure that data sharing remains an issue of high priority.
The next step for the project is to shape how the centre of excellence might work in practice. I am chairing the new Steering Group, which will provide direction to the development of the centre. At the same time, the range of evidence and case studies on the website is being expanded to reflect IISaM’s involvement with the Public Service Transformation Network. This involvement provides an insight into the live issues that local areas are experiencing, and will provide evidence of the good practice which is already happening across the public services.
There are challenges ahead for the public sector. We need to improve the delivery of services, whilst also reducing the cost to the public purse. Many of the biggest reforms happening in public services – such as welfare reform, or health and social care integration – rely on effective information sharing. IISaM, and the new centre of excellence, can help make that transformation successful.