Guest post by Mark Fisher, Director of Social Justice, Department for Work & Pensions
Since the IISaM project’s inception, I’ve been doing my best to persuade my colleagues from across government of the need to improve information sharing across the public sector, to help us understand the root causes of disadvantage and deliver services to address them. As I looked around the room last week, at the first meeting of the Steering Group for the new Centre of Excellence for information sharing, I was delighted to see that the message has obviously been taken on board, as colleagues from across Whitehall, government agencies and local government joined me to discuss how we design and implement the centre. It demonstrated the recognition of information sharing as a key enabler of improvement and transformation across a wide range of policy areas. Having chaired the IISaM project board, I am continuing as Chair to help ensure that the lessons learnt by the team continue to inform this next phase of work.
The strong commitment from across central government doesn’t mean that departments dominate the agenda, however: the Steering Group has agreed to an innovative ‘central-local’ hybrid model, which maximises the benefits of the approach previously used by IISaM. The majority of the work will be around supporting local areas to develop solutions to their information sharing issues, gathering evidence of what works and sharing those stories, case studies and positive experiences. Where information sharing barriers remain, there will be a role for the Centre of Excellence to drive a more coordinated approach across government, through advocacy and evidence. The centre will also look to collaborate with other bodies where we can help address information sharing issues together. And I am very pleased that the Information Commissioner’s Office has also been wholehearted in its support.
The next step for the Steering Group is to finalise the structure, and to secure the necessary funding to get the centre up and running. But the work of the centre is already underway: the IISaM project is involved in providing specialist support to local areas which are part of the Public Service Transformation Network, which has involved working across a range of local areas as they rethink how they deliver their public services. The evidence of that will soon be visible in the new case studies, which are being developed at present. In the meantime, I will be continuing to work with colleagues across government to make the most of this opportunity to address the need to share information for better service design and delivery.