When a workshop works

Emma Hart,
Engagement Manager,
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

Over the last few months, my colleagues and I have been very busy dedicating our time to a piece of work commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE), called Information Sharing to Protect Vulnerable Children and Families. The programme’s focus was to explore the ways in which information sharing can help to better safeguard vulnerable children and families. You can find out more about the details of this work by reading the thoughts of Jovian Smalley in his blog from February this year.

The initial research for the project consisted of an in-depth analysis of 25 Serious Case Reviews (SCR) and several field interviews with local places around England. In order to further develop our understanding we then set about hosting five regional roadshows across the country and in the space of four weeks we visited Manchester, Newcastle, London, Bristol and Birmingham.

Speaking on behalf of my colleagues, we were overwhelmed with the response to the events: all dates were oversubscribed with substantial waiting lists. It was great to see such a broad spectrum of partners in attendance, with representation at all levels from practitioners through to senior directors

We started the day with a fun and interactive exercise whereby delegates were asked to ‘draw’ their challenges to information sharing. It was interesting to see the creative ways in which delegates chose to portray their frustrations – from boats to bubbles, mazes to magnifying glasses most if not all barriers had a clear link to organisational culture. The challenges these pictures clearly showed included cultural factors such as trust, fear, risk, relationships, processes and leadership.

For the rest of the day saw us focus our discussions on a fictional case study based on our literature review, the Walsh family. Delegates were introduced to the family with only a basic level of information but as the exercise progressed, more information was revealed and as such, the vulnerability fears heightened. Concerns were linked to Katie Walsh’s abusive partners, unexplained injuries on both Katie and her children, concerns in relation to extremism and missed medical appointments to name but a few. Sadly, the Walsh case study ends as too many serious cases do, with the death of Katie’s youngest child, Baby Will Walsh.

Delegates were then set the task of conducting their own SCR to explore if local agencies had missed opportunities to share information. This exercise was extremely useful in terms of capturing the good practice that is taking place within local areas. It also helped to demonstrate how the outcomes may have been different had the family have been residing elsewhere.

To enable delegates to contribute to discussions at the national level about how families like Katie’s can be protected better in future, the last exercise of the day was an opportunity for delegates to make requests for additional support or guidance from Central Government. Having previously worked as a safeguarding practitioner myself, it gave me great pleasure to be able to help make vital links between local and national efforts to safeguard vulnerable people.

Overall, we have received some fantastic feedback both from our funding partner, the DfE, and from delegates who attended the roadshows.

“The activity was great and the mixture of professionals in the room really help – great workshop”
Delegate from Birmingham roadshow

It was great to hear that you found the day to be a useful opportunity to share, learn and network. On behalf of the Centre of Excellence and the Department, thank you very much for attending.

A full report of the finding from the workshops will be published on our website soon, so look out for updates.

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