Red Letter Day

Friday 15 February was a red letter day indeed for my time on the IISaM project, my first involvement in a large scale dissemination event – yeah!!

Etihad Stadium Manchester
Photo is by Quays News via Flickr Cretive Commons

The Greater Manchester Public Service Reform Conference drew together over 200 senior representatives from across Greater Manchester to talk about multi agency working and how it can deliver more effective and efficient services.  Held  in the Etihad Stadium, the presentations from the great and the good throughout Greater Manchester were punctuated by discussions, break out sessions and workshops defined as thematic or crosscutting.

The IISaM spot was a cross cutting workshop on information sharing and started with a presentation on what we have learned from working on the project, closely followed by a workshop activity centred around the practicalities of gathering information from a variety of agencies.  We  finished with an interactive extravaganza – well, we had voting buttons anyway!

The presentation is available for you to download here GM Public Service Reform Presentation (pdf 0.98MB)

The presentation emphasised that it was possible to share information with partners but that organisations need to stop seeing legislation as a barrier to sharing and start seeing it as an enabler.  Similarly, organisations need to be aware of the risks of sharing information but to also consider the risks on not sharing, and to think about mitigating the risks rather than trying to avoid them all together.  The big message is that the people and the partnership are the key.  Strong relationships built around trust with good organisational communication and strong governance can really make information sharing and multi agency working a success.

People at the workshop session
People at the workshop session

The workshop activity was based around a scenario called Hannah’s Problem in which Hannah is a research officer who draws the short straw and has to source the information needed to identify Troubled Families within her Local Authority.  She is thrown into a maelstrom of difficult relationships, incomplete information and brick walls and we have to help her as much as we can.  The group were divided into Louise’s and Eric’s teams to discuss what practical help was available through the IISaM website and what the senior managers were doing to smooth the way.

You can download Hannah’s problem here Hannahs Problem (pdf 270KB)

Not surprisingly, given that the workshop consisted of mainly senior managers even the ones looking at the practicalities of the website also wanted to feed back about the strategic relationships being built.

Practically, the website offered some useful tools and guidance to help Hannah in her quest for information but we were let down by the search function on the website.  The team will take this on board and try to make it better but in the meantime please don’t give up if the search function doesn’t give you anything, try browsing the site, the index or looking at the top questions.

Strategically there were lots of ideas being suggested about how to support Hannah, including

  • Making better use of Caldicott Guardians to talk about how to work together better
  • Development of an information sharing strategy to include as many partners as possible and to help understand the fragmented nature of the information
  • Better use of the electoral register
  • Developing a resolution / escalation procedure for organisations that will not share
  • Improved, clear communications to ensure that staff feel they will be supported to share appropriately

The strategic group also felt that where there were safeguarding concerns there were no issues with information sharing and that concerns about ICO fines and unclear or untried legislation meant that the default position on sharing information was often ‘NO’; this needs to change.

So what about the end of session vote?

Attitudes to Information Sharing ChartThe actual questions asked about information sharing are detailed on the slides but hats off to those in the room as we had an overall positive attitude to information sharing with people feeling confident in themselves and their partners’ ability to share information appropriately.  The only major difficulty identified was around knowing the legal gateways to enable sharing; this is where your information governance people come in – involve them at an early stage and tell them what you are trying to do, the vision, the background, expected benefits and let them help you.

I am going to give the last word to our hosts for the day, the Etihad Stadium in Manchester as it seems strangely appropriate.  If you look on the website for directions to the site you get the profound yet appropriate.


So how do we build the relationships and trust we need to share information, one way is to practice, check out for the others!