Start as you mean to go on

Imogen FullerImogen Fuller, Engagement Manager
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Early Intervention Foundation’s first ever national conference.  The event brought together delegates from a range of organisations to discuss policy areas as diverse as gangs and youth violence and supporting parents around the birth of their child. A common and convincing thread across the day was the significant benefits of early intervention across a range of children, youth and family services. Some of the benefits, could be a potential £17 billion saving to the public purse, if agencies work together and share information to support and improve outcomes for children and families.

There was also a large marketplace showcasing work across a range of disciplines supporting children, families and organisations.  A key benefit of attending conferences like this one is the chance to make new and interesting connections with people you might not otherwise meet – connections that could add value to both your work and theirs.

Within minutes of arriving at the Centre of Excellence’s stall my colleagues and I were approached by Mike Barton, Chief Constable, Durham Constabulary.  Mike was keen to gather up copies of our good practice case studies and share learning from his force’s innovative use of body-worn video evidence to improve multi-agency information sharing around incidents of domestic violence. Whilst the use of video evidence is about innovative use of technology to make sharing information with partners faster and more accessible; what this also highlights is that work culture and practices across services are changing, and that front-line workers are prepared to think about sharing information in a different way to support positive outcomes.

The seminar on ‘Preventing gang and youth violence’ shared further examples of multi-agency information sharing. The Includem IMPACT project is working to bring together intelligence and data from police, social workers and youth workers to effectively target and refer young people at risk from gang activity in Glasgow to relevant support services. Tom Sakerville, Interim Director of Children and Families at the Catch 22 Dawes Unit highlighted that “we are very good at knowing who we know” but not at using our shared data to identify what’s coming up.  Tom highlighted that information sharing should not just be about supporting children, young people and families now but be a consideration for future service planning and in every aspect of work with children and families. A sentiment shared by Mr Mitchell, the passionate head teacher from the Channel 4 series, Educating Yorkshire, “We often don’t know the challenges of an individual child; information sharing is very important….”

The need for support throughout the development of the child, and in particular at key points of transition, such as the move from primary to secondary school, as highlighted by Mr Mitchell, and the period from birth to starting school, came across loud and clear in the final panel session.  Information sharing again was at the heart of the debate, with calls not just for every child to be registered at birth  at a registry office or a local community provision like a Sure Start centre, but also for better sharing of birth data, as supported by The Children’s Society.  The use of this data and information about a child would enable agencies to engage families earlier, improving take up of universal ‘early help’ services, before crisis intervention was needed, and offer tailored support.

So, by starting as we mean to go on with information sharing at the earliest point of a child’s life, we can ensure that intervention and support are designed to deliver positive outcomes throughout a child’s life.