In the spirit of ‘partnerships’, this week we have a joint guest blog written by two colleagues from Melton Borough Council.
It was really good to attend the recent workshop hosted by the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) looking at issues related to information sharing within the “Improving Lives: The Work and Health Disability Green Paper”.
My personal interest in this subject stems from a recognition that in the silo based world of achieving organisational targets, the needs of the individual service user at the centre of those targets is often overlooked. This has detrimental impacts on the individual person and wider society.
The lively discussions took me back to thoughts we’ve had here in Melton about the need to adopt a more radical approach. Currently too many of the issues around information sharing revolve around why it can’t be done rather than “how can we do this”.
One way to get people to focus on making it happen would be to give everyone the same, or inter-linked, targets. For example, in Melton our combined ethos is around achieving Social, Digital and Financial Independence for our residents. The culture we drive is around achieving these indicators with the belief that sustainable employment should follow as a natural consequence. We are still on that journey of cultural change and discovery but early indications are positive and reinforce the view that we are heading in the right direction.
Currently individual departments, budgets and organisations all have their own indicators and targets and, crucially, people are held accountable for delivering these. Whilst this might work within the blinkered world of the individual department, budget or organisation, when viewed at a wider more strategic level, it fails to deliver joined up services that work for the citizen, it drives perverse incentives and it offers poor value for money when budgets are viewed together.
What do we mean? Let’s take an example. A local Police force has a target to reduce crime. It does this successfully by detaining a range of offenders. The Police have hit their targets. However, there are consequences. The criminal justice system (courts, probation, prisons) now has an increased workload. The knock-ons continue as people subsequently leave the criminal justice system – impacts on families, accommodation, employment etc.
What’s the alternative? In the above example wouldn’t it be preferable for agencies to work together to prevent crimes being committed in the first place?
That’s all very well but how do we achieve it? We believe it needs a fundamental change to the way in which services are accountable for what they do. We need locality level indicators and targets that drive joined up thinking and actions. Delivery of these would then be the responsibility of all of the agencies in an area.
Doing this would drive the right behaviours – those that encourage collaborative working. This would mean that organisations would have an incentive to find better and more productive ways to share information. This, in turn, delivers better outcomes. In the Police example above, driving down crime without also driving down the number of people from the locality passing through the criminal justice system would only be a partial success.
Melton Borough Council work in partnership with a range of services to improve the quality of life for everyone in the Borough of Melton, to read more about these services please click here.