Troubled Families and the sharing of information

Caroline Davis

Caroline Davis, Engagement Manager
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

The latest academic seminar, sponsored by the Economic & Social Research Council, focussed on multi-agency, multi-user, multi-locale working in the context of sharing information for and about families. Academics and professionals explored a range of topics relating to the concept of ‘families’ and questioned what constitutes ‘a family’ and how this is described within policy.

The presentations delivered by operational leads resonated with the work that I am involved in around Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH) and how information is being shared by practitioners, and through technological solutions.

Catherine O’Melia, Operational Lead for Leeds Families First programme, gave a particularly detailed, honest and insightful presentation on the process that her programme went through with partners to gather information on families – accounting for the Troubled Families criteria of a family as being those living within a household.

There had been no previous process in place for drawing together information on families, so initial conversations were difficult and for some partners, it felt like a ‘secret list’ was being developed. Other partners wanted to know who was on the list but their queries were countered by the question of what difference it would make to the offer of help (or not) given to a family if an organisation knew that a family had been identified as being ‘troubled’.

As a result, the programme needed to demonstrate that it was sufficiently aware of contributions made by other agencies and that information would be shared with other agencies at the appropriate time and with the appropriate people, to ensure trust could be built for the family and between the programme and the multi-agency partnership.

The presentation also took an in-depth look at how Leeds Families First was working with the police, who often hold key information. In this case, sharing takes place when families that receive support from the programme are flagged if they are already recorded on the police system. The arrangement enables daily reports to be produced, which highlight ‘live risks’ within a family to lead practitioners who can then investigate further, at an early stage.

Continuing issues for the programme relate to consent being given by the family to share their information. This linked to the presentation given by James Cornford of the University of East Anglia, who highlighted that families do not always share information between themselves and stressed the importance of understanding what is not being shared, as well as what is being shared and who this is being shared with. Having a fuller picture of the previous history and on-going issues for a family, than families themselves, can be an important consideration for practitioners. In a similar programme, the family summary produced by Leicestershire OneView, details in its guidance that the family summary can be shared with families when deemed appropriate.

Paul Davidson of Sedgemoor District Council and Director of Standards for LeGSB, outlined the seven themes framework, and addressed how this could be applied within the context of sharing information between and across a multi-agency partnership. The use of data standards means that information can be drawn together for use by Troubled Families programmes or by MASH teams. Read more about the LeGSB approach to data standards here.

The examples around pushing the boundaries of information sharing at a strategic level means that families can expect a better, joined-up service from practitioners on the ground, and receive help in a timely manner, within legislative parameters.

Further work to capture the learning from the establishment and the operational aspects of a MASH will be available on our website soon.

In the meantime, you read more reflections from the seminar here:

It’s never too late to learn
What needs to be shared (and not shared) when we share information?

Read more about our work around Troubled Families and information sharing here:

Bath & North East Somerset
Sharing information to identify and work with Troubled Families