Information sharing in Bath and North East Somerset
Since September 2014, the Centre has worked with a number of department leaders on projects to develop a successful approach to information sharing in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES), using learning from national initiatives and other local places that have undertaken similar transformations.
B&NES covers an area of 220 square miles (570 km2), of which two thirds is green belt. The city of Bath is the main centre of the district, but B&NES also covers Keynsham, Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Westfield and the Chew Valley.
Created in 1996, Bath & North East Somerset Council serves a population of 175,000 residents and employs 6,500 members of staff. Its key partners are Avon & Somerset Police and Fire & Rescue Services, the Clinical Commissioning Group, Sirona Health & Care, Curo Housing Group and a range of voluntary, education and business community representatives. The council provides high quality services at one of the lowest costs per head of population in the country, while demonstrating continuing improvement. It has recently restructured its departments into a tripartite model with responsibilities for people and communities, place and resources.
B&NES has identified a number of challenges to its local delivery of services. In particular, it faces significant pressure from reductions in central government funding, changes in Government legislation so that more services are commissioned rather than provided directly by the local authority or the clinical commissioning group, and an ageing population and increasing unemployment, particularly amongst young and vulnerable residents.
Through its Public Services Board, the council, with its key partners, has developed a new 2020 vision (see above) in a joint response to current challenges. The board is responsible for strategic oversight of all their local partnership arrangements, and seeks to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the way they work.
- We aim to uncover and understand what is limiting good information sharing in B&NES
- We want to help B&NES shift the cultural mindset of its organisation in order to overcome its information sharing challenges
- We will share what we have learned with other places and a range of national organisations by publishing regular progress reports, case studies, local/national media articles and blogs of our work with B&NES
- Through capturing and disseminating evidence of B&NES’ information sharing journey, we will help the place to influence regional and national conversations about their vision of transformed local public services.
Transformation strand one: Multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH)
In May 2014, the MASH agreed to review intelligence, decision making and information sharing across agencies that support vulnerable adults and children at risk or victims of domestic abuse.
The aim of the review was to safeguard children, adults and victims of domestic abuse. Alongside its work on recording domestic violence data better, process mapping workshops by B&NES also identified concerns amongst partners that people with low to medium safeguarding needs are often not identified early enough by the current safeguarding systems. As a result, B&NES intends to share ‘low level intelligence’ more effectively within a MASH.
Two project leads with specialisms in children and adult social care have now been appointed to plan the implementation of the MASH. The Centre’s director and engagement staff regularly attend board meetings to support conversations with partners about the strategic direction of these multi-agency arrangements, both at a local and regional level.
Engagement managers from the Centre have also visited Somerset’s MASH, to inform discussions about which issues the MASH needs to focus on to improve intelligence sharing. The board held an information sharing workshop for partners later in the summer of 2015, which the Centre helped to facilitate.
Transformation strand two:
In 2014-15, the Connecting Families service worked with over 100 troubled families, supporting them with multiple issues from worklessness, involvement in the criminal justice system and school attendance, in order to help them turn their lives around. The programme uses information from a variety of services to support families in crisis.
The sharing of this information has enabled key workers to understand the bigger picture of the problems faced by a family, and provide a coordinated package of support that helps them overcome these problems.
The Centre is also supporting B&NES to develop an enhanced version of its existing welfare support service, in order to help more people back to work.
Having trialled the new approach over the summer, assessment officers from the welfare support team were transferred to the Connecting Families service from September 2015. The Centre has run a full day workshop to help staff design a robust triage and assessment process for welfare support claimants, and accompanied service leads on a visit to Melton Borough Council’s Me & My Learning programme, to understand how they overcame similar information sharing barriers.
What we've achieved together
The Centre has helped increase the MASH steering group’s understanding of how to make intelligent decisions about sharing information on perpetrators of domestic violence and establishing appropriate triggers / thresholds in relation to these levels of risk.
We have provided the Board with research on different MASH models, to enable and encourage learning from successful implementation elsewhere, presenting findings from a number of other similar models at a stakeholders’ engagement workshop in September. B&NES also attended the MASH workshop which we ran in April 2015 as part of the Home Office research work.
The Centre supported DWP plans to increase co-location of Job Centre staff within the One Stop Shops in Bath and Keynsham, based on semi-structured interviews with key service managers to capture barriers and progress. We have disseminated learning about the Connecting Families approach to overcoming information sharing issues during the development of their service, leading to a proposal to deliver a workshop to Welfare Support staff to help the team develop a consistent approach to triaging clients. This workshop was successfully delivered in November, with a B&NES triage workshop.