Information sharing: the golden treasure for partnerships

Damion Nickerson,
Engagement Manager,
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

Last week, the Centre held an event  to introduce a new programme of work to support the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the joint DWP/Department of Health Work and Health Unit.

The aim of the programme is to improve  information sharing between local partners and create better employment, health and social justice outcomes.

The event was attended by people from a range of organisations working in a variety of roles, who were asked to share their experiences of information sharing. Attendees included Work Coaches from Jobcentre Plus’ (JCP), partners engaged in the Troubled Families programme, and organisations supporting JCP customers with multiple or complex needs, including voluntary and community sector organisations and local authorities.

During the day, delegates used the following information sharing themes to think about the challenges they face and areas of good practice:

  • vision, leadership, governance;
  • professional development;
  • targeting of services and assessing the impact;
  • service design;
  • partnership working, organisational cultures and trust;
  • communication, community engagement and common purpose; and
  • making informed decisions and managing the risk.

These themes were developed through our work with local places and our work with national government departments. Participants explored some of the challenges and opportunities that they faced when sharing information with regards to:

  • people in receipt of out-of-work benefits;
  • people living in families who have particularly disadvantaged circumstances who may have very specific support needs that require a case managed approach; and
  • people who are in contact with health services but not welfare services, who might benefit from improved or more tailored employment support advice through JCP

So why ‘golden treasure’ in the title of my blog? Well the day started with a pirate feel to it as delegates were asked to draw themselves
as pirates and place the pictures on a ‘treasure map of information sharing’ – they were asked to think about their individual journeys within information sharing in their specific job roles. This enabled us to understand what their perceptions were of their own individual information sharing behaviours, values and knowledge.

During what was a packed day, we heard from a number of speakers including Daniel Taylor (Think Family Programme Manager, Birmingham City Council) who spoke about the ‘sentinel data hub’ they use, and Antonina Robinson, MBE (Department for Work and Pensions, Troubled Families Lead) who discussed systems leadership and safeguarding vulnerable people. There was also a very moving account from a member of the public about her experience of  being within ‘the system’. The key to all of their experiences was successful information sharing in partnership.

During the day, delegates identified a range of areas for action including activity to build common purpose across both work and health sectors and we discussed the benefits of co-location. We also talked about the need to find ways to better explain the role of information sharing in safeguarding vulnerable people and to improve support, communication and learning  so that we have good processes in place to ask people for consent to share their information.

The final part of our day saw delegates sign up to writing blogs, offering their learning and knowledge to a wider network and plotting our next course.

In sailing the treacherous seas of information sharing you may well ask what is our final destination? Following up on this event, the Centre will be engaging and working with a small group of partners to explore and address the issues raised in more detail. The intention is to build capability across organisational boundaries in local places by documenting and sharing the learning captured, and, establishing a peer learning network to support information sharing in local places if people would find that helpful. I’m sure that the golden information sharing treasure is certainly in our sights.

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