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Enhancing child safeguarding through innovative data sharing

 Could local authorities provide timely insights to schools so they can be empowered to intervene early and safeguard children better?

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Background

Primary schools serve as vital touchpoints for both children and families, offering crucial support to vulnerable populations. However, identifying and addressing safeguarding concerns in a timely manner presents a significant challenge to schools. We looked at how to bridge the gap between schools and local authorities, aiming to streamline information sharing processes and expedite support children at risk.

Problem

Through interviews and journey mapping exercises with several safeguarding professionals, we were able to understand the current process and what hinders effective safeguarding practices:

  • Early signs of child neglect can often go unnoticed due to fragmented information and a lack of holistic understanding of the family.

  • Valuable data held by local authorities, such as involvement with social services, remains siloed, impeding collaboration between schools and the council.

  • Lack of information sharing and communication exacerbates disjointed working between partners and hampers the delivery of coordinated interventions.

 

 

Design Process

We ran a series of co-design workshops bringing together representatives from schools and social care services and employed a user-centred approach to identify actionable strategies. By crafting user stories and exploring "how might we" scenarios, we contextualised the issues and fostered empathy. We prioritised solutions based on their potential impact and feasibility, focusing on quick wins to drive immediate improvements.

"How might we" scenarios used in co-design workshops

Ideation activity conducted using Powerpoint and MS Teams to cater to the participants of the workshops

Theory of change

We hypothesised that if schools were granted access to pertinent social care data, it would enable them to proactively identify and address any risks faced by children. By facilitating this collaboration with social care services, the approach aimed to mitigate risks and improve outcomes for children.

Identifying use cases of data sharing between the Council and schools

Solution 

Introducing the ‘Partner Information Portal’, a digital platform designed to facilitate secure data sharing between the Council and schools. This tool provides safeguarding teams with insights into a child's social care history, including active interventions and assigned social workers. Access to this data enables schools to swiftly identify and support vulnerable children, fostering a culture of proactive intervention.

 

The solution underwent iterative development, balancing desirability (user needs), feasibility (GDPR compliance, technical capabilities), and viability in collaboration with stakeholders and technical experts.

Mock up of the tool for illustrative purposes

Impact

We piloted the tool in three primary schools to test if the solution was fit for purpose. We monitored usage and had feedback sessions with users to understand what did and didn't work well. Qualitative feedback from safeguarding leads in schools regarding the tool's utility was excellent. School staff were able to look up information on children they were worried about and bring the case to safeguarding meetings to discuss further. However, backend data discrepancies such as duplicate reports led to lower-than-expected usage rates.

 

Moving forward, efforts are underway to refine data quality and optimise the user interface. Children’s services plans to scale the platform across a broader network of schools. Next steps include:

  • Continued refinement of the Partner Information Portal, focusing on enhancing data accuracy and user experience.

  • Integration of the portal into standard safeguarding protocols across additional schools.

  • Evaluation and adaptation based on ongoing feedback to ensure sustained impact and effectiveness.

“We have been waiting for this for years. Please do develop this platform further but make it simple and easy to use.” 

- Safeguarding lead of a Primary School

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