Welcome to the latest blog for our Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government/ Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (MHCLG/DLUHC) sponsored Family Context project. This is an update on the project’s progress since the last blog in January.
For the pilot, we had established a strong team of people from various departments within Stockport Council to ensure we hit the ground running. These included:
- Project Manager
- Data Analyst (back-end developments)
- Data Architect (front-end developments)
- Information Governance
- Trainers (for rollout and continuous support)
- Communications (to ensure everyone knows about the tool)
- Business Analyst (Scoping and analysis)
We had set up monthly meetings to update our partner agencies and DLUHC on how the project was going. And we were preparing to roll the tool out to more Stockport Council social workers.
The rollout ran more smoothly than we anticipated. Due to time constraints and the pressures of the job, it’s not easy getting social workers to engage with projects, even those designed to benefit them. I am a qualified social worker, so I understand the pressures and time constraints they face.
We emailed the Service leads and the workers on the ground, explaining how the tool would benefit them and help them gather information much faster, which seemed to help with uptake. (Perhaps hearing from me as ‘one of them’ also helped get them on board.)
We booked slots at each team meeting to quickly show how the tool worked, which allowed questions to be asked and generated interesting conversations. Behind the scenes, we set them up on the system in batches, so they were ready to go by the time their training session came around.
In addition, we added the site address as a useful link to their Liquid Logic case management system, so workers do not even need to worry about opening another tab to log in. The link takes them directly to the tool, and the log-in details are saved after the first time they do this.
We have also included information about the tool on our Stockport Family Education, Health and Care Knowledge Base, easily accessible through the ‘Useful Links’ section within the ‘Menu’ button.
Following the training, we provided a weekly steering group for workers to obtain valuable feedback. These sessions ran for four weeks, and we used the feedback to suggest and make improvements.
Suggestions included some changes to the front end, which we have now completed. There were also requests for specific data sets, which would help strengthen work, paint a fuller picture of agency involvement with each family at any time, and make much more informed decisions.
At rollout, there were three data sets within the tool: Education, Adult Social Care and Housing. Data sets which will appear on the next iteration of the tool include Youth Offending Service information and additional educational information, including attendance data and any exclusions within the last 12 months. We are currently in talks with relevant agencies to add other data sets, including Probation and Health.
As a result of the feedback we gathered, we are now also looking at adding an up-to-date contact number or email address (or both) for families. We will take this from the system with the most up-to-date number, as we often discover that if a family has not been known to us for quite a while, the number may not always be up to date on our Liquid Logic database. Whereas, if they are a Stockport Homes tenant, have a child attending a Stockport School, or an adult is open to Social Care, then a contact number from one of those systems is likely to be more recent.
Due to Information Governance (IG) implications, we have not been successful in obtaining Greater Manchester Police (GMP) data. However, we already have a positive partnership between GMP and Social Care, who are co-located in our Multi-Agency Safeguarding and Support Hub (MASSH). Working alongside other agencies, this partnership has already earned a Stockport Commander’s Commendation for the risk management process implemented to review all high-risk domestic abuse cases and put in place meaningful safeguarding measures.
Use of the tool
We monitor usage using our analytics tool, which shows how many people log in daily and what they view. It also shows individual usage, and we can see patterns forming. For example, within our locality teams, the tool is popular during duty week when workers are given new allocations and need to undertake information-gathering exercises.
Monitoring will continue and, hopefully, inform us about how valuable (or not) workers find it. We are also planning to re-visit team meetings around September to check in with workers and understand what is holding back those who are using it sporadically or not at all.
Now that the tool is live and available for all Stockport Council practising social workers, we are currently evaluating the phase two rollout to identify if the tool is fit for purpose or to fix any issues quickly.
We have now spoken to our first ten social workers in a two-hour session and asked them to complete two questionnaires and a script test of the tool to ensure it performed as it should. The next evaluation will take place once we’ve added the additional data sets, and we will provide a further update once we have more information.
We have monthly catch-ups with the DLUHC, who are funding the project. Ealing Council is also a partner learning from Stockport’s journey so they can use the Family Context tool. Social Finance, who undertook the original pilot, continue to support the tool and open it up to other Local Authorities.
We have set up a SharePoint site so we can share all our practice and learning. Information uploaded includes:
- steering group minutes
- up-to-date Data Protection Impact Assessment
- project plan
- training materials
- promotional video and other useful information
We will publish the evaluation there when complete.
We created the video for our submission for The Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Awards. It features two of our social workers explaining the tool’s benefits.
The LGC Awards took place on July 20th, and we were delighted that Stockport won the Digital Impact category, with Family Context one of the elements that made up the winning pitch. This recognition by the LGC highlights the importance of the tool and how it benefits both the vulnerable families of Stockport and our social workers when undertaking complex risk assessments.
We will continue to improve the tool, both the appearance of the dashboard and, most importantly, the type and quality of data it shows.
We want to continue to build positive relationships with workers to understand what is required and how we can implement this whilst keeping the focus on our original objectives and considering any IG implications.
We look forward to updating you through the next part of our journey.
We are keen to work with other local authorities to roll out Family Context in other localities. If you would like any further information please get in touch.