For those working in the Local and Regional Government sector, chances are you’ll know about the Supporting Families programme (previously Troubled Families). With a new vision for 2021-22, the programme aims to build the resilience of vulnerable families to allow them to thrive, by enabling system change, both locally and nationally. This new phase of the programme will improve support for vulnerable members of society, and so the data required to recognise them must be modernised in a way to support this.
For those councils that take advantage of the insights locked in their data to identify additional families that meet the criteria, there is the opportunity to secure significant additional funding: a medium sized borough council with a population of ~200,000 might secure more than £2m in additional funding over two years.
There are a few challenges that we’re commonly seeing amongst the councils that we work with, outlined below, and therefore a few best practice principles to help combat these challenges.
Firstly, with the change from the Troubled Families to Supporting Families programme and the refresh in direction, the number of overall criteria has change from six to ten, and families must meet three of these to receive support. These criteria include themes such as: ‘Getting a good education’, ‘Safe from domestic abuse’ and ‘Secure housing’, with each theme having a number of specific measures that a person may meet. When they meet three of these measures, they qualify for funding, meaning there is the possibility of helping more vulnerable families. Equally, if data and measures haven’t been updated, the risk of failing to identify as many families is higher, as there is a greater burden of proof.
Because of this, the number and variety of data sources has expanded significantly. Data on vulnerable people is now pulled from social care, education, police, housing, and health, and potentially wider. The capability to automatically produce a single view of a child/young person, household and family is critical in order to view them as a whole. An automated single view allows councils not only to see who is eligible for funding, but also track that they make sustained improvement through these insights to be able to claim pay-by-results (PBR) funding.
Currently, the overarching issue that we’re seeing the most lies in data matching. Consider this: the same person existing across multiple datasets, records are inconsistent (Tom Hughes, Thomas Hughes, T Hughes), some are more up to date than others, with no ID by which to match up the different records, and no/limited IDs to know they belong to the same household or family.
Up until recently, the data sources, volumes, and number of criteria under the Troubled Families programme meant many councils reluctantly operated time-consuming manual processes, hand cranking data through Excel. These were expensive, risked error and data security and failed to identify or track the majority of families eligible. With the advent of Supporting Families, a best-practice solution is now necessary if councils are to maximise the potential benefits of the programme for citizens, staff and partners.
Best Practice Solution
Having worked with numerous councils, we’ve identified a number of principles that are crucial in developing a best practice solution. These range from the technical to the non-technical, both of which are equally important.
Technical best practice components:
It’s important to have the capability to ingest data from all the required sources automatically, such as spreadsheets, applications and third parties, helps to save time and resources.
Address quality issues in data
Addressing and fixing inconsistencies in data, such as incorrectly formatted data, invalid entries, or tests is another best practice. Having ‘clean’ data is best practice for obvious reasons, but when collating data from different sources, it’s even more crucial.
Probabilistically match records
In order to have the correct data for the Supporting Families programme, an accurate and complete Single View of the child, person, household and family needs to be developed. This is important not only to identify and access funding to families who need it, but also to track changes in that family over time and their progress as they improve.
Data structured and stored
Data should be structured and stored in a secure data lake or data warehouse, structured and labelled aligned to the service’s needs.
Self-service reporting tools (such as Power BI)
These should enable all users to easily and accurately report on the families that meet the criteria and why, alongside their progress and their cases where relevant to the individual’s role.
Enable data to be used by all agency partners for collaborative service delivery
In order to to manage resources and gain better insights, data should be securely shared to third parties, where necessary.
Moving to predictive
Over time predictive analysis can start to be applied to best focus resources or make ‘next-best’ recommendations on services or packages.
Non-technical best practice components:
Upskill your teams & take ownership
Through collaborative delivery with a trusted partner, develop the right ‘TOM’ across the council, making it easy for you to add new data sources, amend match rules or build new reports.
Data governance and security
Ensure the right approach is taken towards data governance and security for your specific solution – get your DPIA done early, ensure data is securely stored and managed in line with regulation.
A fully automated Supporting Families solution, underpinned by a complete and accurate single view of a child, household and family will revolutionise most council’s data insights – enabling them to identify substantially more families that meet the criteria, access significantly more funding from central government and collaborate in service delivery for improved outcomes. Having engaged with numerous councils, we estimate that currently only ¼ of families who meet the criteria are being identified – but with the implementation of an automated solution and trusted single view, this could easily be doubled. This could mean up to an additional £2m funding for a mid-size borough council.
Aside from this, a single view solution will free up valuable resources and their time, enabling them to focus on more impactful work than data crunching, and therefore improving the quality of data – ultimately resulting in more effective insights.
A complete and accurate single view of a child, household and family has the potential to revolutionise how trusted insights are delivered and services collaborate across the full breadth of the council’s operations – supporting families is just one use-case. To learn more about how to trusted data and insights could benefit your council, or how you could implement a best-practice Supporting Families solution, get in touch today.
Tom Hughes, Business Development Manager, Simpson AssociatesBack to blog