During a digital government workshop with multiple authorities, we identified a common problem: difficulty in understanding the family context of children accessing services. Lack of accessible information makes it much harder to judge risk and make informed decisions around what services are most appropriate for each child and their family.
To understand this problem in depth, we are currently running a discovery project. This has shown that front-line workers in Early Help and Social Work need access to information on a child’s family (e.g. what previous contact with services family members have had) to make informed decisions on what support to offer and whether to escalate to Social Care. Currently workers only get family information on an ad hoc basis, and they sometimes miss important context. However, these users also said they value conversations with other professionals more than detailed data.
In the alpha phase, we will build a prototype tool that gives front-line workers information on what services a family has previously engaged with and contact details for lead professionals in each of those services, so they rapidly know who to call to access the info they need. We will work with Surrey, and Worcestershire in this next phase.
We are undergoing a 12-week discovery phase. This has helped us understand the common reasons many authorities do not have full information about a child’s family readily available to them at key decision points.
More than 50 users were interviewed during several rounds of initial user research. We discovered that across both councils having information on a child’s family (e.g. mental health, police engagement, youth offending, substance use, etc.) was essential to making the right decision, at the right time, regarding what support to offer.
We also found that:
- Data sharing often works through face-to-face interaction
- Staff often get information from personal contacts, on an ad hoc basis
- Multiple systems mean services don’t always align
- Data entry is a burden leading to poor quality
- Staff really value conversations with professionals from other services
A clear user need has emerged for a tool that gives front-line workers appropriate access to relevant information on what services a family has engaged with and the contact details for lead professionals in those services.
We are iteratively testing our findings with a wide range of user groups to ensure we fully understand their needs.
- Introduction to user research