Children’s Placement Portal

This project, led by Birmingham City Council on behalf of the West Midlands Strategic Network, sought to improve how children’s placement data is captured and analysed. By doing this, important data such as demand, supply and cost can be used to enable a more strategic and cost efficient approach to child placement across the region.

The West Midlands Strategic Network represents 14 councils that all currently use the same system for placing children in fostering and residential care placements. Although the portal is ‘digital’, the information that flows through it can be in various formats which makes it difficult to analyse.

The goal of the Alpha phase was to test the hypothesis that digitising the contracting process will enable better analysis due to more reliable data.

By establishing a common data model, important data such as demand, supply and cost can be used to enable a more strategic and cost efficient approach to child placement across the region.

Savings from implementation of the portal will be derived not just from resource efficiencies but through improved, digitised business processes. Savings will also be achieved through market information being structured in a form that makes it easier for commissioners to analyse trends, and manage the market through evidence-based decision making.

The Beta phase for the project commences in February 2023 with the intention for the portal to be in place from April 2024.

Project timeline

November 2021

The project is awarded £148,135 of funding through Round 5 of the Local Digital Fund to conduct an alpha phase.

March 2022

During the alpha phase, the project team has taken a user-centred approach to develop a data model that meets the needs of the commissioners by describing market activity and is suitable for analysis.

Following extensive user research, with both commissioners and providers, the project team has documented their detailed understanding of the current contracting and purchase-to-pay processes and what their systems must do in order to integrate with them.

The next steps for the project team are the creation of interactive prototype interfaces for the contracting process. Once complete, the prototypes will be user-tested to confirm whether it is possible to get the required information whilst improving the experience for the marketplace’s users.

August 2022

The project team is currently preparing their beta application through the continuous funding model (CFM) framework. The CFM interview is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 31 August. Receiving CFM will help the project team maintain momentum and continuity.

October 2022

On 7 October, the project team submitted their alpha phase outputs along with a beta application, through the continuous funding framework.

On 14 October, a continuous funding panel interview took place where the team outlined their proposal for a beta phase in which they would commence the build of the Children’s Placement Portal.

The Children’s Placement Portal project, led by Birmingham City Council, has been successful in its application for continuous funding. The project will receive £350,00 in grant funding to facilitate the move into its beta delivery phase.

November 2022

The project’s executive report has been signed off with each of the 14 councils formally agreeing to their financial contributions towards the cost of building and maintaining the portal, in addition to the Local Digital Fund grant. These contributions have been included in the council’s respective Forward Plans.

The project board has been set up as well as the stakeholder group. The board will meet monthly and the stakeholder group will be the platform for show and tell sessions. Kick-off meetings for each group are to be scheduled with Collaboration Manager Leon Ackie attending each to present on what is required from the project during its beta delivery phase.

January 2023

The project team confirms that they will kick-off their private beta phase on 13th February.

June 2023

Birmingham have completed their planning for Sprint 0. They have begun their technical design work and they are currently assessing the outputs of the alpha phase with NEC Software Solutions.

Their project kick-off meeting is scheduled for Monday 19 June.

July 2023

The Birmingham project team is making significant progress with their Children’s Placement Portal. The onboarded team members have a clear understanding of the problem, established ways of working, and the tools needed to support their progress. The team has created a roadmap for research and design tasks and have begun the infrastructure design.

The team has kept stakeholders informed and involved in the project, and their valuable feedback has shaped the initial design.

The next sprint will focus on designing and testing the Create to View referral feature. Technical ‘plumbing’ is in place to enable this development to begin. Plus, they are aiming to enhance the project roadmap to provide a high-level overview of development timescales, ensuring clear direction for future progress.