So. Does it work? Learning from early evaluation results in Staffordshire

Hard to believe that we’ve now been piloting Patchwork in some teams in Lichfield District for nearly 6 months – but we have, and we’re now starting to evaluate it and see what we need to do to better improve the tool.

The first step in this was to get users from both the Let’s Work Together and Supporting Families projects – from all organisations – together into a workshop to start trying to find out their views of patchwork, how they’d used it and whether they’d found any problems.

And so it was in the first week of April we got together a mixture of careers advisors, social housing officers, school nurses, positive activities workers, housing officers and people from the Local Support Teams in a room along with our external evaluation team. Over the few hours of the session, everyone was encouraged – anonymously – to provide their feedback and make their suggestions for what could be improved.

I was lucky enough to sit in on the session and hear first-hand the comments of users – all of whom had to continue to provide excellent service to clients whilst trialling the tool for us. Fortunately any  nervousness I had beforehand about what they might say was unfounded. There was universal agreement that Patchwork as a tool was easy to use and practitioners could immediately see the benefits of it, not least because some of them in the room had actively been involved in designing it. We discussed whether the users wanted it, and the good news is “This pilot – practitioners have immediate buy in”, and the message was “we don’t need systems to talk to each other, we need people to talk to each other”. They told us how easy it was to add clients and maintain their own contact details – and how simple and user friendly the whole thing was. One practitioner said how he was surprised at how easy it was to add clients – “it only takes about 30seconds” – at which point another added, “yeah, I just added four before coming over here this morning”.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The biggest problem staff had was around talking to the clients themselves about the tool and getting their consent to be added. We discussed at length why this might be and it seems there’s no single answer; it ranged from some client’s fears of “big brother” type technology to some young adults worrying that their parents might be made aware of the services they were using. But this reveals there’s work to be done to simplify what approval is needed before clients are added – and providing material to help practitioners answer some of these challenges when they’re raised.

We also talked about where next for Patchwork and the main message was around linking it to the Troubled Families agenda coming from Communities and Local Government and other central government departments. Practitioners recognise that a child or young adult is deeply affected by their family (however that term can be defined) and we discussed whether this could be built in – “it’s the piece of the puzzle that’s missing”.

There’s lots and lots to work through to see how and whether this can be done, but the team are already going away and discussing what this might look like, what it means technically for the tool and – perhaps most critically – what it means for information sharing.

We’re still evaluating – looking at the anonymous data to provide some stats around how Patchwork’s been used; talking to more and more people about how they used it and what they thought; and trying this all together in terms of any changes that need to be made in moving to version one of the tool.

As we work through these things, there’ll be more updates here.

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