A good start, now to keep going!

This post has been authored by Paul Brewer, Head of Performance, Children’s Services, Brighton & Hove City Council

Patchwork has been receiving a lot of national attention recently, which has been a great validation of the idea, the project approach and the sheer hard work in Staffordshire, Brighton & Hove and of the FutureGov team.  The project has been highlighted in the Munro Review of Child Protection Progress Report and was also shortlisted in the Guardian’s Innovation Nation Awards.

With a project as complex as this, and with so many stakeholders, the key is now to keep the good start going with lots of on-the-ground engagement work and alignment to key strategic programmes which I know both Staffordshire and Brighton & Hove are achieving.  As Carrie pointed out at Brighton’s launch event last November, this is not a technology project, it’s a multi-agency project.  The bulk of the work is in facilitating change, getting front line staff together to look again at how multi-agency work is done and how it can be improved.  It’s also in reviewing our approaches to information sharing and engaging with services that are currently on the periphery of things, for whatever reason.  The technology is a vital component of course and it’s primary function right now is as an enabler of change.  That’s not always easy to get across, but we know genuine change cannot be delivered by installing a new system and expecting people to get on with it.

The national recognition gives us a real sense of being on the right track, but in truth we can only start to feel genuine success when users are saving lots of time and making connections that are helping them support children and families better.  This is what we think is going to happen, but between here and there is lots more hard work.

We have been in live test in Brighton & Hove with the tool for about 6 weeks now and early signs are good in terms of uptake and feedback.  We’ve had loads of interest from general practitioners and schools – parts of the system that have found it difficult to engage in other schemes in the past.  We’ll be continuing our testing into the summer now and looking forward to seeing version 1, due in the Autumn, when we hope to be moving into “families” rather than just children, a really important step.

I’m really looking forward to a workshop we’re holding in Brighton this afternoon with professionals from across the system, which will give us a much clearer sense of what is working and what the remaining barriers might be.  It’s always great to speak to end users, after all the paperwork and strategising.  The co-design sessions are fascinating and people really appreciate the opportunity to contribute.  It’s great to be able to offer a positive project in such difficult times too.

So, as we enjoy early success and make plans for the future, we will also make sure we keep strong focus on the present and doing the necessary hard work on the ground to work with very busy staff who, we must always remember, have heard many promises before.

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