Patchwork Featured in Report on Building Tech-Powered Public Services

Building Tech-Powered Public Serbices

Building Tech-Powered Public Services is a new report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), looking at digital innovations in health and social care.

There are 7 major case studies in the report, including Patchwork. The other case studies are Casserole Club (a community that links people who like cooking with their neighbours who are in need of a hot meal), ADL SmartcareMental ElfPatient Opinion, The Digital Pen and form system and Woodland Wiggle.

These grassroots projects focus on the frontline experience of delivering and receiving public services, and avoid some of the pitfalls of top-down IT projects.

Sarah Bickerstaffe, the report’s author, answers two main questions:

Can technology improve the experience of people using public services?

“Technology can improve people’s experience of receiving public services, just as it has improved the user experience in so many other sectors. In health and social care particularly, the era of chronic conditions – which cannot be cured and are caused in large part by lifestyle factors – means that technology can play a critical role in placing power, responsibility and control in the hands of individuals to help them manage their own health.”

Could tech-powered public services be an affordable, sustainable solution to some of the challenges of austerity?

“Technology can also help to bear down on bureaucracy and ensure that the transactional elements of public services are as efficient as possible. More significantly, it can make a contribution to delivering more preventative services that stop or delay problems escalating, costing the taxpayer more downstream.”

There were clear and consistent lessons on how to successfully implement tech innovations in public services, which is covered on the FutureGov blog.

Here is the full Patchwork case study, but we encourage you to download the full report on the IPPR website.

Patchwork

Patchwork emerged when FutureGov founder Dominic Campbell watched a documentary on the catastrophic failings in care in the ‘Baby P’ case.

Campbell had experience working in local government as a head of back office strategy, as well as experience of implementing big IT systems.

He explains that while working within local government he became disillusioned by technology consisting of ‘inelegant inhuman systems that make you rewire your brain rather than fitting into the world around you’.

He was astonished that the terrible circumstances around Baby P were able to come about ‘in an era of Facebook’, when the general public can be so closely connected to one another .Campbell explains that he wondered:

‘How can one case worker not know what another might be concerned with?… I found information governance wouldn’t let us share information within ourselves, let alone across organisations … so putting that together with the [Baby P] documentary I thought “I know it doesn’ t have to be this way”.’

Instead, he became interested in the potential of:

‘… using modern open source networked technology to work in areas like CRM [customer relation management] and case management in particular – so a lot around case records and joining the dots a lot of the time between silos of information in the public sector to make sure that the public sector is working as well as possible and also empowering practitioners to do the best job possible.’

This process saw the founding of FutureGov, set up around five years ago, to begin to think about new ways of developing technology for and with the public sector.

The organisation benefitted from early Nesta investment, and used this to spend six months testing the Patchwork hypothesis with Lichfield in Staffordshire.

This process began with 12 weeks of design interventions and roughly 8–10 weeks of prototyping. Campbell explains:

‘We think that design research is totally fundamental to articulating the problem accurately … [Patchwork] has been going on for about three and a half years now, and I would say that a year and a half of that at least has been around design research of one form or another. In that first six months [design research] was two-thirds of it. Easily 50 per cent of our time.’

Following a pilot of the project in Lichfield, FutureGov expanded the process and went on to develop Patchwork in Brighton and Surr ey local authorities.

Impact

Quality of care: In connecting different practitioners around a child or family that they are working with, Patchwork can lead to better, more complete decisions and earlier interventions.

Practitioners can express concerns and add comments and observations, all without sharing confidential case information. In cr eating a ‘social network-like’ environment around an individual, outside agencies, GPs, local authority practitioners, education services and other health practitioners can see who else is working with the child or family in question, and get in touch with queries or comments.

A user -centred design process ensures that the programme is tailored to suit the users and that the various levels of team are satisfied with its use, meaning a more efficient take-up.

Productivity: Patchwork can save time for frontline staff, avoiding the need to spend time calling around to find out who is dealing with a child or family .

It can help to build relationships between health and social care agencies and enable earlier intervention to prevent problems developing and worsening.

Insofar as it pr events children and families from developing a need for more intensive public services, such as hospital stays or foster care, Patchwork has the potential to have a big impact on productivity, but it is very difficult to quantify the potential savings fr om avoiding future costs.

Wider lessons

For FutureGov, the first problems were a lack of trust and of basic contemporary and social technology literacy. So Campbell says that their initial work was around:

‘… teaching them the basics, just trying to get them to get back … to the possibility of major corporate transformation through social technology. But they were so behind you had to show them the basics and make the market before they could even imagine that it was trustworthy enough to do something serious with.’

FutureGov also encountered specific resistance in the working culture of the local authorities to the idea of transparency.

Campbell talks about how digital technology ‘codifies’ practice – how normal, logical practice quite often happens outside of official frameworks of behaviour.

Putting this into a system as a supported behaviour acknowledges practices that everyone does in day-to-day work, but no one talks about.

These are actions that officially might be frowned upon but are taken because the practitioner believes them to be in the best interest of the service user.

Exposing these practices can be incredibly disruptive:

‘Patchwork is so challenging as a change to working, in ways we didn’ t even realise … people moan about the silos [of information on cases] when they’re in them and how disruptive they are to services, but if you give them the opportunity to join up those silos you realise that kind of openness and connectivity terrifies them … It’s like going from dark to light overnight, you’ve gone from “this is my case, it’s locked down, I know I’m the only person who can see this stuff, I can write whatever I want about this individual” to the next moment where, for example, the drug and alcohol team are terrified because even though there’s no information sharing (it’s just a way of connecting practitioners) the police and JobCentre can see that they’ve also got a connection to that client. That’s suddenly … a new level of transparency and openness that they’re just not used to.’

Frontline workers also sometimes felt that they did not have the capacity needed to learn how to use a new technology.

While the Patchwork software is timesaving, learning how to work with it does require an initial time investment. An internal evaluation document produced by FutureGov notes that a significant response from practitioners (especially around the adoption of technology while ‘in development’) was a concern about a lack of time.

‘Another participant saw this as an additional administrative task that duplicated work already undertaken for their own agency/service requirements by stating that s/he had already ‘a lot of admin tasks for our own record keeping’. It became apparent that participants ‘only [saw] this as a pilot’ and thus the amount of ef fort given to contribute and maintain Patchwork when balancing challenging workloads was reduced. One participant summed this up by stating ‘ if other people don’t get in involved maybe we haven’t got to do it ’. Some practitioners made it clear that they were ‘told’ to work with Patchwork, but workloads prohibited any deep engagement. Notwithstanding the ease of use of Patchwork … participants felt it was difficult to remember to log on and contribute to the system. They proposed that it has not yet become automatic to go to Patchwork as part of their daily work, suggesting if it were to be a substantial part of their working practice, rather than a pilot, it would become more  automatic.’

Campbell believes that educating public sector workers on the process of user-centred design will help to overcome the perception that existing workloads make the adoption of new technology impossible: involvement in the development process requires investment of time, but develops a better, more efficient product.

From the perspective of a technology developer, having team members with public sector experience was important. FutureGov relied heavily on this expertise to find an authority with which to begin a pilot, when they received an initial grant with the provison that they were to spend it within a matter of months.

‘But if you were outside of the kind of network we have, I just don’t know where you would start’.

For this reason, FutureGov are also involved in setting up a platform called Simpl, described as ‘an ideas crowd-sourcing platform’ – which ‘surfaces good ideas’ – solutions to problems that practitioners and public alike can highlight, and crucially ‘in one place’ that councils can look at. Employing people with experience of the public sector means they have a shared language and a meeting point when it comes to the design and development process.

It was also important for product development, as it provided an understanding of the context in which products would be used.

‘The thing that drives me most nuts about the “cool kids” who are getting into this space now is that they haven’ t got the patience to go and engage with councils and practitioners, and therefore they build things that are kind of right – because [they] lead with technology rather than design.’

This ‘kind of right’ innovation feeds the resistance in the public sector to technology that is unwieldy or ‘fashionable’ but not, ultimately, useful.

Looking at Patchwork in action, Campbell notes the difficulty in quantifying impact when interventions are designed primarily to prevent future problems occurring.

‘It’s a preventative tool, so working out how many issues you prevented a vulnerable adult having, or how many kids you protected, it’s challenging, but it’s stuff we’re getting very heavy on, demonstrating impact … It’s vital, especially if we’re talking about new creative social technology too, which is more about social capital – more nebulous … I think the evaluation framework for this stuff is still to be born. There’s nothing good out there, yet – probably because most councils aren’t working in that way yet.’

Building a sound business case, based on a proof of concept, pilot evidence and strong evaluation techniques, is crucial.

Once the business case is ready, exposure to key decision-makers in procurement and public sector innovation is also incredibly important.

This is still a problem for FutureGov:

‘I see people like Jeremy Hunt paying £9.2 million for a child protection system for NHS and A&E hospitals, to join them up (but not to councils) and I know that with a third of that we could offer Patchwork to the whole country: A&E, council, social care team, whatever you wanted.

So when I see that, that’s when I realise you have to connect to the top level … the people who cost out those ridiculous £9.2 million budgets. There isn’t an opportunity for new entrants at that scale.’

Patchwork and Staffordshire County Council Runners Up in The Guardian Public Service Awards 2013

Patchwork

Patchwork was announced as a runner up in the Digital category of the The Guardian Public Service Awards 2013, through our work in Staffordshire.

Our partners at Staffordshire County Council has been fantastic and they are doing some great work to make Patchwork happen in their area. We know that Patchwork works even better when people throw their commitment behind it, and Staffordshire are an excellent team to be working with.

Thanks to in particular Nicki Edge, County Commissioner for Community Wellbeing in Staffordshire, and her team for their brilliant work.

The competition was tough for the awards, with a record number of entries received in the 10th year of the awards. You can read about the winner in the Digital category and the rest of the award winners over on the Guardian Public Leaders Network.

Here is the entry from the Guardian’s Best Practice Exchange on Patchwork or you can read more below.

If you want to find out more about how Patchwork could work for your council, please get in touch with Dominic Campbell.

Patchwork - Guardian Public Service Awards

In theory, disparate professionals from various public and third-sector agencies supporting vulnerable families not only know of each other’s shared involvement in the case, but how best to get hold of each other.

Yet, as proved by a succession of social care scandals, the reality can be very different.

Tragedies such as the Baby Peter case led to the creation of Staffordshire county council’s contact details system, Patchwork. Patchwork is not a case management tool, but a way for frontline staff working with children and families to discover others involved in those they care for.

“Patchwork is a web-based communication tool which reveals the network of practitioners working with a client,” explains Emily Skeet, commissioning manager at Staffordshire county council. “It also allows for voluntary-sector contacts to be involved – they often don’t have the same access as statutory agencies to technical case management systems.”

Frontline staff, such as district and county council contacts, fire service and social workers, log on to the web-based system and enter the name of a client. They immediately see which other agencies and professionals are supporting their client and are alerted to the best way to communicate with them, whether mobile, landline or email.

Making Patchwork Happen in Brighton and Hove

Thanks go to Paul Brewer, Head of Performance for Children’s Services in Brighton and Hove Council, for writing this guest post for us.  As well as leading on all things performance for Children’s Services, Paul has also been leading the Patchwork project in Brighton and Hove.  

He has been involved with the project from the very beginning and here he shares some of his thinking about what it takes to make Patchwork happen on the ground.

 Patchwork is not a technology project…

Patchwork is an incredibly interesting and challenging project to work on. I remember back at Brighton & Hove’s launch event in November 2011, Carrie from Futuregov put up a slide of a road stretching out to the horizon, talking about how Patchwork was not a technology project.  Well, that was so true!

It is about connections across agencies

In the period since, I’ve seen some amazing connections made between different practitioner groups, deep discussion about the nature of multi-agency working and growing confidence around the need to get on and share information to help provide the best care.

Patchwork has also helped bring support services from different organisations together. Having a real thing to discuss and implement has been really galvanizing and helped lots of people move away from abstractions. It really hasn’t been easy at times, but I guess that’s when you know something is helping you change and make breakthroughs.

Because Patchwork is about creating the professional network in an area, the stakeholder map is large and varied. We’ve done a lot of work in Brighton & Hove engaging with organisations by finding ways to explain Patchwork that make the most sense to them, and this seems to have worked. We have a satisfyingly long and varied list of engaged organisations and practitioners.

It’s been really helpful to…

Ask people what benefits they see arising from Patchwork really helps. They can think about their own work and realize for themselves how Patchwork could help.  This approach has also helped us figure out which groups of organisations should go live at the same time. For example, we’re pulling together a bunch of organisations that deal with adult mental health and substance misuse, both statutory and community and voluntary sector.

Spending time with the different stakeholders within organisations has been invaluable.  It’s not enough to get the support of only the Chief Executive, although that is very helpful! It’s been really beneficial to give others dedicated time, and listen to their perspectives and address their concerns.

Avoiding forcing Patchwork on people by making it “mandatory” has also been the right approach. Forcing things through doesn’t work in the long run.  We’re doing lots to encourage use and are making sure certain types of involvement (such as children with a child protection social worker) can always be found, to help make the benefits really clear.

And in a nutshell

I think the engagement journey in Brighton & Hove has been about confidence in the Patchwork idea and a respectful but unswerving persistence.  Seeing people move from skepticism or cynicism and into trust and enthusiasm is amazing.  And I think this come from finding ways to give the thing away, so that people can feel it can be theirs too.  Their own “no-brainer”.

Oh, and being able to talk very precisely about the law and privacy definitely helps.

If you want to know more about the Brighton and Hove experience you can check out their website, or contact us here at FutureGov and we will be happy to help.  It would also be great to hear whether you enjoyed this post as we line up some more guest posts for Patchwork.

5 Days, 5 Councils – The Universal Aspects of Patchwork

 

As momentum for Patchwork continues to grow in the UK, you can imagine how excited we were to touch down in Melbourne, Australia, last week to take Patchwork global.  You can read some more about the how this came to be in one of our previous blog posts.

Needless to say last week was a busy week of getting over jet lag, getting our bearings, getting only a little lost in Melbourne (FYI, I count this as a huge success) and most importantly connecting with the 5 councils in Victoria we will be working with.  We managed to catch up with all of them; KingstonYarraCity of MelbourneBrimbank and Wyndham, to find out more about how they work and the difference they want to experience as a result of having Patchwork.

Patchwork will be used in both the Youth Service and the Maternal Child Health Teams, all who have a strong partnership edge to their work.  As you can imagine we approach a project like this with some questions, the biggest of which is  “will Patchwork fit into the context of their work in the same way that it does in the UK?”

We needn’t have worried. It seems there are some aspects to working in this area and with Patchwork that are universal:

1. A Desire to Strengthen Partnership Working

I feel like I can say with some confidence now that almost regardless of place and wherever you happen to be on your journey to truly integrated services for children and families, there is just something about this group of professionals that is committed to improvement. They are always seeking to do more, be better and to improve outcomes for their clients. Here in Melbourne, Patchwork is just one of many things that is going on to strengthen multi-agency working. We hope to be telling you more about some of their other work as the weeks go by.

2. Data Protection is Key

Wanting to protect people’s data and sharing that data to improve client care is also a universal tension. For many practitioners this connects with their own professional ethics and how they approach their role – often grounded in a need to build a relationship with clients and secure consent before they act.  Of course, this isn’t possible in every situation and like many practitioners in the UK, front line workers want to get this right for their clients.  What is really clear is that solutions need to work in a way that support front line workers and strengthens relationships with clients and other agencies rather than constrains them.

3. Trust is Vital to Strengthen Links

Here in Victoria, much work has been done in relation to the Privacy Act and gaining consent from clients so trust is established with their caseworker to both take care of their data but also that they will only share data when there is a legitimate reason to do so. As we work through this we will be sharing learning as my guess is some of these issues will resonate for many front line workers, and across many projects.

We will keep posting on the Patchwork blog about some of these aspects and more broadly about the project as it progresses. Make sure to check the blog regularly, subscribe by RSS for more insights, or get in touch for further info on how Patchwork could work for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patchwork kicks off in Surrey

As if kicking off Patchwork in Australia isn’t enough, this week also sees Patchwork get rolling in Surrey County Council.

Patchwork is one of a number of projects that FutureGov is partnering with Surrey on as part of the Shift Surrey innovation lab. It will be anchored in the Family Support Programme, helping practitioners to connect as a team around the family, building on related work both Staffordshire and Brighton are leading supported by Patchwork.

It is a another big step forward for Patchwork, where it will be made available to all council teams, partner agencies and the voluntary sector covering over one million people (almost 2% of the UK).

We’re genuinely excited at the prospect of supporting better partnership working, meaning local services and practitioners coordinating their work together earlier to deliver better outcomes for families. Having now been in Surrey kicking things off for a few weeks now, we thought it might be useful to share some of the lessons we’ve gained from working with Surrey.

1.  Know what the barriers are

Surrey have usefully spent a lot of time thinking about what the barriers to partnership working are and aren’t. As a result they know frontline practitioners want to develop teams around families and to work together earlier, the issue for them is How?

Any solution to this needs to take account of the size of the county council, the differing nature of the boroughs within it and the fluid nature of families moving in, out and around Surrey.

What we notice on our work with Patchwork and other projects is that everyone involved wants to make partnership working simpler and easier for frontline staff. In Surrey’s case, step forward Patchwork.

2.  Leadership + Vision = Difference

Surrey have provided strong and visible leadership to the project.  They have been engaged and working closely with FutureGov to not just sponsor the project but to really lead it.  They have been able to articulate clearly what the end of this part of the story should look like for staff and clients alike so they understand the journey they are on.

The whole point of any change project is take people from A to B with B being a better place, if B can’t be described then how will you compel people to join you and crucially how will you know when you have made it there?

For Surrey they have been really clear that they want all practitioners working with their initial 400+ troubled families to be connecting with each other via Patchwork so that partnerships that already exist can be strengthened and amplified across all partners organisations and families.

Knowing the difference you want to see gives any project a better chance of success.

3. Empowering and giving rather than closing down and controlling

Another interesting aspect of the Surrey approach is that there is a very strong sense that this should be in the first instance an internal change project, where Patchwork as a tool can drive broader organisational change.

By embracing the social technology that is Patchwork, the council wants to put the responsibility for building relationships for frontline practitioners back to practitioners.

There is a very visible story or measure of success around the range of organisations / agencies in Patchwork growing, as a visible manifestation of this.

However there is also an equally important unsaid story about empowering and trusting practitioners to know who needs to be invited in to a case and giving them the ability to make that connection simply and easily.

Patchwork is tool designed by practitioners for practitioners so this approach really resonates with us and our guess will be that it will resonate with frontline workers too as Patchwork is rolled out.

We will be blogging regularly about lessons from the project and all things Patchwork on the blog, so please do check it out.

Patchwork By Practitioners for Practitioners, Simple.

We feel that the only way to make something truly usable is to involve the people who will use it in its creation. That’s why Patchwork has been designed this way from the start, working with practitioners in Westminster, Staffordshire and Brighton who have helped us to hone in on what was truly useful to them.  We are pleased to say feedback has been coming in thick and fast from practitioners using Patchwork all over the country.

At FutureGov we use this feedback to work out what we need to do next to develop Patchwork, without compromising the purpose of Patchwork.   These improvements will make the tool more useful for you in your work with clients by revealing the often hidden network of practitioners around a client more quickly and easily.By using practitioner feedback to develop  small changes and releasing them quickly and frequently Patchwork will really keep in step with what practitioners need.

Changes are usually small, beautifully designed and intuitive to use, so should not require any additional training but if there are questions please  contact your local Patchwork administrator or email us at Support@patchworkhq.com.  This email address can also be used to send in any feedback about the product so that we stay close to Practitioners as usage of the tool increases.  We will also be keeping this blog up to date with changes as and when they land.  We think designing things with the people who use them is a good thing to do and we hope you do too?


 

Patchwork goes global as pilot kicks off in Victoria, Australia

mav2

In our first major step into working with local public services outside of the UK, Patchwork will be launching in Australia over coming months, kicking off a pilot with a consortium of councils thanks to our partners MAV (or Municipal Association of Victoria) and a number of local councils.

Originally designed with frontline practitioners in Lichfield and Staffordshire, Patchwork will soon be used by local government 11 time zones and 24 hours travel away in Victoria, Australia.

Over the next four months we will be focused on training up a cohort of early adopters and enthusiasts to see how Patchwork can help to better coordinate their work in supporting families and young people to provide them with the best possible support. A team headed up by Patchwork lead Kirsty Elderton will work with practitioners to get the councils up and running and making the most of the system, improving ways of working and outcomes in the process.

Working alongside Kirsty are our Aussie design partners, DMA. Mel and Justin will work with Kirsty to both support the roll out, evaluate the impact but also take a specific look at Maternal and Child Health Services, mapping out where technology and service change could help a rethink in how M&CH practitioners are supported to do their job.

We’ll be blogging progress as we go, but for now here’s the press release circulated by MAV today.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Patchwork to pilot more connected family and youth services

19 March 2013

A new pilot project will work with a consortium of councils to transform the way governments interact with vulnerable families in maternal and child health, and youth services.

Cr Bill McArthur, President of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) said Patchwork was a simple social technology solution to connect staff from different agencies working with clients in common.

“FutureGov, a leader in technology-led public service change will this week meet with Melbourne councils who have expressed in-principle support to participate in the MAV-funded Patchwork pilot.

“We hope to build on the success of the original UK Patchwork project developed by FutureGov.

“Using a simple web application, UK families have benefited from the administration efficiencies of agencies sharing and updating information when working with the same vulnerable clients.

“Patchwork can improve collaboration, offer joined-up services from multiple agencies, lead to earlier intervention where required, and deliver better outcomes for families.

“It builds a full picture of client needs while also achieving time and cost savings.

“While the MAV’s initial focus will be on maternal and child health, and youth services in pilot municipalities, the project is potentially applicable to a wide range of human service areas in which councils are involved.

“Once the pilot is complete, we will explore the opportunity to roll it out to all Victorian councils, and to create links with other public sector and community agencies.

“We have also briefed several State Government departments interested in being a part of the pilot,” he said.

The UK company FutureGov uses design, technology and change to rethink how local public services are delivered. Dominic Campbell, FutureGov’s founder is in Australia from 18 to 22 March to discuss the Melbourne Patchwork pilot with the MAV, interested councils and State Government departments.

Dominic Campbell said the FutureGov team was passionate about local government and excited at the opportunity to work with forward-thinking colleagues at the MAV and councils in Victoria to implement an innovative solution to joining up local public services.

“There is a real opportunity to rethink how frontline services are supported through well designed, user friendly technology and we hope to help play a part in this in Victoria,” he said.

Kirsty Elderton, Patchwork Program Manager will be in Australia to work intensively with pilot councils and other program partners from April to July.

– Ends –

For more information about Patchwork: http://patchworkhq.com 

Contact the MAV President, Cr Bill McArthur on 0437 984 793 or MAV Communications on (03) 9667 5521.

 

Patchwork Launch Event

We had the pleasure of officially launching Patchwork, our brand new safeguarding app. on Thursday 27 September. Developed over three years, it was a real honour to proudly share Patchwork with the fantastic group of people who turned up to celebrate with us, from like-minded social care experts, to practitioners, and techies.

Coram’s Fields Youth Centre was a fitting venue for the launch of a product which is all about the needs and interests of families and their practitioners. We got to hear short talks from a whole range of social care experts – including those involved in the co-design and piloting of the app.

First up was our very own Dominic Campbell, who told a little of the story behind Patchwork, showed how the app works, and shared his passion for improving local public services. You can read a bit more from Dom in last week’s Guardian.

Straight after Dom was Professor David Wastell (from the University of Nottingham), who talked us through a range of problems in existing ICT systems and where they’ve spectacularly failed. Luckily though, co-designing and taking a generally more open approach to development, like Patchwork has done, can make a real difference to the success of a project.

[Note: while we pride ourselves in our open approach as a company, this video has unfortunately been removed at the request of the speaker and a system supplier mentioned in the video]

Long-time friend of FutureGov Paul Fallon, an independent safeguarding professional, gave us his opinion of the current state of play in the social care world – by his own admittance “a bit of a rant”.

After Paul it was time for the breakout groups, giving people the opportunity to network and discuss, question and debate aspects of Patchwork in greater detail. The chatter ranged from where and how Patchwork sits in the wider troubled families agenda, all the way to the technical nitty gritty of getting the app set up. Following the break and some delicious cupcakes, we heard from Nina Dawes, Chief Executive of Lichfield District Council, who had the early courage to seed fund Patchwork and allow access to social care professionals, and has been instrumental in its success.

We also heard from Sharon Moore, who, as County Commissioner for Safer Communities in Staffordshire has really pioneered the use of Patchwork in the county.

Last but not least, Steve Barton and Paul Brewer from Brighton & Hove City Council told us about their approach to implementing Patchwork, and then took some questions from the audience.

What are we up to over the summer?

Busy old times here at PatchworkHQ. We’ve reached that point in the project where all the hard work is coming together but there’s still a tonne of stuff to do before we can finally take a breather. A heady mixture of pressure and excitement that makes Patchwork such a great project to work on.

So what have we been up to over the summer?

Were building up to the launch of version 1 of Patchwork on 27 September, yey!! Keep the date free – details coming soon.

Getting to this point has been the result of lots of hard work from the Patchwork team and amazing support from our local authority pilots.

It’s been a particularly intense time for the development team, who’ve spent the last few months getting from a prototype version of the app to version 1. This work has built on the pilots of the software run in Brighton and Staffordshire, and has included lots of feedback from front-line practitioners who have been using the software during these pilots. There are still a busy few weeks ahead for the tech team, undertaking quality assurance and testing but we’re nearly there now. This means we’ll be able to offer version 1 to any area that would like to work with us from September.

Also on the techie side of things, we’re about to go through the tender to be part of the G-Cloud supplier community. This would mean that Patchwork would be available to buy through the G-Cloud store shortly.  So watch this space.

We continue to work with Staffordshire County Council and its partners and Brighton & Hove City to support the change process and get more people on Patchwork. We are also looking ahead to future development of the app, taking into account what users have told us would be useful. A key part of this will be to look at how Patchwork can be used as a tool to support the troubled families agenda. We’ll be working with our local authority partners to make this happen over the Autumn period.

So that’s we’re working on. Just as well the sun has decided not to show it’s face this summer….

Patchwork in the Munro Review and new Safeguarding Statutory Guidance released

Munro Review Progress Report

Almost immediately after the elections in 2010, the government announced a review of child protection headed up by Professor Eileen Munro with the aim of conducting a review of the system

“with a focus on strengthening the social work profession, to put them into a better position to make well-informed judgements based on up-to-date evidence in the best interests of children and free from unnecessary bureaucracy and regulation.”

We have welcomed the review throughout and worked to share the learning from the Patchwork project wherever possible as we work towards using technology to better safeguard children by improving relationships between practitioners and families, helping to join up frontline services and practitioners for better outcomes.

So we were very pleased to see Patchwork mentioned in the most recent report back from the review Progress report: Moving towards a child centred system, published a year after the final Munro Report. Patchwork features in Professor Sue White’s submission to the review (thanks to our partners Brighton and Hove City Council) that looks specifically at the future of case management and the use of technology in child protection [page 41 of this PDF in case you want to take a look]:

“whilst it will always be necessary to have systems for storing documents, recording events and decisions and gather data, it is important that the use of technology does not become reduced to these important but rather static functions. There is growing evidence of smaller scale, pilot design projects. It would be useful to illustrate this with an exemplar…” [insert Patchwork case study here]

Importantly Professor White also points to an open source future for ICS (Integrated Children’s System):

“There is a compelling case for an open source project for children’s and indeed adult social care. We need to harness the design expertise of the sector and produce a sustainable adaptable, iterative system with potential to increase creative capacity and technological expertise in the sector. The current government are rightly championing ‘open source’ technology.”

Good to hear we’re on the right lines then…

We’ll be continuing to follow and contribute to the work of the review wherever possible, making sure Patchwork continues to play a role in supporting future improvements in child protection practice. Watch this space.

New Safeguarding Statutory Guidance

In other news, the Department of Education have published important new Safeguarding Statutory Guidance for consultation. One for everyone to get involved in. Read the consultation in full here or here’s a short introduction from the Children’s Minister Tim Loughton for those of you who prefer the video version.