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.

Patchwork now available to all local authorities to support work with children and families

It’s three years to the month since we first shared our idea with the world. Today sees us celebrate the launch of version one of Patchwork at our Working with Troubled Families event.

Today really marks the start of a new phase for Patchwork. The official, post-pilot launch. Yes you heard it right. The launch to market of Patchwork – the multi-agency app.

The last three years have seen us take an idea, work with practitioners and their clients to test the concept, understand the complexities of multi-agency working, overcome information sharing and consent challenges and design something which elegantly starts to reinvent how technology can support practitioners to do an even better job of safeguarding children and older adults and supporting families.

We’ve come a long way in the last year in particular thanks to support from our funding and implementation partners. We’ve built on the pilots in both Staffordshire and Brighton, and included lots of feedback from frontline practitioners who have been using Patchwork As well as responding to specific requests around the what and the how of the technology, there has been a complete overhaul of app’s design, user experience and security.

We’re also delighted to announce that for version one we’ll be working with SCC to provide an appropriately secure service for Patchwork users building on their government grade cloud infrastructure.

Todays launch event will feature a panel of speakers from local government as well as independent experts in Children’s Social Care. They will share their stories about untangling the complexities of the troubled families and safeguarding agendas and explore new approaches being used around the country. We will also showcase version one of Patchwork and discuss how digital technology of this kind can be used to support these agendas.

And the hard work doesn’t stop here. As version one is rolled out to our partner authorities, Staffordshire and Brighton and Hove, the development of Patchwork will continue to remain an open and collaborative process that has users at it’s heart. We already have a long wish-list of requests for post-version one that we’re ready to get started on – and we expect they’ll be a lot more. A key priority over the Autumn is to develop Patchwork so that it can be used as a tool to support the Troubled Families agenda. Visualising the team around the family has been a key ask from practitioners, and it’s something that we are committed to developing for the New Year. So watch this space!

Last but most definitely not least – the thank yous

So many people, so much generosity and so much support in helping us get this far. Forgive me for sticking (mostly) to the headline supporters of the project. I would love to list each and every person who has played a role by name but I may save that for another blog post. You know who you are, we do too. And we can’t thank you enough.

In chronological order, thank you…

Round table participants
ECDP
Westminster City Council
NESTA
Lichfield District Council, Staffordshire and other local partners
Brighton and Hove City Council
Nominet
SCC

And most of all thank you to my devoted and hardworking team at FutureGov who have gone above and beyond to make today a reality.

We’re at the end of the beginning. Now onwards…

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….

Welcome to the Patchwork Feedback Process

Gez SmithHello, and welcome to the Patchwork blog for those of you who’ve not visited this part of the Internet before. I’m Gez, and I’m the product manager for the Patchwork system, which means I act as the bridge between you the practitioners, and the developers who actually build the software, acting as the ‘translator’ between the two groups.

We’re developing the Patchwork system some more at the moment, and so we’re going to be using this blog over the coming weeks to ask you some questions about how you think it should work, and hopefully provide you with some feedback on how we’re going to act on what you tell us as well.

We’ll be inviting you to share your thoughts by adding a comment to an individual blog post whenever you’ve got something to say. If you’d rather share your thoughts in private though, just email feedback@patchworkhq.com, which will come straight through to us here.

We’ll be starting with some specific questions about different parts of the Patchwork system and how you think they should work from next week. In the meantime though, if there’s anything you want to share about how Patchwork works at the moment, do let us know.

Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

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

LWT_Training

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.

Kicking off the Patchwork Technology Strategy Group

Image: nebarnix

Already almost at the end of January and 2012 is racing by.

It’s been a busy return to the office post-Christmas and last week saw FutureGov hosting the first cross-council Technology Strategy meeting. This brought together colleagues from Staffordshire and Brighton to start talking about some of the big issues and areas of focus for Patchwork that will be worked through over the next few months. The aim is to make sure our partners are deeply involved in the process of determining the development of the technology behind Patchwork – as well as sharing their experience and expertise.

For a first meeting, we got a lot covered – and made some fairly fundamental decisions. Despite languages such as Ruby on Rails being in no way commonplace in local government, we agreed that Ruby was here to stay. Linked to that conversation, there was unanimous support for Patchwork to be externally hosted  in the longer-term, either in the Cloud or another form of secured storage. Cloud itself is definitely seen as part of the future for both partners, although the details of the commonplace concerns over security are not fully worked through yet but we are beginning to work with a range of cloud providers to ensure we can make cloud a reality sooner rather than later.

As we move into gathering feedback from the users in both Brighton and Lichfield District, we agreed we would need to find a way to make this as visible and transparent a process as possible. Taking a user-led approach means that we want to be driven by the needs of frontline staff, and children and families, where we can – again within the limitations of Information Sharing and what is technically possible. There’s more thinking to be done about how we can start to do this with users from two different geographies, particularly in the potential scenario where their needs conflict and prioritisation of the development roadmap is needed. However we all agreed the importance of having as many channels for feedback as possible, making sure that we let users know what happens to their requirements whether they end up in the tool or not.

For me, Friday’s meeting was crucial element of co-design. We’re not only working extremely closely with the end users, but we’re also actively discussing the broader technology issues with our partner local authorities. These are things that the frontline staff my never see or indeed need to be aware of, but completely shape the direction of the product and how it will operate in the future. It was great to see two partners, both at similar stages of piloting, who are so engaged in the conversation.

No doubt the best bit of our job is getting to talk to and work closely with our partners. Friday a very good day indeed.

Evaluating impact in Lichfield and Staffordshire

get connected

Image: Derek Baird

Following our recent announcement of our on-going partnership with Staffordshire County Council and long-time supporters of Patchwork at Lichfield, we’ve been working hard with the councils and partner agencies to build on the work already done to develop and test Patchwork with practitioners.

Earlier in the year we had a bunch of users in Lichfield signed up to both help us design, but then also trial the tool as part of a proof of concept – to test the functionality and see whether there’s benefits in using Patchwork longer term. We wanted to both see whether the technology worked, but also to find out whether practitioners found it useable and useful in their work.

We’ve spent the last few months working to get a longer pilot in place with strong evaluation behind it as an opportunity to really test the tool in live operation. So we’ve been working with Lichfield and our partners across Staffordshire to get this up and running so that we can measure the success of Patchwork with more cases. During this period, we’ll be asking the users some questions around how easy they find it to contact the right people in partner agencies when working with complex cases – both before and after the introduction of Patchwork. The aim is to quantifiably illustrate the value we believe the app brings given our experience so far and the anecdotal stories we now want to more rigorously capture.

This is now happening, with users from multiple agencies currently being given access to the application to play around with. Throughout the pilot, and in particular at the end of this next period of testing in 3 months, we’ll be talking to them about what they liked and didn’t like, and using this to develop the prototype into a full blown product.

As if this weren’t keeping us busy, we’re working across the county to design a roll-out of Patchwork to the other districts and boroughs, working with partners in the Fire & Rescue Service, the NHS, Staffordshire Police and a range of other organisations including the community sector, to try to extend the benefits of Patchwork across the county for the long term.

With the Patchwork team nearly complete (for now at least!) and the second site now up and running down in Brighton, it’s full steam ahead!

If you’re interested in hearing more, you can follow our tweets, or sign up for the blog updates here or the Patchwork newsletter. Also, if you would like to talk about bringing Patchwork to your council, do get in touch.

Patchwork raises £280,000 in start up funding

A little over two years ago, I put out a call for help:

Sat watching the case of Baby Peter unfold on the television last year, as with the vast majority of you I’m sure, I was left feeling hugely saddened, frustrated and powerless to help prevent such events from ever happening again. I am not a social worker nor do I work for any one of the numerous agencies involved in the extremely complex and challenging world of child protection.

However, it did get me thinking about where I might be able to provide some support, specifically around how we might be able to draw on social technologies to contribute to safeguarding children.

Two years on and a lot of work from a lot of generous, creative, supportive people later, today we are announcing the next phase in the development of what was previously known as the Safeguarding 2.0 Project.

Today we can announce that we have raised £280,000 start up investment in Patchwork – the safeguarding app. This will allow us to take Patchwork from prototype to product over coming months. The investment comes from a collaboration of councils in Staffordshire (Staffordshire County, Lichfield and South Staffs, as well as their colleagues at the Improvement and Efficiency Partnership West Midlands), NESTA and the Nominet Trust.

For us, the fact that the local government sector itself is investing in Patchwork is a big deal. This is not common. Patchwork is a start up – a “dot com”. A collection of councils coming together to invest in a public service dot com start up shows just how innovative the local government sector can be, with Staffordshire at the forefront of trialing innovative approaches to solving persistent social challenges.

This is also true of NESTA (with us from the start) and Nominet, both keen to plug the ‘start up gap’ in helping to take a proven approach to scale, overcoming the inevitable barriers of getting to market faced by small start ups – in the hard to navigate and slow moving world of government even more so.

I will save the detail on the what and how for a follow on blog post, but I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you to all the people who have believed in us on this journey of open, uncertain innovation.

People like Jon Kingsbury, Carla Ross and Philip Colligan at NESTA; Nina Dawes, Nick Bell and Steve Winterflood at Lichfield, Staffordshire and South Staffordshire councils respectively; the team of people who have driven the project, in particular my colleagues Carrie Bishop, Ian Drysdale and Kathryn Wheatley, but also others like Eliot Fineberg, Andrew Bruce and Friday, a highly skilled and committed swat team. And above all the many great people in Lichfield and Staffordshire who have given generously in helping us to develop something that we hope can start to make a difference.

Lichfield Council kick off Patchwork pilot

Front line staff learning about Patchwork

Back last year we began the first phase of our Safeguarding 2.0 project, exploring how the information surrounding social services could be better brought together to protect the people it is meant to serve.

It’s been quite a journey but this week we marked the launch of the beta version of Patchwork – our Safeguarding app with our partners at Lichfield District Council. This is the beginning of a four week trial of the working prototype, involving fifty people testing it as part of the local Let’s Work Together and Supporting Families programmes.

Most importantly of all, we feel we’ve listened to frontline professionals and built a prototype app with them for them that we think will help them in the most important thing they do each day – working closely together as a team, focusing their time on building the best possible relationships with their clients across the area.

The last ten weeks have seen an intensive period of getting the technology built and tested, giving us the opportunity to create an application that reinvents the way information is shared across local public services.

Before building the app, we we asked potential users of Patchwork to complete the sentence “wouldn’t it be great it Patchwork could…” Three big priorities stood out:

  • Provide the names, role and contact number of the professionals currently supporting a client
  • Illustrate which professional have an upcoming visit with the client and when
  • Illustrate which professionals have recently been in contact with the client and when.

We’re now keen to listen and see if Patchwork has managed to deliver.

Last week as part of the launch we ran two training sessions to introduce the completed first version of Patchwork to the people who have helped shape it. On Monday we brought in forty home visitors, from district nurses to fire fighters. Then on Tuesday ten practitioners joined the trial as part of Supporting Families programme, including youth workers and community safety officers.

“I’m really looking forward to is watching how Patchwork can help partners and agencies involved in social care become more in touch with each other. It’s going to help us put the families at the centre of a new structure, something our Chief Executive is fully behind. Above all else it’s fantastic that we’re able to use real families and real practioners, over twenty of us, in trying Patchwork out. Hopefully in four weeks we can come back together and look at the things that work, the things that need changing and most importantly show a new way to make information work for us, linking us closer with each other and the families we work with.”

Bob Haynes, Community Safety Officer at Lichfield District Council

Practitioners signing up to Patchwork

Working alongside information governance colleagues across the council, we’ve also developed a cross-agency data sharing agreement that allows professionals to use Patchwork from the district and county council, the PCT, schools and fire service. This has been helped in no small part by being supported to host Patchwork within Staffordshire ICT infrastructure.

So, what next? We’ll be working closely with our beta users over the next month, as well as hosting an event with our project partners NESTA in the very near future to share how Team Lichfield have used Patchwork, if it has brought value to their day to day practice and if, crucially, we’ve  helped strengthen the support networks around vulnerable children and adults.

In the meantime, you can follow our tweets, or sign up for the big updates here.

Also, if you’d like to talk to us about bringing Patchwork to your council, drop us a line.

Nina Dawes, Chief Exec of Lichfield, explaining the journey to the launch.

Introducing Patchwork – the safeguarding app

Having spent four months working closely with eternally supportive project partners Lichfield District Council and NESTA, the time has come to announce the next stage in the development of the Safeguarding 2.0 project.

Almost two years ago now (how time flies!) we set ourselves the challenge of bringing together our knowledge of social technologies, service design and local government with the insight of both children, families and frontline support workers to develop a new approach to safeguarding through better connecting those individuals and organisations involved in all parts of the process.

We’ve interviewed frontline practitioners, interviewed clients, attended multi-agency working groups and worked through a range of options with ICT and information governance teams to develop a prototype web application designed with and for the people who will ultimately benefit from it the most. You can read more about what we’ve been up to over the last 4 months here and here.

Patchwork – the safeguarding app

Today we can announce that the web application, called Patchwork, we will be launched in prototype in Lichfield later this month.

Patchwork is designed for people supporting complex families to build and strengthen their relationships, keeping the child and their family at the centre of everything they do.

In short, Patchwork helps you:

  • Get a quick and easy overview of the people you’re supporting
  • Find out who else is working with them and how to contact them
  • Invite in other people you think should be involved
  • Keep the picture up-to-date for all involved

Testing the prototype

In May we will be running the prototype within Lichfield, inviting in a range of people within public sector and third sector organisations responsible for the welfare of vulnerable adults and children.

During the prototype phase of the project, Patchwork will be hosted on Staffordshire County Council’s IT infrastructure ensuring we ensure both security while also making sure it is accessible to the council’s partner organisations.

While the prototype will be restricted to a test group of professionals, over the next few weeks we’ll be revealing screenshots, stories and more information on our design decisions.

In the meantime, you can sign up to our mailing list to be kept up to date with developments at http://www.patchworkhq.com.

And beyond

We’re also interested in meeting with other authorities that think they might want to use Patchwork. If you’re interested in testing a new approach to Safeguarding, or have any additional questions on any of our work so far, please do get in touch.