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 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.

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.