When we think of empowering staff working in children and families, and social care services, it’s usually about ensuring that administrative and professional teams have the right information and resources they need to exercise their professional judgement and perform their role to the very best of their ability.
We don’t normally think of senior managers and directors needing to be empowered, but they are the very people who need particular information and statistics in order to lead their teams effectively and make informed decisions about resources.
The need for accurate evaluation of interventions was written about recently by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) – the EIF believes that effective early intervention is ‘early intervention that has been evaluated to gauge its impact’ and emphasises the importance of service leaders to be able to monitor, test and adapt programmes to ensure they’re making a difference, whilst making the most of finite resources.
Analytics in children and families services has also become more front of mind following recent reports in the media on mental health and drug and alcohol issues following the release of data by the Department for Education on school exclusions. There’s certainly a role for analytics to play in highlighting where additional support, perhaps specialist services in mental health, is needed to put in place early help to prevent the exclusions and associated behaviour happening in the first place.
But if you’re a senior leader in a local authority, how do you go about getting that information? Unless you’re from a data analyst background, you’re unlikely to have the report-writing skills needed to run most types of information analysis. And you almost certainly don’t have the time to learn the ropes of report-writing – skilled data analysts are rightly known as the experts in their field as it’s a complex area and one where you need to be sure the right information and cohorts are being explored for informed decision-making.
Building data literacy…the easy way
You often need the ‘bigger picture’ so that you can see instantly where resources have been put, and to what extent those initiatives have been successful. Imagine if you had a dashboard, with intuitive drag and drop features, set up so you could easily access and understand the information being presented by your analysts.
Let’s say you wanted a snapshot of service provision and outcomes for looked-after children. Your data analyst can create you a dashboard which then pulls through information, in real-time, which you can return to as many times as you like for an up to date, instant picture of how your authority is doing. You’ll probably be looking at the outcomes relating to a number of different initiatives, perhaps the attendance and attainment levels of looked-after children to ensure they’re attending school on a regular basis and have the same opportunities as their peers. You may also look at their ‘not in employment, education or training’ figures too, as part of this.
With the right dashboard in place, you’d be able to see this at a glance, drilling down into further detail if you wished, or moving on to a different dashboard to understand, say the provision of services for SEND children, where you can ensure those children who really need additional support or equipment are receiving this. The technology could also help with understanding offending rates in the youth justice system– at a glance you’d be able to understand whether any increase or decrease is due to a change in reoffending rates or whether a number of new young people are entering the youth justice system.
The full picture showing what you need to know, when you need to know it
The technology exists for senior leaders to access the information you need via an easily-understandable dashboard. From heatmaps to graphs, your data analyst can set up dashboards for each of the different services you’re interested in, with different visualisations for different elements, including KPI performance. This means you can start by looking at performance at a very high level, and then drill down into other levels, which can be linked together with other dashboards. You’ll need your data analyst to set up the different dashboards in the first instance, and to set up other dashboards as and when you need information on other areas, but once this is done, you’re empowered with the information you need to assess where best to focus resources.
Ensuring the delivery of services with the greatest impact
Whether you’re considering the needs of children with SEND, young offenders or young people at risk of exclusion from school, having access to a dashboard where you can see, and understand, the figures at a glance means you know instantly how your services are performing and where the gaps are.
From seeing how many people each service team is working with, to understanding the success of different initiatives, it’s all information that, thanks to intuitive technology, you can now have at your fingertips to drive the direction of services where they’ll have the greatest impact on the lives and outcomes of children, families and vulnerable adults.