Early intervention is playing an increasingly important role in all aspects of local authority strategies. The benefits to families and communities of receiving support with issues before they escalate are clear. For local authorities, effective early help programmes can also reduce future demand for more intensive and expensive services.
Investment in successful early intervention strategies to support those most likely to require public funded services further down the line is fundamental to delivering long term savings. But knowing who needs what help is key.
I set out below five ways in which authorities can use their data to reduce the guesswork from this process, enabling scenarios to be modelled that could, ultimately, help deliver a brighter future for those in society who are most in need:
1. Identify the most vulnerable children and families
Before any child becomes either a child in need, a looked after child, or a young person not in education, employment or training, there may be many early warning signs. These could be multiple changes of address or school, a referral to a specialist team, poor attendance at school or exclusions. Tools such as One’s Child Profiling Tool can help local authorities to highlight some of the key early indicators that can lead to a child in their area becoming more vulnerable.
Many authorities who have taken this approach report that, often, the children flagged as at highest risk are already known to them, and are in contact with their social care team. But what they find is most valuable is that the data they have available to them helps them to identify those young people who are just below the threshold of vulnerability across multiple risk factors. Knowing this makes it easier for teams to ensure that the right support is put in place sooner to tackle issues and prevent problems from escalating.
2. Effective multi-agency working
Combining data from other agencies can help strengthen the analysis, enabling additional risk factors to be considered. With appropriate data sharing agreements in place, police and health data can provide information on domestic violence, anti-social behaviour, health visitor assessments and many other indicators. However, accessing this information and matching the records between multiple data sets can be challenging. Within Capita we are looking at tools that can help authorities to combine other data sets to support effective multi-agency working.
3. Put the right support in place at the right time
There have been a number of other advancements in the area of data analytics. Authorities could use their historical data to look for commonalities in the attributes of a specific cohort, for example school attendance of young offenders.
This information could then be used to put early help programmes in place designed to tackle issues sooner and cut the number of children getting involved in criminality.
4. Measure outcomes to assess effectiveness
As important as identifying those who would benefit most from support, is tracking the impact of these interventions. Understanding which strategies are most likely to work in specific circumstances, and being able to quickly change course if necessary, is key to ensuring investments deliver value for money.
To do this, local authorities need to be able to track their interventions and compare and contrast their relative results. Pooling this information into a national resource, which enables local authorities to learn from each other’s best practice, is a function of the Early Intervention Foundation. Some local authorities may choose to take this further, creating a local evidence base of what works in their area.
In addition, the Department for Communities and Local Government are encouraging the tracking of outcomes from interventions through the payment by results element of their Troubled Families programme. This requires local authorities to define success criteria (outcomes) for all of the families they will work with, and measure improvements over time.
5. Use the right reporting tools
In all cases, access to a reporting solution that enables data to be viewed and manipulated in a sophisticated manner is becoming increasingly important. This is an area of One’s functionality we are looking to invest in during the upcoming years, and we would love to hear your views. We look forward to seeing you at the Early Intervention Foundation Conference or email me to share your thoughts or book a meeting.