Our recent event for managers and practitioners working in multi-agency safeguarding hubs provided an opportunity to discuss information sharing issues and shared learning.
The discussions reinforced that the biggest challenge was not information sharing once a safeguarding situation had been identified. The greatest challenge was putting in place arrangements that supported consistent information sharing to allow agencies to identify situations before they reached crisis point, and to provide support earlier.
In these situations the event’s attendees agreed a key barrier was not having clear thresholds of concern defined and agreed between partners upfront. These would help them to understand when to act, what to act on and what information should be shared to make this happen.
Sitting behind this barrier was a spectrum of fear. At one end, setting thresholds too low could lead to practitioners having information overload, creating possible boy-who-cried-wolf situations, where practitioners would be acting on every concern, reducing their trust in the information they were presented with and possibly causing a more serious situation to be overshadowed. However, setting the thresholds too high could result in earlier opportunities to intervene being missed.
Everyone’s threshold of concern is different. Sue Richardson, lecturer in organisational behaviour at Bradford School of Management and a member of the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing’s academic panel, has undertaken extensive research into the influencers of information sharing.
She describes her findings through a useful diagram of four concentric circles. At the centre is the individual, who has their personal views on a situation and what needs to be shared. Influencing this is their professional background and training, and then encasing that are the views of the organisation. That is in turn influenced by the operating environment.
Taking all these factors into consideration, it is easy to see why agreeing a threshold is so challenging. In a world where there is access to vast information resources, the answer lies in organisations working together to decide how thresholds, professional judgment and the right information can work together to maximise the impact that public services can have.
It’s a journey of getting to know each other, adapting and improving over time.
Stephen Curtis, director, Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing