Recent figures from the Department for Education showed a 5.3% increase in children being supported through a child protection plan compared to last year, the largest rise since 2014.
Recognising “the immediate pressures local authorities face in respect of social care”, chancellor Philip Hammond announced £84m over 5 years for up to 20 local authorities. This is to help more children to stay at home safely with their families, building on the innovation programmes in Hertfordshire and the North.
But while this is welcome, local authorities still face a funding gap of around £3bn through to 2025 just to keep services running at current levels.
The sector already acknowledges that councils have done everything they can to protect spending on children’s services by cutting services elsewhere and diverting money.
Even this hasn’t always preserved early intervention, often the first service to be retrenched amid a lack of other options. Tough choices underpinned by real scrutiny about what works has become an operating norm for local government.
Of course, prudent use of public funds and continually challenging ourselves should be the norm. And one means of achieving this has particularly excited us over the past 3-4 years: using big data for big good.
We recognise local authorities need comprehensive and accessible information to offer preventative, sustainable support. Advanced analytics can reduce the need for statutory safeguarding interventions, both by supporting families to pre-empt problems and by understanding what works and for who.
The data-driven insights provided to practitioners from a range of data sources help identify risks earlier. Practitioners use these insights to support their judgment, prioritise caseloads and intervene earlier.
In one London borough we worked in, alerts sent to the children’s services team have had an 85% accuracy rate over a year, identifying 1,700 families that would benefit from early intervention.
This in turn has good implications for councils’ resource constraints. Using this approach raised professional capacity by 30-50%, allowing staff to focus on effective decision-making and family engagement, rather than admin.
Data analytics can collate the wealth of information and risk factors surrounding a child to create a comprehensive single view of the person and their household. For councils, these are vital tools for providing evidence for how to prioritise and allocate precious resources.
Victoria Evans, London local public services lead, EY
Column sponsored and supplied by EY