Infrastructure > Cloud

Building a new vision for children and young people in Essex

Published 20 November 2017

Emma Toublic, head of education information and business systems at Essex County Council, explains how the authority is bringing the different jigsaw pieces of a child’s life together and talks about the difference it’s making


Imagine you’re a caseworker for a young person with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – let’s call her Rosie. When Rosie stops turning up at school, your top priority is to put together an action plan to get her back into the classroom.

From experience, you know that re-engaging a young person in their education has its challenges. You also know that you have the greatest chance of success when the teams involved with Rosie and her family have a clear picture of the circumstances that have led to her truancy.

Does she have a history of poor attendance or exclusion from school? Are there siblings who have dropped out of lessons in the past? Is there a chance she could have been bullied or perhaps there is simply a problem with Rosie’s daily transport in to school? Being able to access this kind of detail can make all the difference when it comes to knowing which steps to take and what support will be most effective in getting a young person like Rosie back to their studies quickly.

We want our education support teams to have access to this broader understanding of a child’s circumstances and that’s what we’ve been focussed on achieving in Essex County Council.

A fresh approach

Two years ago, it was difficult for children’s services staff in Essex to pool knowledge and share appropriate details on the children and young people they were involved with as no two teams recorded information in the same way. This meant that if Rosie’s SEND caseworker was based in the north of the county, and she went to school in the south, working with separate databases meant there could be a time lag before the caseworker would be aware of any issue developing with her attendance.

To help us achieve the best outcomes for children and young people in our county, we wanted to do things differently.

That’s why we are creating a single record for every child that will provide this bigger picture and follow them through to adulthood. Authority staff with the relevant permissions will be able to access the information they need to support a child or young person, as and when it is necessary. This is key to helping our multi-agency teams to work efficiently to deliver the educational services children in the area are receiving today, but is critical for planning the support they are likely to need in the future too. It will help us make appropriate arrangements for children in good time, and enable more effective financial forecasting. 

This vision of a ‘single view of a child’ encompasses information from the early years through school and into youth services, including details such as whether a child has special educational needs, requires transport or is engaged in the Duke of Edinburgh awards programme. Each part of the data jigsaw will be stored securely in the Capita One management information system and made accessible only to the teams that need it.

We were astonished to find that to achieve this vision, we needed to pull data in from 700 disparate databases, spreadsheets and paper files used by teams across children’s services. But we are already seeing the positive impact of embarking on this journey.

A single view of a child

Before, it might be necessary to make arrangements for up to 10 different people to come into the office with their paper records to discuss what course of action is needed to support a vulnerable child or get a young person back on track. Now, teams involved with a child or family can keep up to date with a few swipes of a screen and the council has full control over who has access to what information.

This is not only making it easier for key data to be shared securely across relevant teams, it also helps us to safeguard staff when they’re out visiting families as they have instant access to information they might need to know – that there’s a dangerous dog or a risk of domestic violence – before they arrive.

Planning for the future

With more information held centrally, planning for future provision becomes much simpler. When details of a toddler with a visual impairment come onto the system, for example, this will not only ensure the relevant team have the information they need to provide the right support to the family in the short-term. It will also trigger the processes required to get the help the child is likely to need costed and in place in time for when they start school.

It is also possible to begin making plans for providing the support they might need in secondary school and beyond, looking at transport services and other ways in which we can work with the young person and their family to give them the best opportunity to live independently into adulthood, wherever possible.

When multi-agency teams work closely together, with one view of a child, pieces of the jigsaw are brought together to uncover underlying issues that affect their lives so they can be addressed sooner. From a parent’s point of view, there is a more seamless service too. Families only need to tell the council once about a change of address, a new school or carer and all those who need to know will be informed.

Taking to the cloud

One of the essential elements to the success of our vision is that the technology frees staff to focus on supporting children and families. Now data is held securely in the cloud so we no longer have to manage the day-to-day running of our software and systems. Upgrades can be scheduled to take place overnight or at times that are convenient for our staff. With fewer issues, time has been saved on key tasks, such as processing offers for school places, which took about 15 minutes to process this year.

We have come a long way in a short space of time, but we still have work to do. The next step is to bring key information in from our children centres, such as details of hearing test appointments, baby massage and parenting classes. The inclusion of registrar services will come next to help us realise our vision of a single hub of information for children from pre-birth to 25 years old across the county.

Delivering a joined-up service is becoming increasingly important for intervening early and meeting the needs of children and young people like Rosie. Our journey thus far brings us ever closer to achieving this for the people of Essex.

Emma Toublic is head of education information and business systems at Essex County Council, which is using Capita’s One management information solution to create its vision for one view of a child

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