Improving information sharing: the EIF Places network workshop

30 November 2016

A guest blog from Emma Hart, Engagement Manager at the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing. The centre is a local-national collaboration with roots across the public sector. We work with both central government and local places across a range of policy areas to help uncover and understand what is limiting good information sharing between them and their partners.

Last month, the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing led a workshop at the launch of the EIF Places Network.

The day was the first of its kind, providing the opportunity to share learning and good practice on early intervention. The centre’s session focused on examining the cultural barriers to multi-agency information sharing using recent work commissioned by the Department for Education, ‘Information Sharing to Protect Vulnerable Children and Families’.

Using the report as a tool to shape discussions, practitioners were encouraged to share stories about the cultural barriers that commonly prevent information sharing from taking place earlier. Factors such as risk aversion, longstanding concerns over trust between agencies, and fear of the consequences of sharing information were reported to be significant barriers faced in local places.

The session also provided space for delegates to share their experiences of how they worked to overcome these barriers to improve organisational efficiency, but most importantly to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families.

The event felt like a great success, with lots of new relationships being formed to join up learning and innovation. A number of delegates committed to continuing conversations with the centre and one another around tackling the cultural barriers to information sharing.

Barriers that currently prevent information sharing:

  • Partnerships databases/systems are not interoperable or accessible to all partner agencies.
  • Rules for information sharing are not well understood by partners.
  • Confusion over thresholds for referrals (to share personal information from one partner to another).
  • Poor handover of cases between practitioners both internally and externally across partnerships impacting on sharing information.
  • Confusion over risk factors resulting in the poor sharing of information.

Barriers that have been overcome:

  • Confusion over thresholds for referrals (to share personal information from one partner to another).
  • Poor relationships between partner agencies.
  • Poor leadership / supervision of multi-agency information sharing activity.
  • Poor information governance processes for multi-agency information sharing activity.
  • Poor record-keeping.

Case studies: Information sharing in local places

  1. Staffordshire Troubled Families Programme and Building Resilient Families and Communities Unit.
  2. Bristol predictive analytics built on the legal powers in Children Act 2004.
  3. Cheshire West & Chester Council shared data and information systems to support an integrated early support and children’s social care ‘front door’.

Good practice in local places:

  • Practitioners reported the importance of building strong working relationships with information governance teams in order to better ‘join up’ decision making.
  • Combined training of practitioners and professionals within a multi-agency environment focusing on how and when to share information.
  • Implementation of a new case management system, supported with joint multi agency training to tackle the cultural aspects of information sharing (such as understanding the reasons for information sharing, who will receive the data, the fear around sharing vs not sharing information) as well as the technical aspects.
  • Joining up departments within health to better share information about 0-5 years antenatal visits.

What people said on the day:

“Great session … to share our learning and talk about barriers that we don’t often acknowledge.”

“I hadn’t heard of the Centre but now I am keen to stay abreast of their work.”

“Fantastic to hear a wealth of different (but similar) ways of addressing early intervention challenges.”