- Cheshire East Council wanted education staff to have access to social care data
- System supplier implemented solution across all 155 local schools
Interoperability between systems in different aspects of council children’s services has been something of a holy grail for years – often different systems don’t talk to each other, which can result in duplication of information or, worse, staff not having access to the fullest picture of a young person’s needs and circumstances.
Cheshire East Council has implemented a solution that overcomes this obstacle, increasing efficiency in the education and social work teams in the process.
For some time, the council had wanted to improve the interface of its education management system with its 155 local schools, as well as the multiple platforms it was already using to gather data.
In March 2018, the council commissioned Servelec, which already provided education management software to the council, to implement its Synergy product – a pupil-level education database that stores information about every child in the local authority.
Synergy automates information fed by schools and other systems to provide a regular stream of information for the local authority, says Lee Coomer, account manager at Servelec. During a seven-month period, Servelec linked its education platform with several other software providers to collate data from all 155 schools. Servelec’s Synergy team worked with multiple providers to ensure the council could rationalise its systems and gather data accurately and record and manage all aspects of children’s services.
It is also relatively easy to integrate Synergy with other third-party systems such as Liquidlogic that are used within the council, Coomer adds. “The most difficult part is matching the children recorded in another software system to Synergy because the children’s records are not identical in the systems.”
The implementation of Synergy was driven by Cheshire East Council. “They asked us if we would work with Liquidlogic and we said yes, and they asked the same of them,” says Coomer. “They contractually obliged us to work together and provide what they wanted, which was a link between the systems. They published how they wanted to do it and we both signed up to do that for them. Having two rival providers working together for a customer is something that should be celebrated.”
For staff at Cheshire East Council, there have been a range of benefits of using Synergy. Before it was implemented, children’s professionals wanting to access social care records had to log in to multiple systems to find information about a young person. “Our education users needed an easier way to identify involvement with social care teams,” says Jacky Forster, director of education and 14-19 skills at Cheshire East Council.
“The need was driven by practitioners being able to find information quickly in as few clicks as possible. Synergy has helped practitioners quickly review education data within our case management system at Cheshire East Council, using the Synergy tab and helped education users see social care indicators within Synergy.
“Linking all of these systems together allows faster decision-making, more accurate forecasting, and it allows us to react quickly to potential situations around exclusions and attainment checkmarks.”
The system has also helped bring pupil data together so that everyone is working on a single record for each child, offering a more complete view of the child’s experience and history.
“The link between Synergy and the social care system has proved useful to staff assisting them in identifying where there may be more relevant information that would not normally be available in the education system straight away rather than having to spend time opening, logging in and searching a separate application,” says Forster.
She adds that Synergy has helped outcomes for young people in ensuring that data is visible to practitioners supporting their decision making. “Practitioners have the information they need quickly without the need to go trawling through the different systems that Cheshire East Council have in place.”
Other spin-off benefits of using Synergy have included a reduction in administration and time spent writing reports, closer interaction between families, schools and other providers, and a reduction in complexity and overheads that come with onsite data management due to critical data being held in a secure offsite hosting service.
Coomer says this type of partnership was the first of its kind in local authority social care, although other authorities have installed similar systems since, including Norfolk County Council and Kirklees Council, and says it is something that could be replicated elsewhere.
Click here for more in CYP Now's Technology in Children’s Services Special Report