Bringing education data into social careSponsored
Angela Robertson, Social Worker, Liquidlogic
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Children missing from education is a key issue faced by some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the country. Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, brought the issue to the spotlight as we were emerging from the pandemic.
Suspecting that repeated lockdowns and the ongoing crisis had made the situation more challenging and, in many ways, more difficult to quantify, the commissioner sought a national picture.
She subsequently launched an Attendance Audit across every council in the country. A deep dive was conducted in 10 areas, and the commissioner was surprised by the challenge of accessing data and reported that it wasn’t a straightforward enquiry.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour at the time, Dame Rachel said:
“When I asked the 10 local authorities to send me very simple data [such as] how many children have you got in your area, how many children are not on roll, how many children are waiting for school places, they could not all give me that answer."
The reason? Out of date and fragmented data and in some cases, no data at all.
The need for better understanding of the issues faced by children has led to Ofsted exploring social care’s understanding of the education and attendance of the children they support.
Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has called for a “proper register” of children to be maintained for children who aren’t attending school to “parallel” the information that schools hold on the pupils on roll and attending.
Effective data sharing across education and social care
Although this paints a concerning picture, some local authorities did already have a good grasp on their data and are successfully sharing education data across social care to show a unified journey of a child and to inform multi-agency practice.
All 12 of our local authority customers, who use our education management system, can quickly report on the current number of children missing from education in their area.
Within the Liquidlogic Early Years and Education System (EYES), children missing from education is an integrated part of the child’s record. For these vulnerable children, the practice to support them feeds into other key areas such as enrolment, so there is a clear picture across the system of the impact any period of missing education has, without having to record “dummy data” to fit system recording requirements only.
Due to the clear way this information is recorded within the solution, accessing the data is also quick and accurate. Feeding this information into social care and social care systems is typically done manually.
However, Liquidlogic has developed a joined-up solution across education, early help and social care which can automatically feed school information, including enrolment, attendance data and exclusions and suspensions on a daily basis to the practitioners that need to access it, as well as informing processes such as the Education, Health and Care Plan and for Looked After Children.
Since 2016, we have been working with Groupcall to gather schools data, which can then be utilised across education and social care. Groupcall’s software is used in 98 per cent of schools to collect school information and automatically feeds that information into the Liquidlogic solution.
It brings in information for all children but can then be utilised with the cohort being supported by social care, including those schooled out of borough.
A single record for each child containing social care and education data is then supported with graphical representations and proactive alerts and flags (with threshold presets).
Working in this way ensures that users can see quickly if there are any social care issues which could impact upon education processes, for example within admissions where a child is looked after, or vice versa, where educational issues such as exclusions and suspensions may be vital information for a looked after child care plan.
A practitioner with the appropriate access rights to view the information can move seamlessly between the practice areas.
Systems that enable not disable
Before I joined Liquidlogic, I was a social worker so I have first-hand experience of the day-to-day frustrations that practitioners can face when services are unable to adopt a joined-up approach. It’s not unusual for workers to feel hindered by their IT systems and fall into the trap of feeding the “beast”.
Equally, social work is a fast-paced environment where accessing information in a timely fashion can be vital in keeping children safe. The systems practitioners use therefore need to continue to develop as effective digital tools to enable greater collaboration and efficiency for both practitioners and children and their families.
Getting to the heart of the matter quicker
One of the biggest benefits of education data being available within each child’s record for social workers is the time savings. When I was a practitioner using separate systems, for vulnerable children, you could end up calling schools every morning to ask whether each child had arrived that day, and if not, what information they had, and then manually update each record before being able to provide the family direct support through a visit. It was a very time-consuming daily task that would amount to hours of work each month.
The automatic school attendance feed eliminates the need to ring round the schools gathering information which has already been collated within their own systems. When a user accesses the system each morning, the attendance information for each child is available and ready to be reviewed and actioned.
The school data feed also utilises the Get Information About Schools (GIAS) data to feed in establishment information. The automation streamlines the process by removing the unnecessary “noise” of gathering information so care professionals can get to the heart of the matter quicker and continue supporting the children and families they are working with.
Based on having the right information at their fingertips, practitioners can then have more informed conversations that are useful to the child and family, without information having to be repeated.
Increased accuracy and up-to-date information
There were often times when I was manually adding school information to the system from other systems and/or sources and I wasn’t certain it was up to date or accurate. Equally so were other practitioners in the system, leading to fragmented information which often could not be trusted, so information became out of date quickly.
The automatic feed of verified information from the school gives social workers confidence in knowing the information is accurate and up to date and reducing time seeking information outside of the system.
Richer understanding to inform practice
Bringing key education information into a child’s record is helping to support more informed decisions. This is especially important for the management of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) that rely heavily on joined-up information to create an interactive and useful plan for each child.
The more accurate and up-to-date information you have when reviewing and creating plans the more accurate and effective the analysis and support can be.
The system allows users to see sibling information in parallel, which is essential when supporting families. It means practitioners can compare information and highlight patterns of behaviour, if applicable.
As well as informing how a social worker supports a child and family on a daily basis, it is also useful for writing reports. For example, when I wrote review reports for looked after children, I had to go back through months of notes and gather information from schools which would add delays.
Now all of that information is instantly accessible and can be used as part of your analysis to write summaries and inform plans. It also helps to take away the burden from schools so they can focus on their own activities.
It is useful to be able to access information from other sources and often this is managed through integration with other systems. However, there is nothing more powerful than being able to access the information when you need it directly within your own system.
If you are working on a plan or review, you don’t need to access another system with a different look and feel that you will be less familiar with. Because the information is presented in the Liquidlogic Children’s Social Care System and our Early Help module practitioners are more confident using the data and analysing it.
The big picture
When thinking about the bigger picture, it is clear that joining up education, early help and social care data is vital to supporting children and families effectively and improving life chances and opportunities.
Education can provide a safety net that children may not otherwise have. We saw evidence of that during the pandemic when that safety net was removed, and we continue to see the ramifications of this today.
This information has always been available to practitioners in some form, but the processes to access it historically have been cumbersome and unreliable. The Liquidlogic Children’s solution aims to streamline the process of sharing appropriate information about a child, and maintaining a child’s record which clearly evidences a child’s journey through children’s services.
The more comprehensive and accurate the record, the more precise the support can be to support children and their families.
Which leads me back to the subsequent findings of the Children’s Commissioner’s Attendance Audit. Not surprisingly, the Voices of England’s Missing Children report confirmed that a fragmented system is letting children down.
It goes on to explain: “Until we have a system that is designed for and around children, using their, and their families’, voices as the catalyst for making things better, we cannot be confident that every child is happy, healthy and safe. We need everyone who has a role in children’s lives to design and implement systems and services with this same vision at their heart.”
As an integrated system provider, Liquidlogic is aligned and fully committed to the joined-up vision. My role within Liquidlogic as a social worker has always been to ensure that systems stay true to this vision and that we provide the most effective and user-friendly systems for practitioners, and allow partnership working with children, and their families.
Flowing school data into social care is one of many ways we are supporting our customers to achieve it.
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