Partnership or prevarication or procrastination

27 November 2014

Steve Hassall, Public Protection Business Partnering Manager    

I think I’m right when I say that none of us is cleverer than all of us.  Those of you cleverer than I, of whom you are many, may disagree.

About once a month a Serious Case Review reports on the death or severe injury of a child or group of children in the United Kingdom.  Every review explicitly or implicitly cites a lack of information sharing between agencies as a contributing factor.   Sadly these findings only reflect the cases of the most serious abuse that we know about.

Is it therefore logical to assume that this lack of information sharing between agencies renders us blind to substantial abuse known only to its victims and perpetrators?

Is it reasonable to assume that if public agencies do not transform their collaborative services and knowledge that lives will continue to be avoidably lost or blighted whilst we stand helplessly by?

Are we helpless or apathetic?  Is it just too hard to do and therefore we prevaricate or procrastinate and count the cost in continued human misery and suffering?  Is the prize of better and earlier intervention worth winning?

Why do I wonder about these things?

The knowledge necessary to protect people much earlier and more effectively is available, currently it resides in disparate data systems minimising its integral insight and value to inform:-

  • Early identification of people at risk
  • Effective and early interventions
  • Empowered front end practitioners improving support to the vulnerable
  • Informing and aligned strategic commissioning of services

So why wouldn’t we do this?  

The desire exists.  I have spoken to hundreds of front end service providers across all public agencies.  They unanimously support joined up data and services to help them do their job in an informed way, rather than continually guessing at what the ramifications might be of what they choose to do or not do.

Front end service providers would welcome co-located agencies working to the same purpose of knowledgeably resolving problems and their causes rather than continually reacting to them.

As I have mentioned, the data is there and the technology exists to achieve this.  One of the foundations of the ‘Northgate Connect’ platform was to achieve informed, collaborative working, not just across policing but across the whole public sector.

The law exists to permit this to happen.  Maybe the Data Protection Act should have been more aptly named as the Data Sharing Act, which might have mitigated some risk adverse behaviours

There seems to be an abundant political will to make this happen.  I do however sadly reflect on recent conversation with a Police and Crime Commissioner who told me of the enduring struggle to try and get collective agency Chief Executives around the table to agree anything.  When I asked why I was informed that they were worried about their personal futures and spheres of influence if joined up public services were realised.  

So I am left with a dilemma.  I am often wrong; anyone who lives in my house will verify that.  But this just feels to me like the right thing to do.  Most unusually, everybody I speak to seems to agree with me, that this is the right thing to do.

Why are we not doing it?  Is it a lack of leadership?  If so, who should lead?  Is it just too hard or just not worth it?  Do we want this on our consciences?  Does every day we delay mean we inadvertently put people at risk or extend the torment of victims of abuse?

Of course the journey will be tough, as things that are worthwhile often are, but there are business change programmes and enabling technologies to achieve transformed, joined up public agencies and services.  

Critically there is the will of the people, who include the victims and the front end practitioners, who would rather see us continually fail in trying to achieve this than not try at all.