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Using data to improve services in the east of London

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham was looking for better ways to serve its residents and improve outcomes.

Data stored on a variety of case management systems meant the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham was struggling to make timely and targeted interventions to help vulnerable people. It partnered with EY and Xantura to develop One View, a data management, analytics and predictive modeling platform.

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The challenge

Barking and Dagenham, in East London, is one of the UK capital’s poorest boroughs and suffers from many of the problems associated with deprivation. The local authority, which is responsible for delivering social services, operates under significant financial constraints and wanted to ensure its interventions were targeted where they would have the greatest impact.

The key to knowing how and when to intervene was having the right data. Rhodri Rowlands, Head of Programmes for the council, said: “To best enable that service model to come to life, we always knew that being evidence-led and data-driven would need to be a core imperative.”

However, the organization faced a number of barriers in becoming more data-driven. It had to identify an appropriate source of funding for the transformation, manage the change process effectively, and find the best way to collect and cleanse data. This last issue was a real challenge, as information was often stored on different case management systems, making it almost impossible for council staff to gain a holistic view of households and individuals. The result was that staff tended to react to immediate needs. They could not take a more strategic approach that would prevent small problems from escalating, save money and deliver better outcomes for residents.

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The solution

The council’s goals were threefold: to connect residents to help as and when they needed it, to prevent the escalation of problems through targeted and timely interventions, and to improve demand management in order to allocate scarce resources more efficiently. It set up Insight Hub, which brought together data scientists, behavioral scientists and service designers to explore a way forward. Ambition grew, and the hub partnered with EY and Xantura to develop One View, a data management, analytics and predictive modeling platform.

One View brings together the council’s historically disconnected datasets. It analyzes data related to adult services, children’s services and homelessness, giving caseworkers a single view of households and individuals. It uses advanced analytical modeling to identify those at the highest risk of harm, aiming to flag up likely problems six to nine months before crisis and enabling proactive, early intervention. And it tracks outcomes over time, allowing the organization to assess the effectiveness of different interventions in different circumstances and adjust accordingly. Specialist software provides robust information governance and data security, while strict protocols determine levels of access – both important factors in winning public trust.

To tackle the issue of staff buy-in, the technical team designed the platform with a focus on the people who would be using it in their day-to-day work. A clear vision for the initiative was another key enabler; this was championed by senior leaders and communicated throughout the organization. According to Katy Brown, Programmes and Strategy Officer: “People understand the vision. Our staff and our chief executive are always talking about prevention, helping people earlier, using data to help target our resources and reducing demand.”

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The impact

One View enabled the borough to respond quickly to the needs of its most vulnerable residents during the pandemic. Pye Nyunt, Head of Insight and Innovation, said the council was able to accurately predict more than 93% of the individuals that would be on the shielding list: “That’s over 8,000 people before the official shielding list actually was sent to us from the Government.” He added that making sure these vulnerable residents got the prescriptions and food parcels they needed was “a massive operation to orchestrate in a short time period. Imagine trying to do that without actually having timely data from the Government.”

There are longer-term benefits, too. The data and insights available through One View have already helped the council reduce the use of temporary accommodation, leading to significant cost savings.

Looking to the future, the ambition is to improve data accuracy, add new data sources and become more data-led as an organization. There are also plans to integrate the system with benefits system data to create an even more holistic picture. “My vision of course is that we will come to the point that whatever information we are getting is live. That would be important to enable greater trust. And I hope at some point – this might be wishful thinking – that we would have access to health data for those also in our care,” said Pye Nyunt.