Turning a fairytale into a true story

On Wednesday, as the Rt Hon Francis Maude MP launched the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing to a room packed with MPs, policy makers and national and local thought leaders, I was delighted to see that the real driver behind service transformation does not just come from making efficiencies, but actually from making a real difference to people’s lives.

The Minister spoke about the need for a “collective confidence” to share information – his focus was not monetary, but on the value that information sharing brings to people.

This was a theme that continued throughout the day. Helen Edwards CBE, Director General of Localism for DCLG, followed the Minister and recounted a personal story about her elderly parents and the frustrations of dealing with agencies who don’t talk to one another. After explaining how one of his constituents had to recount their story to a number of different workers, Graham Allen MP went on to emphasise the value of sharing information to prevent duplication.

And finally, Peter Jackson and Matthew Wakely from Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust demonstrated how an information sharing partnership between Leicestershire Police and mental health practitioners was helping people with mental health illness get the treatment they need, rather than entering the criminal justice system or being sectioned under the mental health act.

Through my work, previously with the IISaM project and more recently in setting up the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing, I have found there is always a personal story that can be recounted as part of every information sharing journey.

I believe the Minister was right however, in saying we need a “collective confidence” because, as strong as these individual stories are, changing the way an organisation works and the culture that drives it is not an easy task. It takes a leap of faith for all who are involved to address the underlying issues that prevent effective partnership working.

That is why it is important to identify what story your service users could tell you now and what you want them to say once the barriers have been hurdled and a new way of working is in place.

Keeping that end goal in sight acts as a constant reminder of why we should embark on this journey, which is why we are launching our ‘What’s the Info Story’ campaign.

November is Better Services Month and in support of this, we are keen to share the personal stories that are driving information sharing across government and in local places, to improve outcomes for service users.

What is yours? If you would like to share your story, please contact our dissemination team on info@informationsharing.org.uk

Stephen Curtis, Director
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

Francis Maude launches Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

17 October 2014

Francis Maude officially launched the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing – a new organisation that will work to support the delivery of better services for people in local places.

Speaking at an event held at Admiralty House in London on 15 October 2014 and attended by key policy makers from across government, the Minister for Cabinet Office and Paymaster General said: “We need more collective confidence to share information, and the prize in terms of our ability to improve lives is huge.”

The Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing has been set up with the support of four government departments – Department for Communities and Local Government, Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health – to help identify barriers and develop practical solutions for improving information sharing.

The transformation of public services is already seeing local places explore new ways of delivering services, but information sharing remains a barrier for many in achieving this.

The Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing will be working with a range of local places across a variety of policy themes – from early intervention through to domestic violence.  The team will work with local places to help understand what limits information sharing and how these barriers can be overcome. Learning will then be reflected back and shared more widely for other places to develop their own approaches.

Mark Fisher, Chair of the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing Steering Group, said:  “The Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing is a critical part of the infrastructure needed to join up public services, like health and the police.  In practical terms, for example, better information sharing will see the police officer attending a call out at three in the morning to a person who is self-harming, gaining the appropriate support for that person by taking a lead from the mental health practitioner, who is also in attendance in the triage car.

“When you think of information sharing, it is most likely big databases pop into your mind – but that is not the only solution – it is about developing the right ways of working and nurturing collaborative organisational cultures to bring services and practitioners, that have historically had brick walls between them, together to create better outcomes for people – which is exactly what the Centre of Excellence will be doing.”

For further information on the work of the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing visit: www.informationsharing.org.uk


Media opportunities:

For interviews with Stephen Curtis, the Director of Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing, please contact Holly Draper on 07730 582288 or email Holly Draper at holly-marie.draper@informationsharing.org.uk.

Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before

Back in 1987, I was working on front line benefit delivery when The Smiths song above was released. It was also back in the 1980s that papers were being written recommending the need for government information flows to move away from a silo based approach.


So, what has happened over the last 25 years?

Well, the need for information sharing has never gone away. I have worked with customers and partners across a range of departments and services; including the War Pensions Agency, Disability Living Allowance and Bereavement Services and unfortunately, I have lost count of the times I’ve said, “I wish I had known that” or, “that would have been useful to know”. On occasion, I felt that I had let customers down, questioned my own professionalism and not least, believed I could have been able to save the various departments some money.

As part of the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing team, I am now in the position to highlight exemplars of information sharing across England. I will be working alongside colleagues, documenting their journey and drafting case studies for promotion and learning across central and local government.

In my first month, I have already been working with the public and private sector in Melton Mowbray. They are just starting out on an exciting and innovative journey called Me and My Learning, which aims to support their residents in becoming more digitally and financially independent so they are prepared for work, or better paid work.

The overarching aim in Melton Mowbray is to provide a co-ordinated approach to life skills through information sharing. They are working with providers, services, businesses and clients to make it seamless and easy for the most vulnerable people to get the extra support they need to maximise their chances of becoming more independent. Further information and progress will be shared over the coming months.

So, for the future?

Unfortunately The Smiths split up in 1987, but Jack Johnson has two handily named songs which capture a more positive information sharing landscape; The Sharing Song and Better Together.

Kathryn Ward, Engagement Manager
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

Dedication is what you need if you want to be a paradigm shifter

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks since I joined the Centre of Excellence’s Engagement team. In the space of just three weeks, I’m now up to speed with the Health and Social Care integration agenda, I’ve attended an event for Health and Care pioneers which explored current projects that are joining up processes and systems, and I’ve learned what informatics means for the profession.

Away from the books, I’ve become literate with our enterprise social media platform, Yammer, which is supporting the team in linking up and sharing stories from the road. I have also heard from one of our key partners, the Public Service Transformation Network about the importance of sharing our local successes with central government – and I’ve got to know thirteen fantastic new colleagues who all seem to possess a staggering set of skills!

Out on the road, I’ve been meeting people from two of the places that I am engaging with: Bath and North East Somerset and Cornwall. They both have big plans for transformational change, although they’re coming at it from different angles.

In Bath, services are starting to share data which is giving them richer insights into ways they can support people to get out of debt and back into sustainable work. In Cornwall, the council is using its pioneer status to co-design services with citizens and develop partnerships between the community and voluntary sector so that elderly, often isolated people live well and find friendship.

The common thread running through these two programmes is that their success relies on information being shared effectively between all the services involved. This is where the Centre’s seven Engagement Managers come in.

I have been supporting change in the public sector for twelve years now, but there’s no doubt that the challenges and opportunities the role of Engagement Manager brings means I’m on the steepest learning curve of my career. Perhaps my colleagues would say the same. But what have we actually learned? Well for me, it boils down to these three key points:

1.    You don’t have all the answers

These days, home makeover shows and agony columns tend to make us think an expert can solve all our problems. At the Centre though, we don’t want to engage local places on that level, or give the impression we can do this work better than the qualified professionals on the ground. In fact, the Engagement Manager is a critical friend who walks with programme managers and practitioners on their journey, challenging them to look at information sharing problems from a different angle and enabling them to find joint solutions.

2.    You’re not alone

Even though we work across England, shuttling between Sheffield and Cornwall, we all rely on each other’s support and experience to guide us through the engagement process. Yammer is just one tool that can help us do this, but so can a quick phone call now and then. If we really want to make a difference to the transformation work of local places, we need to remember that the Centre is more than the sum of its parts.

3.    You’re in this for the long-haul

As we have said before in a previous blog post, information sharing is a marathon not a sprint. Once you’ve started linking, you can start to shift thinking (and as a result perhaps influence the way national organisations are thinking). But we don’t pretend we can help make these ‘paradigm shifts’ overnight. If it were that easy, we wouldn’t need to exist!

So perhaps the greatest resource we Engagement Managers and all of our colleagues have is dedication. Dedication to finding ways that help local places continue the really great partnership work they’re already doing, and a commitment to sticking with them until they get the job done. They need time and space to build their case for sharing information and I’ve learned that, in the words of the late, great Roy Castle, dedication’s what we need.

Jovian Smalley, Engagement Manager
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing