The Modern Village: How Technology Can Aid Effective Intervention In Social Cases
By Chris Evans, Head of Product and Strategy, Idox (www.idoxgroup.com)
“It takes a village…” is a well-used cliché. Raising a child and managing everything that comes with a family is tough, it’s a demanding responsibility. What’s more, we’re often swept away by what Hollywood thinks the idyllic family setup is, altering expectations when the reality is that it’s different for us all.
What is often true, however, is that we all need support and when we have it, we feel less isolated. Families are supported by ‘modern village’ networks consisting of wider family, friends, professional net- works and service providers. Those connections forged over many years is why local authorities do their best to not uproot at-risk families to areas many miles away if the need for relocating becomes apparent.
We also cannot ignore the impact that communities of social care professionals have on families, and particularly those who are considered at-risk. They are often the ones who can spot the signs of families who are finding things challenging. For instance, an old friend visiting may not truly understand the implications of the grow- ing pile of dirty laundry or washing up and the empty fridge, they may have similar and consider it normal as many do. Yet a social care worker can connect such dots, understanding the link between poor health, poor finances and vulnerable housing.
SHORTENING WINDOW FOR EARLY INTERVENTION
However, the intervention of social care organisations comes with its own challenges. The more bodies involved, the more opportunities for details to slip through the gaps. A may be visited by a mid-wife, a social care worker and a support charity, all of whom may spot something that they consider worth monitoring. All three then make reports to different agencies and systems, unaware of each other’s concerns which combined could see progress made more quickly.
The risks are that families end up feeling overwhelmed and under supported and, perhaps biggest of all, the window for early intervention quickly diminishes. When the situation escalates and the system has to fully step-in, there’s a potential for children to be referred to safeguarding or the social care pathway. Moves that can have long-lasting impacts for the current generation and even the next.
TECHNOLOGY CAN PROVIDE A PANORAMIC VIEW
There is a need then for local authorities and social care organisations to possess a panoramic view of families and their cases. Everyone needs to see the assessments from all others so a more comprehensive profile can be built, simplifying and progressing case management so vulnerable families get the support they need quickly. Here is where technology can play a significant role.
Data repositories do already exist, but these include back-office local authority systems that are reserved for statutory social care services. They hold sensitive information, but they were not built for compatibility or flexibility, making a multi-agency approach difficult. A more modern counterpart is required.
Central data repositories which can store all the content relating to a case, in line with regulations, while still making it accessible to key stakeholders in multi-disciplinary cases, places everything in one ‘box’ in the middle. They can also be structured to make sure all the necessary steps are taken but retain the adaptability reflecting the non-linear pathway cases often take to reach an outcome.
SUPPORTING THE FAMILIES
Critically, technology can help support the key stakeholder – the family concerned. They need to be involved and informed of case progression and not find themselves repeating their stories to different bodies – it should be one and done. From there, they should have access to timelines and referrals so they can see when and who they should expect engagement from next. This means technology must be accessible through standard mobile devices so that families are kept in the loop and aren’t simply passive recipients of social services.
On an administration level, technology can boost efficiency, saving time and money during a period where social care finds itself under increasing pressures. However, on a human level, technology can prevent a great deal of suffering.
So, while technology cannot replace the human interactions of the modern village, it can make those engagements more effective and seamless – adding value to all.