Category: Performance

A national information function for local government?

The Local Government Association (LGA) wished to establish what actions might be needed to ensure local government has access to good quality data and information to help improve services and outcomes for local people, whether it be for needs assessment, service planning, performance management, informing citizens about performance, or more generally, decision-making with partners. With Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI), we undertook took a range of soundings and background research to explore:
  • the need for sector action to improve access to, the sharing and use of data, including possibly support in breaking down cultural and other barriers to better use of information
  • realistic options for a local government sector-owned function, that will collect, store and make accessible data and information – linking as appropriate to other national systems

A presentation on the project was made to the CLIP (Central Local Information Partnership) annual conference in October 2008.Our report was used by a working group set up the the LGA Improvement Board, whose work was covered by a Local Government Chronicle article on 21 May 2009. In essence, the report concluded that while there is a great deal of data available to councils and partnerships, they do not always have the ability or capacity to use it. There are also gaps in information or it is scattered across a range of sources making it time-consuming to collate. There are key areas where councils could potentially benefit from LGA Group support. These range from small, quick wins such as sharing knowledge on research/data suppliers and services to larger initiatives, eg, on  benchmarking. The research provided a foundation for developments around performance data from the LGA, in the shape of LG Inform, which allows councils to access and compare data and present findings. This is part of the LGA’s Knowledge Hub intended to provide the “definitive online environment for local government to produce and capture its own knowledge” – all part of the local government sector taking full responsibility for its own data and improvement needs.

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Place Advisor – Improvement & Efficiency

The final stage of our place-based work with Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands (IEWM) involved advice to the Coventry Partnership, in support of their IEWM-funded improvement project. This undertook qualitative research with young men (aged 16-35) in one part of the City, seeking to understand better their concerns, motivations and use of local public services. Partners sought to clarify what works and what doesn’t in how they work with different groups within this population, find better approaches and achieve both improved outcomes and savings.We also assisted the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire sub-regional partnership,  building on their Total Place pilot. This aimed to generate savings, develop radical new forms of service delivery, accelerate performance and spread best practice. Projects within the programme related, eg, to children’s services, adult social care, procurement and asset management, strategic planning and infrastructure. Advice focused, for example, on performance metrics and shared services.

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Customer Insight and Research in the East Midlands

This project, promoted by East Midlands Improvement and Efficiency Partnership (EMIEP), sought to make the case for continued investment in customer insight and research, by demonstrating how these activities can lead to better and more efficient services. There were two strands: first, skills workshops and networking relating to customer insight, data analysis and research; and secondly, a series of sub-regional demonstration projects using statistical analysis, social research and insight methods to investigate different aspects of getting 16 to 18 year olds into employment, education or training. These projects explored, for instance, the needs and experiences of young people in rural areas, teenage mothers, and triggers for young people disengaging and getting involved in anti-social behaviour. Typically they involved analysis of Connexions client data and qualitative field research. There was strong interest in identifying risk factors to reduce the likelihood of young people becoming NEET. Derrick Johnstone played an advisory role as a Local Improvement Advisor, helping to shape the programme and input on practice elsewhere. This involvement follows an earlier LIA assignment for EMIEP reviewing customer insight and R&I in the region.

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Customer journeys and disadvantaged groups

One of the themes we pursued in our work with Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands on tackling worklessness has been that of improving customer journeys. We produced two briefings, one an introduction to customer insight for local strategic partnerships (pdf 162KB) and the other on customer journeys and worklessness (pdf 381KB). These supported workshops and action learning run with practitioners in the West Midlands, helping to shape thinking and practice, eg, on the Connections to Opportunities programme in the region.In looking at the topic we have sought to draw out distinctions between ‘customer journeys’:
  • as used in integrated service design (the  planner’s eye view of how services should fit together and offer progression for jobseekers and employers)
  • as experienced by service users
  • where the focus is on mapping the background processes
In this, we followed guidance produced for the Cabinet Office – with participants typically finding the different – and complementary – approaches illuminating. Customer journey analysis featured in a range of subsequent activities. We produced a digest of research and resources on-line that relate to customer journeys and customer research relating to disadvantaged groups (Part 1 on customer needs and transitions pdf 227KB; Part 2, covering references on health and worklessness pdf 204KB).

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Good practice in data sharing

Problems with data sharing continue to be raised as a serious obstacle to developing effective, joined-up services to tackle worklessness at local level. Adverse consequences can include poor targeting of services, weak referral systems, duplicated provision and difficulties in determining value for money.This guide on Good Practice in Data Sharing ( 840 KB), published by Local Government Improvement and Development (now Local Government Association) in May 2010:
  • sets out the ways in which shared data can contribute in tackling worklessness
  • illustrates what can get in the way of data sharing – and what lies behind this
  • draws distinctions between different types of data sharing, and the importance of personal consent
  • explains the legal basis for data sharing around worklessness, including that affecting what DWP can and cannot share
  • highlights good practice and explores data sharing as partnership in action.
This was one of two How To guides produced by Educe for LGID, part of the series funded by DWP and CLG following the Houghton ‘Tackling Worklessness’ Review (TWR). It drew on the CLG/DWP Data Sharing Pilot Programme (a TWR project) and earlier work by Educe on Data Sharing for Neighbourhood Renewal. It was written to complement the DWP guidance on data sharing and worklessness and on data sharing and social security data. Note also that DWP are now making small area benefits data available (reducing the need for data sharing requests) – see their page on Output Area data.

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Locality Working in West Cumbria

This Local Improvement Advisor assignment sought to help mainstream service managers in West Cumbria:
  • consider and apply the learning from neighbourhood management pilots in Workington and Whitehaven, and
  • develop skills in assessing cost-effectiveness and applying collaborative techniques for service improvement.
With the decisions to create Local Strategic Partnerships in Copeland and Allerdale and disband the West Cumbria Strategic Partnership, the project shifted to the introduction of locality working in both Districts, including a Cumbria pilot involving Allerdale District Council and the County Council. In this, its main focus became drawing the lessons from the neighbourhood management initiatives.

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