Can technology support co-production with children and families?
By Ida Cohen, Senior Social Work Consultant, Liquidlogic
‘Listening to the voice of the child’, ‘involving service users’ and ‘co-production’ are terms commonly used to describe how children’s services should interact with children and families to ensure that they are listened to and that their contributions are regularly taken into account. as part of a partnership approach to assessment and intervention.
In June 2021 Report on Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), based on a series of inspections, Ofsted said: ‘There were more positive results in some of the areas we revisited, where parents and carers had been meaningfully involved in the planning and decision making. The role of the parent-guardian forum figured prominently in the most successful areas. In these, leaders understood that co-production meant working with families as equal partners.
We believe portal technology can help forge effective collaboration with children and families by helping them feel involved in the assessment, planning and review stages.
A proven solution
From online banking to grocery ordering to vacation booking, the use of portal-like technology is widespread and it has become a proven tool for delivering efficient services. The same technology has begun transforming the Liquidlogic electronic case management system so that it can now be used to interact with children, families and caregivers.
A portal account is not just a way to access information shared with families by their worker. It’s also where they can collaborate on forms, respond to surveys or consultation documents, send messages to their employees, and view a full library of documents that previously would have been emailed or posted. keeping all their data safe.
To illustrate, here is a fictional example of how this might be experienced by a parent of a child with SEND.
Case Study: Elly and Carl
My name is Elly, I’m Carl’s mother. Carl is 10 years old and has autism. Carl struggles a lot at home and at school. He goes to our local primary school.
Carl’s principal has referred him to the council for an education, health and care assessment, as he believes Carl needs more help than the school is currently able to provide. I agree, because he cannot participate in certain activities at all because his behavior becomes unmanageable.
The school said he needed more classroom support or he might need to move to a special school. When he can’t be at school, I have him at home and I have to juggle Carl and his sisters; I end up getting in trouble with their schools because I’m often late picking them up.
I was contacted by someone named Steve Astbury recently. He explained that he worked on the SEND team and would work with me and other professionals who know Carl to assess his educational needs.
He said it was important for me to have a say in this – because I know what the daily experience of caring for Carl is like – and to express what I would like to see happen for Carl at the future.
Steve emailed me with a link to participate in the review process and communicate with him through what he called a portal account. When I received the email, I clicked on the link, created a simple username and password, and then received an email notification that my account had been activated .
Once logged in, I could see Steve’s contact details and those of Carl’s school and social worker. I could see the school recommendation for Carl as Steve posted it for me to read. I also saw Steve posted a message for me to let him know when I had logged in by replying to his welcome message, which I did.
It was clear that I am only at the first stage of the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) process and that there are more stages to follow, which Steve explained. I know where I am in the process and can check for progress updates.
Since then, we have continued to communicate through the portal. Steve visited again and moved Carl’s assessment forward. Yesterday he mailed me the latest version and asked me to complete my review section. He said he would call me tomorrow so we could discuss it in case I had any questions. It was pretty simple, really, just like an online survey.
Steve called today to discuss my contribution to Carl’s appraisal. I said Carl drew a picture this weekend about school that shows he really likes going there.
Steve said I can send it through the portal because it allows me to upload any documents I want to send with my response. I’ve now submitted everything and he said that when it’s finished he will publish the final version, which will go to a panel, for me to read.
Consolidated information on all services
Information collected through Portal Collaboration for an individual receiving services is reused, as appropriate, for other services that may be required. This means that the person does not have to provide their personal data repeatedly to the local authority when they need other forms of support, such as childcare services, free school meals, college placements after age 16 or sensory support.
The person has a central file on the case management system, which is accessed and maintained by all child and family services professionals. This allows professionals working with families to provide the best possible service with the best possible results, as everyone has a full picture of the family’s situation and needs.