Whatever form home life takes, it is a fundamental pillar of children’s lives, and supports their happiness. In The Big Ask, children told me that if they were unhappy at home, they were far more likely to be unhappy in general. This is why, when I was commissioned by the Government to undertake an independent review of modern family life across England, I didn’t think twice.
I spoke to families across the UK and England about what family means to them – about who is in their family, how it shapes their lives, and where to turn to for support if they need it. In Part 1 of the Family Review, through our research, I managed to prove the protective effect of family. That it is not the composition or relative position of the family in society that is important. Instead, it’s about the quality of family relationships, it’s about strong and lasting relationships, relying on each, and spending time together.
For part 2 of the Family Review, I am exploring how the services that support families can do more to help those who need it most. Particularly those who do not have the privilege of a network of support they can rely on.
Key to service improvement is bringing services together to deliver a joined-up approach. Families have told me how tired they are of telling their story to multiple professionals, of being ‘passed around’ the system trying to find the right professional or service to help them. One thing that needs to happen to bring services together is a wholesale improvement across the system in how data is collected, shared, and brought together.
Collecting data more efficiently in a family focused way and being able to share it between organisations creates new opportunities for early intervention. Poor information sharing between multi-agency partnerships has been identified as a factor that has led to children who are experiencing or at risk of serious harm or abuse falling through the gaps and out of sight. Several child safeguarding practice reviews have cited weaknesses in information sharing as a key issue which hindered professional’s understanding of what was happening to the children.
My work on attendance also identified better data-sharing as a way to get children who are persistently absent back into school and ready to learn.
There are already some great examples of effective data-sharing across England but it’s important that this best practice and expertise is disseminated to all areas in the UK so that all children and families can be properly supported and kept safe.
The upcoming Family Review Part 2 will present my assessment of the current data landscape, and the way forwards for governments both local and national. There is no silver bullet to solving these issues, but through a renewed focus and a shared vision a world where data fully facilitates the most effective delivery of services is achievable.