Using data to support our young people

Data can tell us many things. It helps us target our support where it’s most needed. It helps us understand how we’re making a difference – and what else we can do to make our work even more effective. And it helps us bring together the people who have a role in supporting different aspects of a child or young person’s needs.

Lots of people have a role in supporting a child or young person: parents and guardians, Link Workers, schools, and local services. All of these hold a part of the picture – but without seeing it in full, none of them can provide every aspect of support a child needs. This is why sharing data is so important.

What is data sharing?

Data sharing means collaborating to make sure all people with a role to play in supporting a child or young person have a shared understanding of what’s needed to help them thrive.

West London Zone is unique in building up a comprehensive data-led picture of the young people in our zone. We work closely with schools to understand the children and young people they’re working with, and have a comprehensive suite of validated tools that help us understand what children and young people might need more help with, including our My Voice survey. Once we’re working with a child or young person, our knowledge grows: through our intensive work, we gain an in-depth understanding of who a child or young person is, as well as their situation, what they need and the role we – and others – can play.

This information helps us shape our support, understand needs and advocate for change. But it’s only part of the picture. We have information nobody else does, and this can help make sure the wider system is able to respond to need. In particular, the information we have can complete the picture for Local Authorities, helping them deliver support where it’s needed most. At the same time, Local Authorities hold details that can ensure we’re giving children and their families the best possible help.

How sharing data helps improve services beyond WLZ

While Link Workers can make big changes in the lives of children and young people, we also know their situation can be affected by bigger, structural issues, such as housing. These issues can’t be solved through link work alone: we need to collaborate and refer families on to other support. Often, this can be aligned to the Supporting Families Outcome Framework

Supporting Families is an outcomes framework developed by the government to break down the outcomes they want to see for families. The Framework covers ten themes, from getting a good education to secure housing, which are often aligned with what Link Workers see and do on the ground. While Link Workers might be able to help directly with some of these themes, they also have a role in supporting and advocating for people to access specific services and community support.

Ultimately, this means our Link Workers are identifying unmet needs in the families they work with – and by sharing this information through Supporting Families, we can help Local Authorities understand the issues being faced, who’s at greatest need, and where it’s most important to focus support. We’re currently working with Brent Council to understand how this information can help inform their decision-making, and we’re also looking at the information they hold that can support our practice and learning. Ultimately, we want to improve and extend our data sharing across every Local Authority we work in, so everyone has the full picture needed to make informed decisions.

How does everyone benefit?

For West London Zone and Local Authorities, data sharing means getting a fuller picture of the children and young people we’re working with – and we can use this to provide better support. At West London Zone, this might mean getting a better understanding of the needs of a child and their families, what they’ve accessed already, and what else we need to do to ensure their needs are met. 

Local Authorities benefit from Link Workers’ expertise, and from the time they’re able to spend getting to know the unique situations of the children they work with. Because West London Zone works with children and young people who might have needs that that haven’t been identified before, some of this information simply isn’t available elsewhere: by carefully sharing some of the information Link Workers are gathering through their work, we’re able to feed into informed decisions about what support is most important, beyond the immediate support we offer through our Link Workers and community partners.

For children and their families, this ultimately means better and more joined-up support – based on their needs and priorities, rather than assumptions made elsewhere. Instead of having decisions made through a fragmented, siloed picture of need, we want to amplify the voice of children and families, making sure the support they receive is informed by what they value most.

together, every child and young person can flourish.