Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

Enabling Smarter Working Through A Strategic Approach To Data

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

The One Stockport Borough Plan, developed in collaboration with organisations across Stockport, challenges Stockport to become a radically digital borough. To meet this challenge, we have worked with our partners, businesses and residents to develop Stockport’s Radical Digital Strategy, setting out our ambitions and priorities for digital across the borough. A key priority in the Digital Strategy is for Stockport Council to use data to design services around the people who use them, improving processes and user experience, and ensuring they better meet Stockport and citizen needs. It also includes a commitment to sharing more data, increasing transparency, and supporting collaboration and innovation. Data is key to how we work smartly in Stockport.

We published our Data Strategy in October 2021, outlining our ambition for harnessing the value of our second most important asset, behind our people. The strategy covers the entire organisation, providing direction on how everyone plays a part in making data a strategic asset. It is aimed at strategic decision-makers who use insight to inform policy, consumers of analytics who use data to inform plans and operations, and system users who are entering and maintaining data at source. For our partners, this document explain show we can align data and work together to achieve shared goals.

Goals include:
–  We are a data-led organisation to meet the needs of our residents, using data to transform and helping to create new and improved services, making the best use of our limited resources.
– We use our data more effectively, with associated changes in behaviour, culture and skills, to rise to future challenges.
–  We build data-driven, inter-connected digital systems that integrate across services, directorates and with partners too. Data is a key component of our Digital Strategy.
–  We further develop rapid data exploitation by increasingly sophisticated tools to generate insight and power automated processes to analyse our performance and adjust plans accordingly.
–  We have people with the confidence to use data, analytics and technology appropriately.
–  We create machine-ready data that can be used for advanced automation and analytical techniques as the volume and variety of our data increase.
–  We maximise the benefits of emerging technologies to make the most of our assets.

Aligned with our Digital Strategy, we have developed five outcomes to help guide our work over the next few years:
– Outcome 1: Data is treated as a strategic asset and governed appropriately. We consider data upfront as part of new processes, procurement and service design.
–  Outcome 2: We manage our data effectively, building a solid data foundation with common standards that supports quicker and more effective insight generation. We further develop our data warehouse and master data management solution.
–  Outcome 3: We work with partners to develop a locality-wide approach to data sharing, integration and insight generation and much closer working between the council, health, police and other services, to benefit residents.
–  Outcome 4: We have a data-led workforce able to make the most of data and digital opportunities. People are confident in using data and know where to access it.
– Outcome 5: Data operations are streamlined to make the most of our capabilities, integrated into wider governance and decision-making processes, with transparent methods for prioritisation and evidencing impact.

Data is our second most important asset, behind our people. We use joined-up data to innovate, supporting our digital transformation, generating insights that result in better decision-making and improving value-for-money public services. We are using data to switch from reactive to proactive service delivery, generating as much value as possible from our data and helping to create a more personalised experience for citizens who trust how we use their data. We are proud of our innovative use of this key asset to support our digital ambitions and build a data-driven culture to transform services with better outcomes for residents. Whether introducing innovative, cross-organisation data-sharing paired with open-source technologies, making the most of dashboards with actionable insights, or publishing data via our open portal and mapping solution, our vision is to put data at the core of everything we do. Below are some data projects completed in recent months aligned with our data strategy.

What are the key achievements?

New methods for managing data assets and generating insights more effectively including: Family Context digital tool Working in collaboration with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) and other councils, Stockport has led the way to better use data to support some of our most vulnerable residents. We have developed a digital tool for social workers that combines adults’ and children’s social care, education, health and housing data using open-source technologies and our in-house master data management solution.

Family Context saves social workers, on average, over 2 hours for each new referral so they can spend more time with families. Without Family Context, most searches take 2-3 hours or more. Using Family Context, the average search now takes 20 minutes. Over a year, this potentially saves each social worker 184 hours (15 hours a month), with a total time saving for all social workers at Stockport Council estimated at 18,403 hours per year (1,534 per month).

Open data platform
We have developed an online open data portal, The Big Stockport Picture, as part of our mission to be transparent with our data. The new site promotes an open approach to data, sharing council data and intelligence with Stockport citizens and others to spotlight outcomes, needs and performance in Stockport. The underlying datasets are updated automatically, helping to increase the return on investment and reduce the technical debt.

We developed the website to aid collaboration, using shared datasets to work with partner organisations. Together we use the single source of the truth datasets to collaborate on shared problems, helping us achieve better outcomes for residents. It
also helps Stockport voluntary sector organisations, who use the information to support evidence-based bids for grant funding.
It allows colleagues and partners to ‘self-serve’, freeing up finite analytical resource to focus on solving some of the biggest problems we face and supporting colleagues in their use of data.

Open source mapping tool
Our previous mapping solution was difficult to update, the functionality was archaic compared to modern mapping tools, and the cost did not reflect the value delivered by the system. We set out to develop a new open-source mapping solution that enabled immediate and potential future improvements and provided better spatial intelligence for customers, colleagues and partners. Improvements include new content and functionality and providing additional transparency and evidence to support decision-making. Its uses range from helping residents report faulty streetlights, blocked drains and floods, to supporting planning decisions, identifying who owns buildings and land, civil contingency planning and determining the most suitable locations for defibrillators.

We have developed self-serve interactive dashboards for colleagues across Stockport that bring together disparate data from across the council and beyond. We have around 150 operational dashboards used regularly with other management and strategic dashboards used for performance, productivity and assurance monitoring. Dashboard use has grown 63% year on year, with over 42,000 views in the last six months.
The dashboards support all levels of the organisation, from operational teams to managers to strategic leaders, improving decision-making and planning. They provide near-live data that informs quicker decisions and interventions, tracks progress towards goals and supports new ways of working across our entire organisation. Examples include dashboards that help us track progress towards our climate goals and near-live school attendance and exclusion monitoring, which enables the Inclusion Service to intervene earlier than was previously possible to support schools and pupils. Special Educational Needs data innovation Aligned to our Stockport SEND Local Offer, we have developed new data sharing and insight to support colleagues from across the partnership (health, council etc.), such as health visitor information from the hospital, to identify needs earlier and track improvements in identifying needs.

Insight is openly published using a new dashboard and scorecard. We review the data regularly and identify areas for improvement and celebrate success. For example, this information has been incredibly beneficial in targeting efforts to improve personal budgets, we have significantly improved the volume of EHCPs issued within the statutory 20-week deadline and we have used the data to commission shared projects, such as child mental health. It has helped with our cross-organisation priorities, using the data and insight to solve problems collaboratively. In our recent SEND Ofsted/CQC re-visit, the inspection team noted how the improvements we have made in data were crucial to the success of newly introduced governance arrangements, helping leaders to pick up emerging patterns and trends.

How Innovative is your initiative?

Data-led innovations are both cultural and technical:
– Data is our second most important asset, behind our people
– We treat data as a strategic asset and govern, manage and control it like any other asset.
– Besides our people, data is our most important asset, and we consider it part of everything we do.
– Data provides insight into our customers, staff, decision making, and business processes and ultimately provides evidence of our impact and how the council is performing.
– We focus more time and effort on using our data to create efficiencies, delivering services at the least cost to the taxpayer. We make data everyone’s business
– We are developing a data-led workforce where everyone has the skills and confidence to know what data is available and how to use it to make the most of data and digital opportunities.

Using datasets created in our data warehouse, we have created a suite of around 150 operational and strategic analytic dashboards for performance, productivity and assurance monitoring. The dashboards are used daily to weekly (including out of-hours) at all council management and executive levels. Use has grown 63% year on year, with over 42,000 views in the last six months. As well as providing information on service delivery, some dashboards provide intelligence on data literacy and new ways of working. Examples include our Mandatory training dashboard, which enables our Corporate Leadership Team to monitor compliance, such as our data protection training. Since using the dashboard, we have seen a 25% improvement in the recording and timeliness of this essential training.

The ‘Dashboard of dashboards’ helps to track the use of dashboards across the council and organisations supported by the Business Intelligence team. It helps facilitate regular discussion at management team meetings regarding the use of data, leading us to understand why some dashboards are used more than others and why some teams are more frequent users than others. This is incredibly useful intelligence as we look to further develop data literacy in the council, a Data Strategy outcome.

Joined-up data approach to problem solving
Harnessing this crucial asset isn’t easy for councils where multiple services, IT systems and a legacy of manual data processes have resulted in disparate, siloed data. To manage our data effectively, We are developing a data foundation that makes it easier to bring together different datasets, facilitate quicker intelligence capabilities and create ‘digital ready’ data to support transformation.

Our Data Warehouse brings together disparate datasets from across the council and other organisations and restructures them for reporting purposes, supporting quicker and more effective insight generation. We have created a common data standard to overcome difficulties with matching and aggregating data from different sources, such as education, adult social care, and housing services and to integrate with partners securely.
Our data warehousing and analytical capabilities enable a more joined-up approach to problem-solving and help deliver better services to citizens. The best example is the Family Context tool. In cases of complex need, with multiple services involved, services around a family are better connected. Having information at their fingertips empowers social workers to make informed decisions more quickly, enabling immediate action, for example, child safeguarding. By providing new information they would not otherwise have seen, children are protected from harm, even when no single service perceives significant risk. Social workers comment: “One piece of information can change the decision for a family.” Supporting collaboration and innovation Working with partners, we have developed a locality-wide approach to data sharing in the open, integration and insight generation to develop a local centre of excellence. There is a culture shift from ‘need to know’ to ‘need to share’ across the Council and key partner organisations.

The Big Stockport Picture supports our commitment to collaboration and brings additional opportunities for locality-wide innovation.
We work with like-minded local authorities, Greater Manchester and others, building on opportunities to partner with universities to help further develop skills, generate insight and open up new data opportunities. We are looking to partner with external organisations to develop applications and websites that create new and innovative services for citizens that remain relevant and fit for the future. The development of the Family Context tool has been a genuinely collaborative achievement. We worked initially with Leeds City Council and later with Ealing Council whilst also collaborating with multiple other Local Authorities to solve a national problem. We have created open-source software and training that can be replicated in other local authorities, bringing the same benefits to their social workers.

What are the key learning points?

Data was crucial for our response to Covid-19. We needed to use our data warehouse and BI tools to blend data from multiple sources, at speed, to assist with shielding clinically extremely vulnerable people. We delivered dashboards, such as Covid summary, Covid contacts and other data products to monitor activity, including helping social workers to conduct safe visits to homes of children in need using Covid school absence data.
We worked collaboratively with health colleagues on vaccination rate analysis, building a shared dashboard with new data flows to share progress with senior colleagues. The data enabled us to reduce risks, intervene earlier and target resources appropriately, such as by using data to help target our social media and decide the best locations for pop-up services. It helped us achieve the best vaccination rates across Greater Manchester, reducing inequalities, including narrowing the BAME uptake gap. We shared data with partner organisations, key stakeholders and the voluntary sector, enabling targeted follow-up action to reach different communities.

We are exploring how we can implement family context in other localities across the country to help others transform their services, helping improve outcomes for the most vulnerable and make the most of ever-reducing local government resources available. Code and design are aligned with GDS principles, and all the work is publicly available on GitHub. We can provide user research, the common data model, the business case, a video demo of the tool, the reference application and an Implementation Guide that explains step-by-step how a new local authority might implement it locally.
The underlying software is also suitable for replicating in other areas of our business. We plan to repurpose the technology to support other digital transformation initiatives, helping achieve better outcomes for citizens whilst also making the most of our resources and helping to consolidate communications and support. Examples include sharing alerts with GPs, so they know if a child is known to social care services and using the data matching algorithms to create single views, such as one view of debt shared across the council and housing associations.

Financial challenges:
As local government finances face increased pressure, the demographics of our borough change and demand for services increases, and with a more data-hungry workforce, the demand for insight is increasing to support day-to-day decision making and improve outcomes for citizens.
The volume and variety of data continue to increase exponentially, bringing challenges to using this critical asset effectively. Given we face multiple competing priorities, limited capacity and increasing demand, we have established new methods for deciding what we tackle and when to ensure we add as much value as possible. We will need data-led innovation to succeed, and we have created a ‘Data Innovation’ team, primarily tasked with achieving savings as part of our medium-term financial plan. Example projects we are working on include a single-person discount summary, council tax fraud and electoral canvassing process improvement, all based on leveraging our master data management solution. Data-driven capabilities are changing the way we communicate, live and work. Data is the foundation upon which our digital transformation is based, so amid the challenges of ‘keeping the lights on’, we are also addressing the need for our data to be ‘digital ready’, able to support AI, machine learning and robotic process automation. Data will also be fundamental as part of our evolving ‘Smart place’ plans, and we are working on how to harness ‘big data’ from sensors and the ‘internet of things’.

Data challenges:
We do not have universal data standards, making it difficult to join our data. Some data is still held off system in silos, with duplication and waste, making it difficult to generate insight, understand the customer journey and monitor inequalities. Some datasets are inaccessible or difficult to interrogate, while partners hold others with limited data sharing in place. We need consistent governance and control over our data, we need to make data quality improvements, and there will be as yet undiscovered data issues too.

Data-led workforce challenges:
There are still challenges to overcome if we are to become a genuinely data-led organisation. We must address skills gaps for colleagues who provide data services and the wider workforce. The ‘dashboard of dashboards’ is helping to improve our internal processes, building data literacy in the organisation by identifying areas of strength and weakness in terms of data use. We are also about to roll out a ‘Data Skills Academy’ to support this, making more strategic use of our apprenticeship level to develop data literacy and help our workforce to make the most of data and digital opportunities.

Additional Comments

Radically Digital Stockport