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Guidance for Local Authorities on Data Analytics in Children’s Social Care 

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Data, Data collection, Data-sharing, Demographic data

Children’s Social Care is one of the most important functions the government carries out. Children who need help and protection deserve high quality and effective support as soon as a need is identified.  

Data analytics tools, software that enables categorisation and analysis of data, present an opportunity for local governments to better deliver responsive services and care to children and families.  

However, to make sure that any use of analytics is effective and trustworthy, senior decision makers (accountable officers) and developers (technical or analytical teams) need to make sure that the right governance structures are in place to use data ethically and responsibly. Citizens, in particular children and families being supported by children’s services, must be confident that their best interests are at the centre of all decisions relating to data analytics.  

Publishing guidance on data analytics

Today, the Department for Education has published guidance for local authorities who are developing and using data analytics tools. It consists of practical guides, toolkits and explainers for audiences across children’s services.  

The DfE asked the Responsible Technology Adoption Unit (RTA) to develop the guidance, following recommendations by What Works Children’s Social Care and others on the need for a national standard. RTA also identified this recommendation as an important issue in its Review into bias in algorithmic decision making 

Developing guidance with children’s services

RTA engaged in a year-long, extensive and iterative consultation with a wide range of stakeholders throughout the design and development of guidance. These included: 

  • Children’s services departments in local government 
  • Child and family practitioners and social workers 
  • Data practitioners and developers supporting children’s services  
  • Social worker networks 
  • Children’s organisations 
  • Local government data practitioner forums 
  • Academia 
  • Data rights groups within civil society 
  • Private sector software developers and consultants
  • Departments across Whitehall. 

Clear and Comprehensive Guidance

The guidance is made up of 5 key documents covering every angle of responsible innovation in this area, including: 

  • An Introduction to Data Analytics in Children’s Social Care: an introductory review for senior leaders on the benefits and risks of using data analytics in this sector, and what responsible innovation means 
  • A Guidance document: a step-by-step guide to the design and development process for data analytics tools in children’s social care, with practical advice on how to take a responsible approach at every step. 
  • An Ethics Triage: a tool to identify and respond to specific risks raised across the development process 
  • An Ethics Workbook: a practical set of questions to work through ethical challenges raised during development 
  • An Explainers guide: covering more detailed advice and guidance on some of the common challenges which arise during the design of data-driven tools, from data quality to bias, and from governance to communication. 

Embedding good practice in local government

RTA continues to work across government to provide guidance and advice on how to innovate responsibly with data driven technology across the full range of policy areas and sectors. This includes working with local authorities  to ensure that this guidance on children’s social care provides the tools and resources needed to embed responsible innovation.  

Please email if you would like to work with us, or to hear more about the guidance for developing data analytics in children’s social care.  

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