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Data platform helps St Helens Borough team to transform support for families

Data technology is helping St Helens Borough Council to provide effective, early support to vulnerable families.

In 2022 it found itself in the top ten in the country for progress towards completion of its targets for successfully supported families.

Things weren’t always this positive, however.

Initially struggling to identify families that were eligible for the Troubled Families programme, St Helens was placed ‘in recovery’ by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in 2018.

The move led to significant changes in St Helens’ approach and a great deal of hard work to turn things around. One of the measures taken was to invest in Sentinel’s Data Hub to replace a previous system that had failed to deliver essential information.

“At that time the team was required to be a data-cleansing team, but things have now changed significantly as Sentinel’s Hub is doing a lot of that work for them,” explained Mike Roberts, systems service development manager.

“As the Hub has done more, the team has been able to shift its focus from eligibility to improving the delivery process and claim the associated funding. In 2020/21 we were able to achieve 100 per cent of our target in only ten months, and we intend to reach that target earlier next year, leaving us time to use Sentinel to help with service design and targeting.

“The Hub has also enabled us to look at how we can provide further value in terms of service design and how we’re intervening. For example, we’re starting to look to use our data to target those families who may be heading to Troubled Families status and looking at how we can prevent that and improve their situation by intervening earlier.”

Extensive work has included optimising the quality of the data that feeds into the Hub, with the team continuing to carry out manual data matching and cleansing where it’s still required.

“Sentinel’s system isn’t a magic bullet; even in the perfect world scenario it would do 95 per cent of the work, but you’ve got to do the other five per cent. Everyone has worked incredibly hard to ensure the system and the team are now operating in harmony,” Mike added.

“We’re now making massive strides forward. The team has embraced the system and taken ownership of it. They’re actively involved in setting the data matching rules and they will raise it if they feel there’s anything more it will do.”

Capable of integrating data from a wide range of internal and external feeds, Sentinel’s solution has created the most complete, accurate and up-to-date single view of families in the St Helens area.

Sentinel Partners director, Graham McCusker, said: “This is a real success story. The team at St Helens has done a fantastic job and we’re delighted our platform has had such a positive impact in enabling them to support more families and provide even greater value.”

The project for the Metropolitan Borough follows the successful implementation of similar systems for a range of UK local authorities, including Core Cities, such as nearby Liverpool City Council, unitary authorities and London Boroughs.

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