Discovery Project - Early Help Data DISCOVERY

Project details:

Organisation London Borough of Wandsworth
Department Early Help
Collaboration Level Share Ideas
Budget £50K > £100k
Key Contact Simone McCarthy
Phase start 22 October 2019
Phase Estimated end 31 March 2020


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Discovery project partners: West Berkshire, Croydon and Social Finance

‘Early Help means providing support as soon as a problem emerges, at any point in a child’s life, from the foundation years through to the teenage years’  (Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018)

Discovery project focus:

To explore what heads of early help services need to:

  • better analyse performance
  • improve quality of services
  • prioritise budget spend and evidence critical funding requirements

What is already known: 

  • Performance data production in early help is inaccurate, inconsistent or impossible
  • There are no standardised early help case management or reporting systems - different councils use different and often multiple systems to record information
  • The systems are not usually compatible

Better data would:

  • help protect early help services from budget cuts
  • inform budget spend decisions
  • aid earlier identification of risk 
  • ensure the right services are available at the right time for vulnerable families




Status Updates

20 December 2019

  • Simone McCarthy


    • Project Kick-Off: We have hosted our kick-off meeting and the first show and tell

    • User Research Planning: We defined user research questions and developed the UR plan. We identified and contacted stakeholders to interview and created interview guides for each group. We have conducted a number of UR interviews with more scheduled to take place in January.

    • Multi-stakeholder discussions: We had very interesting conversations with people from Troubled Families and DfE to supplement our thinking



    • We have done a brainstorming session on what Early Help means to different people and found that its definition spreads across multiple dimensions


    What’s next

    • More UR interviews

    • Synthesis and analysis of the UR outputs

    • Data systems mapping

27 November 2019

  • Simone McCarthy

    Kick-Off Workshop (20.11.19)

    Project Plan:

    Hypothesis: Early Help heads lack access to the data insights they need to optimise services, see what works and protect budgets

    Decision-makers would benefit from access to timely, accurate, and insightful data to:

    •          prioritise spend
    •          assess service performance
    •          compare approaches and share best practice
    •          build the evidenced case to protect their budgets from cuts

    Local Digital at MHCLG have funded three councils for a discovery project to explore this issue

    Wandsworth, Croydon, and West Berkshire local authorities are working with Social Finance who will be delivering the user research and analysis.

    Project partners began with a kick-off workshop in mid-November 2019 and will finish at the end of March 2020, potentially leading to a second 'alpha' project next year.


    This discovery project aims to uncover the scale of this challenge and whether a common solution is feasible

    We want to understand whether challenges are similar in different local authorities and whether it is feasible to build a shared solution. The aim of a “Discovery” project is to really understand what is needed, but not to build anything. In a second “alpha” phase, we would build a prototype of the solution identified in Discovery. This approach avoids building expensive software or tools that aren’t usable, or won’t make a difference.


    To do this we are doing user research across the three lead authorities and testing results with the observing councils:

    Phase 1:

    Understand what insights leadership need: interviews with leadership in each council to understand exactly what insights would be beneficial for them and if this is common
    Understand current data and tools: map the different data collected in each council and how this is used through conversations with data teams etc. e.g. what reports or analysis are there
    Understand the different Early Help offers: map out the EH offer in each council through interviews to understand how comparable they are

    Phase 2:
    Analyse phase 1 findings to identify what the common needs are across councils and what feasible potential solutions there could be
    Write up findings in a user research report
    Produce recommendations and write these up with a business case