Better sharing of data among UK government agencies seeks to protect vulnerable citizens

In the United Kingdom, multi-agency collaboration (MAC) – the sharing of information and resources between agencies – promises to ensure that a clearer picture is drawn to help at-risk citizens. Currently, no single person or agency has quick, easy access to information across agencies. While they and other interested parties – police officers, social workers, teachers – are doing their utmost, their actions are limited by the information available. Until agencies collaborate and share records, identifying vulnerable people, who may, for example, be at risk of suicide or domestic abuse, will be a challenge.

By working together, public sector agencies can deliver value that would be difficult to deliver individually. Collaborative working between government agencies is developing: for example, the introduction of Local Strategic Partnerships and Multi-Area Agreements aim to bring together multiple agencies to work at a local and regional level. Central and local governments are considering Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs and co-locating staff for improved collaboration. Such efforts are a step in the right direction, but rely on people identifying what “should” be shared. Even the most skilled teams are unable to make linkages between incidents as effectively as modern technology systems powered by access to shared data resources.

The next phase of MAC involves connecting agencies and creating a digital collaboration environment that enables the linking of systems. Of course, there are concerns around sharing such information, ranging from data breaches and loss of privacy, to big state intervention. In our technology-enabled society, these are natural worries.

However, a balance must be found between sharing data and protecting individual data. If done correctly, the benefits of MAC outweigh the risks. As agencies share information – securely, and within pre-defined limits – automation offered by data analytics and matching can identify potential incidents for further assessment. Technology can help detect when records are missing, not just when suspect logs are recorded across agencies. Every contributory detail will be made available for review, which will make connecting the dots much easier.

An approach to MAC with technology at its heart promises to deliver the red flags that individual agencies need to identify and act on in scenarios where vulnerable people are at risk. Ultimately, technology can augment the ability of civil servants working within departments and at a local level to reduce risk and protect citizens from harm.

It will help create a safer society in which authorities understand risks and vulnerabilities more thoroughly and can intervene early to prevent harm.

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