FamilyStory: improving outcomes for children and families
Radically rethinking children’s social care
Legacy case management systems, focused on collecting information, are costing local authorities hundreds of thousands per year in licensing and maintenance. Social workers achieve amazing things with families, but are held back by the systems and technology they work with.
Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster Children’s Services recognise this problem and asked FutureGov to help them radically rethink how technology can support children’s social care. Together, we’ve been exploring how we approach child protection in a more user-centred way, that supports the people working hard to improve the lives of families and young people, so that we all help keep children safe.
During our initial discovery phase, user research helped us explore the current experience of social workers and families. We found that on average, social workers can spend sixty percent of their time on a computer writing, recording and processing data.
– Ray Jones, Emeritus Professor of Social Work
“The art of being a social worker is becoming lost. Too often, it is regarded as a process to be followed – a single track which, once started, trundles along a predetermined path, usually of escalation.”
With a design-led approach, we started working with frontline teams across the child protection journey, from referrals to leaving care. Meeting with a range of stakeholders, we worked with the councils to turn insights into a future journey, putting the user’s experience at the heart of the entire service.
Spending time with families and young people, we sought to understand what it feels like to be using and going through these services. Challenges around transparency, having ownership over their story and tense relationships with practitioners showed an opportunity to improve the experiences and relationships for both families and social workers. We knew technology could help with some of these pain points and began to design current services to better reflect these needs.
Our vision is to create an open platform of accessible tools, designed to meet the needs of social workers, partner agencies and families that would allow social workers to spend more time collaborating with families. We’ve now designed and developed an alpha version of FamilyStory using an agile approach to continuously test, learn and iterate designs based on feedback from families and social workers.
FamilyStory: people-centric social care case management tools
FamilyStory is a set of simple digital case management tools for social care that are available when users need them. The tools reduce the administrative burden placed on social workers and increase the time available to spend doing direct work with families, empowering practitioners, families, and young people to work better together and claim ownership over their personal stories. FamilyStory aims to increase productivity by up to 30% and improve the ability for families and social workers to collaborate by:
- significantly reducing report writing and time taken on administrative tasks, increasing the time available for practitioners to focus on families
- improving transparency, increasing the quality of relationships and trust between practitioners and families
- improving collaboration between social work teams and other professionals
- collaboratively building a picture of need, supporting social workers to manage risk and
- informing decision-making
– Social Worker, LBH&F.
"This is really useful, especially for initial assessment - the location, who was there, all helps - right now we do so much copying and pasting from different places."
We’re currently running an alpha pilot with 35 social workers (including managers) over 12 weeks. Social workers are using FamilyStory alongside their existing case management systems, with as many families as possible
The pilot marks the first time social workers will use FamilyStory with families in a live environment, allowing us to gain valuable insight into how the tools are used in practice. FamilyStory inherently asks social workers to work in a very different way. Through the pilot, we looked to understand how this changes the dynamic of a visit. How do both social workers and family members find the experience and what impact does this have on their relationship?
An impact and usability evaluation of the pilot is being undertaken with different users to understand what works, what doesn’t work and inform next steps. Initial findings from the pilot have identified that social workers, managers and families value the openness and transparency of viewing and commenting on their records in real-time. Further, they see FamilyStory as enhancing communication and trust between families and practitioners.
The FamilyStory alpha provides a strong foundation to build on. There is a national interest in the enabling potential of this technology to empower families and support social workers. We are also exploring different options to scale to beta and live, to create the greatest impact for families and young people and ensure the ongoing sustainability of the platform.