The SAVVI project is interested to see that last month the House of Lords Public Services Committee published a report on data sharing for Covid 19. This report, A Critical Juncture for Public Services: Lessons from COVID19, provides an analysis of how public services have responded to the pandemic and the level of innovation that took place by public service providers. 

We are particularly interested to read chapter eight of the report that details ‘a new approach to data sharing’. The SAVVI project is very much working in this space and it aligns with much of our thinking, and what we have been hearing from local authorities and partner organisations  during the discovery phase of our work. For example, the report highlights how important data is and the issue with sharing this data between national and local services. It provides examples of local authorities not receiving information from the NHS on shielded groups early on, this was due to a lack of data on a collective level by a central body. The report recommends a number of principles to transform and review public service delivery, such as the need for better data sharing.

Some of the key weaknesses identified in the report that the SAVVI project has also identified include:

  • The insufficient support for prevention and early intervention
  • over-centralised delivery of public services, poor communication from the centre, and a tendency for service providers to work in silos rather than integrate service provision
  • a lack of integration especially between services working with vulnerable children, and between health care and adult social care 
  • an inability and unwillingness to share data between services
  • inequality of access to public services and a lack of user voice

These weaknesses have led to real consequences of hardship and suffering. Chair of the committee, Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top, highlighted the failures to protect specific groups in the pandemic response, “The fight against health inequality should be a priority for the Government. Black, Asian and minority ethnic people suffered disproportionately due to health inequalities and unequal access to services. 

“The Government’s own pandemic planning identified that social care would need significant support during the outbreak of a disease like Covid-19, yet social care was the poor relation to the NHS when it came to funding during lockdown. Discharging people from hospital into care settings without testing and with inadequate PPE led to the tragic loss of thousands of older and disabled people.”


How can SAVVI be part of the solution?

In its conclusions, the committee recommended that Central Government and national service providers must radically improve the way that they communicate and cooperate with local-level service providers if they are to deliver effective public services. They should analyse where services are best delivered from the centre, where local-level service providers are better placed, and where visible accountability sits. The Government should acknowledge that local providers are equal partners in the delivery of services. SAVVI’s approach enables local public service providers to deliver at the local level, by improving access to Government data and improving communications at all levels of government.

The report also concludes that charities, community groups, volunteers and the private sector must be recognised as key public service providers, and given appropriate support to deliver services effectively. The integration of services to meet the diverse needs of individuals and the communities in which they live is best achieved by public service providers working together at the local level, and should be supported by joined-up working across Government departments at the national level. The heart of the SAVVI project enables key public service providers to share data, so that they can identify vulnerable individuals and households in order to lead a multi-agency response to tackling vulnerability at the local level. The project draws on the established networks of iStandUK and iNetwork partners and members which provides a voice for local public services and multi-agency working.

The resilience of public services to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing demographic changes will require a fundamentally different, vastly more flexible approach to the sharing of data. The SAVVI project recognises this and is clear in its ambitions to ‘fix the plumbing’ with a data standards approach that addresses some of the knotty data sharing issues. We are engaging Government, local government and partners, as well as the Tech sector (through TechUK) to work together to develop standards and frameworks that go some way to provide a more flexible approach to sharing vulnerability data.