More with less? Supporting information teams in times of scarce resources

The Havering Data Intelligence Hub and Newham Info both set out to meet the local demand for up-to-date and easy-to-interpret data, against the backdrop of extremely tight resources. Here we talk to Yousaf Hassan, Information and Demographics Officer at Newham and Rebecca Booker, the Area Intelligence Business Analyst for Havering, about how they are using the OCSI Data Packs to meet the particular challenges faced by London Boroughs in providing data.

OCSI Data Packs helping Newham and Havering London Boroughs

Newham’s Information team, like many others across the country, faces a difficult challenge. The team has reduced in size from three to one, while the support demands on the team, including maintaining Newham Info, continue to increase. Yousaf, the last man standing, told us how by incorporating OCSI Data Packs into the system, Newham Info has continued to survive and grow:

“Data Packs were the perfect solution for us, as it would take significant analyst time to provide that amount of usable data and reporting.”

Echoing that, Rebecca explained, “when we started out developing the Hub I was at a point where I was dealing with all our data queries in an ad hoc way.” With a desperate need to reduce the time spent on responding to queries, her team looked to the model of Newham Info and saw the development of a Local Information System as the way forward. Resources would not stretch to building it in-house, so Rebecca carried out a review of off the shelf options. She found the most efficient and effective way to get up and running was to purchase Instant Atlas software and OCSI Data Packs.

The close relationship between Newham and Havering meant each could take advantage of maintaining and developing the same system. As Rebecca pointed out:

“We share a Head of Service, server and a website developer with Newham, so taking up Instant Atlas and OCSI Data Packs seemed the next logical step.”

The biggest savings came from the Data Packs now carrying out the work of locating, cleaning, aggregating, uploading and reporting data updates, giving Rebecca and Yousaf more time to collect local data and analyse the key issues for their users and communities:

“OCSI Data Packs not only saved us time, but also saved us money.”

Supporting local users

Yousaf and Rebecca have set out to ensure their systems provide the right data to support all members of their wide audience. Yousaf has identified that Newham Info’s biggest users are the council’s internal staff with the Policy and Research teams being the most regular visitors to the site. Since launching the system he has seen a large drop in the data queries he receives, freeing him up to concentrate on adding value to the information, providing relevant reports and data summaries that meet the needs of users.

Rebecca has been providing demonstrations of the Intelligence Hub to Voluntary & Community Service groups, health teams, the Cultural Forum and Council Members; “the feedback has been great, and it has also given me a chance to find out more about the reports and summaries they would like to see.” Rebecca highlighted some of the ways the data has been used, for example, the Equality and Diversity Team have set up links to the data on their website to help users complete the Equality Analysis Template. They have also used the information to complete their Draft Community Empowerment Strategy and have firm plans to use for the development of their Draft Single Equality Scheme. Also, as the Data Packs include data on fuel poverty at ward level and equalities data on vulnerable groups, the Havering Intelligence Hub was well-placed to support the development of the Fuel Poverty Strategy.

We also heard from Tina Reynolds, Team Manager of Prevention and Intervention for the Children’s Centres in Havering, who told us of a frantic search for information in relation to A & E attendances and accidental injuries:

“The hospitals nor health were not able to provide this information. A member of staff found it on the Havering Intelligence Hub and we were able to compare it over time. This was the last remaining piece of information we required to ensure we achieved an “outstanding” rating from Ofsted in respect of safeguarding.”

Additional in-depth data for London

To help the capital’s councils meet the specific data challenges they face, the OCSI Data Packs also include London-specific information including Greater London Authority (GLA) population estimates and Metropolitan Police crime datasets.

As Yousaf told us, the national population figures are seen as hugely undercounted across London, so Newham use additional population estimates for a more accurate picture, including data from the School Census and the GLA; “the GLA data is incredibly detailed and would take too much time for me to make it useable, so that is where Data Packs really start to pay for themselves.” Rebecca adds to this, saying “the population data comes to us aggregated, cleaned and ready to use. I just wouldn’t have time to do that.”

Alongside reliable population figures, Newham required crime data that includes a broader breakdown of crime types, is more up-to-date, and gives a more local picture than nationally published datasets:

“There is a need within the Newham Intelligence Service for a regularly updated in-depth picture of crime and anti-social behaviour at ward level, but to get this data is not cost effective for us to do in house, so we commissioned OCSI to develop and maintain a Crime Pack.”

The Crime data Pack includes Metropolitan Police data at Census Ward level, and provides a more detailed breakdown of forty two crime types (including drug offences, fraud, offensive weapon offences not covered in the Home Office crime statistics). Anti-Social Behaviour data is also provided at ward level, with monthly breakdowns by type of complaint. 

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