visualize | communicate | ENGAGE
Carpet of Bluebells - Hertfordshire, England
Hertfordshire is located just to the north of London and stands astride the key road and rail routes between London and the major cities of the Midlands and North. It also borders the counties of Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex. It has a population of just over 1 million. Hertfordshire County Council is committed to publishing its data to demonstrate transparency in operations and to allow access to information free of charge.
The council encourages greater use of data so that citizens are able to challenge and scrutinise what the council does. Much of this data is being made available through the Hertfordshire Local Information System (www.HertsLIS.org). Content includes economic statistics, community safety, socio-economic data, public health and area profiles, and demographic data. HertsLIS was developed by Community Information and Intelligence Unit (CIIU) which is managed by Bernard Thirkettle.
Bernard says one of the unit’s aims is to make community related data available in a format that is easily accessible and understandable on a “self-service” basis where possible.
InstantAtlas plays a key role in this.
The impetus for using Instant Atlas for data reporting and presentation came from a specific project to provide socio-demographic and early years education profiles for children in each of the county’s 87 Children’s Centres. The Children Centre profiles required the manipulation of over 50 data sets and to begin with the council employed four staff with specialist mapping skills to develop the profiles.
However, the council recognised this approach was not sustainable and moved to providing the data in spreadsheet format. “This missed the presentational element and we realised we needed another approach,” says Bernard. “We had come across InstantAtlas at a conference we attended and decided to try it out. We soon discovered it could do what we wanted.”
Meeting the need
The maintenance of profiles is looked after by one individual and Bernard says it has been a positive experience. “Centre managers have a difficult job understanding their local patch, Instant Atlas dynamic maps help them manipulate and assimilate the huge amount of data we make available to them,” he says.
“Children’s Centres are now subject to OFSTED inspections focused on a number of outcomes and inspectors want to see the evidence for service planning decisions made by Centre Managers. In addition to the dynamic maps, Instant Atlas also allows us to generate ‘Profiles’ in the form of narrative analysis and we have created customised OFSTED reports available at the touch of a button. Profiles are becoming increasingly popular because they enable managers to copy and paste the analysis into strategy documents.”
“The feedback from users has been very positive especially from partner organisations. We provide crime and anti-social behaviour data for the 10 district based Community Safety Partnerships (CSP) who are impressed with what we have developed using InstantAtlas. Not only are we providing monthly updates we also provide annual strategic assessments which include several years’ worth of data so we are adding value all the time, and as a result the police force is now adopting it. The new Police Reform Bill poses interesting challenges and we believe our work with Instant Atlas will play an important role,” says Bernard.
The Community Information and Intelligence Unit is data rich because it is outward focussed – taking in a broad view which includes health, the economy, community safety and population. So having a tool that presents data in a way that can be manipulated by the end user is almost akin to a ‘self-service’ approach which Bernard believes helps the Unit to “punch above its weight”.
“It has become core business for us and an important tool in delivering information and intelligence.”
Bernard sees an increasingly important role for Instant Atlas into the future. “We have used Instant Atlas to deliver the intelligence service for our Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA), an analysis of current and future health and social care needs in Hertfordshire. The intelligence is used by commissioners to plan services covering everything from meals on wheels to reducing teenage pregnancy rates.”
The new Health and Social Care Bill places additional demands on the JSNA which will inform the Health and Wellbeing Strategy and work of the Board. “We will be working much more closely with commissioners and other public health professionals on the ground so we can extract their insight and knowledge and include it in our intelligence base,” says Bernard.
“The results of the 2011 Census will be published in the next few months and Instant Atlas will be our preferred method of delivering the results to both staff and the public.”
Another specific example of how this intelligence can be leveraged using Instant Atlas is the work the council is doing with the Government’s latest “Troubled Families” initiative. Information on school attendance, criminality, health and other socio-economic indicators will help professionals identify these families and improve their future outcomes through multi-agency support.
JSNA Deprivation Module Dynamic Report LSOA HTML5
Guest blogging posts from the Hertfordshire team
Hertfordshire’s Profiling approach. Three years on, how did we get here?
We chose InstantAtlas as a solution to delivering data to our Children’s Centres who, dispersed around Hertfordshire, are constantly being inspected by Ofsted and require performance data with little or no notice. The sheer volume of Children’s Centres (currently 82) and their data requirements meant that InstantAtlas was the ideal alternative to delivering them on-the-fly, with no concern about them being out of date, which PDF’s could not offer. The PDF’s also required huge manual effort...
Hertfordshire’s Profiling Approach. We’re here! (Part 2 of a series)
In our last article, we introduced you to our approach of using Profiling as our core data delivery tool, its reception and usage by our users. In this installment we share what it takes to keep our 700+ datasets in shape, the projects we are working on and the team behind it all.
Instant Atlas is at the core of our Team. Due to various service rationalisations, we have been gathered centrally with approximately half the team still funded and working for those services, making them subject ‘specialists’…