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Think Family Database shows how joining up data can add value

10 September 2018

Bristol Health Partners has a strategic programme called ‘Using Data Better’. Part of the work promotes the use of data to improve health and care outcomes through research and service planning. The local Think Family Database shows how this can happen in practice.

Set up by Bristol City Council, the Think Family Database (TFD) pulls data from around 30 different public sector sources, creating a rich and diverse dataset covering the 54,000 families across the city of Bristol. It's used by front line workers who are supporting some of the city's most challenged families.

The council created it in response to the national Troubled Families programme, which aims to improve outcomes for families whilst reducing cost and demand on the public sector, through an effective early intervention strategy.

The data in TFD relates to a number of indicators in the following categories:

  • Parents and young people involved in crime or antisocial behaviour
  • Children who have not been attending school regularly
  • Children who need help
  • Adults out of work or at risk of financial exclusion, and young people at risk of worklessness
  • Families affected by domestic violence and abuse
  • Parents and children with a range of health problems

Collecting, processing and presenting data on these criteria allows a deeper understanding of the vulnerabilities facing the city's families, allows resources to be allocated more effectively, and enables predictive risk modelling to target support at those who need it most.

Data is pulled from different sources across the public sector, including Bristol City Council, Avon and Somerset Constabulary, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education. Having data from such a wide range of sources allows for a much richer and detailed picture of families for case workers, allowing them to intervene more effectively and so deliver better outcomes.

The data in the Think Family Database is updated regularly. Most datasets are refreshed weekly, though they are working towards daily updates. The data is processed and prepared before it is stored in the warehouse, so any messy or duplicate information can be removed or corrected before it goes in the database. This ensures they only report reliable and clean information to the database users.

Once the data is checked and ready for import to the database, algorithms create a ‘fuzzy match’ between new and existing records. This identifies any potential duplicates and matches them to existing entries. The imported data is instantly available for users.

The Think Family Database has had a significant impact on front line workers. Before TFD, they could only see a narrow picture of the issues affecting a family, and it was difficult to identify families that were at risk of needing costly and intensive interventions. The database has had positive feedback from users and statutory assessments, as well as national recognition from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. It has also been shortlisted for two major national awards.

Think Family Database shows how joining up data can add value
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