Burngreave Messenger

Issue 27 December 2002

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Tracking support for families

Carolyn Leary, Director of Sheffield Children’s Fund, replies to the article in last month’s Messenger on the Sheffield Identification, Referral and Tracking project (SHIRT).

This project has arisen out of concern for how children, young people and their families access support services in Sheffield to help them through crises and other difficult times. We are very aware of how difficult it is to raise a family when you are on a low income and how the opportunities for children differ widely across different areas of the city. We also have first hand feedback from families about how difficult it is to access the right support and advice at the right time.

The SHIRT project is being set up as one of six pilot projects across the country to see whether introducing more ‘joined up’ systems for sharing information can improve children and families’ access to the right support at the right time.

The project has several strands:

To support better joint working at a local level so that families’ needs can be met more quickly and more appropriately.

  • To get agreement across the city between health services, City Council and voluntary and community sector projects which children cause most concern and how their needs can be met.
  • To find out whether children actually benefit from this support.
  • To ensure parental consent in written into all stages of the system.
  • To set up an IT system that enables agencies to know which children are accessing which services.

A Project manager, Claire Bullement, has been recruited and the first stage is to be clear about which databases exist and whether they are capable of ‘talking’ to each other. During the next year, we will be holding a number of events to discuss with parents and community organisations their hopes and fears. One concern already identified is that information about a child may be transferred without the parents permission. This would not be legal, except for when the child was being put in a position of significant risk, but the project will have to ensure that consent forms are properly understood.

Already, more teams are being set up for workers in different agencies to work together and so this inevitably means sharing information about children and families. This project will be able to ensure that this is all done properly and with safeguards.

The project will continue to report regularly and welcomes thoughts from parents and young people. Contact:

Carolyn Leary, Sheffield Children’s Fund 0114 278 7200

Alan Marshall, Sheffield City Council Education Directorate 0114 273 6280