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Predicting what challenges the future holds

In 2016, Essex Partners launched the Essex Data programme in partnership with PredictX to use data to tackle some of its most challenging issues. Driven by an ambition to give children the best start in life we predicted 511 households in Basildon where children were most at risk of not being ‘school ready’ at age five. 

The Essex Data programme applies data science and analytics to predict what challenges the future may hold for people in Essex. Working with PredictX Essex Partners has created a way to safely share and analyse anonymous data about communities within Essex that will help to drive decisions about services. By generating predictive insight, public services such as Health, Police and Local Authorities are able to intervene early, allowing them to design and deliver services that help improve people’s lives. By targeting these services more accurately to the right people, they are able to reduce the demand and cost for public services.

Nicki Mallett, Manager of the Children’s Families Intelligence and Insights Team at Essex County Council supports the Essex Data programme.

“Using data to make evidence led decisions is really important to Essex Partners. Our ambition for the county is to make the best use of data across the whole system, in a joined up way, to help tackle some of our biggest challenges. For me this means not just using data to understand what has already happened and why, but using it to help us to plan, to predict and to prevent."

“One of Essex’s biggest challenges is a growing and ageing population. Currently we provide care services to around 6,500 children and about 17,000 older people. We are predicting what challenges lie ahead for our residents, and understanding how we can better target our services to prevent risk or deliver support.”

Giving children the best start in life

Essex County Council, Basildon Borough Council and Essex Police, with the support of the University of Essex, safely shared data through the Essex Data programme. This shared data was used to predict the communities in Basildon where children were most at risk of not being ‘school ready’.

‘School readiness’ describes a set of criteria that includes factors such as speech, language, social interaction, and toileting, and is used to determine if a child is able to get the best out of school when they start in reception at age five.

Existing data informed Essex Partners that, in 2013, around 50% of five year old children were not ready to attend school in Basildon. Ofsted reports that few children who start school already behind are able to catch up before they leave full time education at age 18.

“We found that social workers already knew which areas contained children not ready for school,” said PredictX Care and Health Director Alison Foster. “Using our technology we developed a model that discovered more areas at risk of not being school ready.”

Essex Partners combined data on Social Care, School Readiness, Youth Offending and Drugs and Alcohol from ECC together with Basildon District Council Housing and Benefits data plus Essex Police crime data. Personal information was replaced with codes so that individuals couldn't be identified. None of the shared information identified a specific person.

Vange, an area in Basildon, was identified as one of the high risk communities during the data analysis. One in four children are currently not school ready.

The predictive risk model generated new insight that neither public services nor the community itself were aware of. In particular it predicted that:

● An estimated 511 households are at risk of not being school ready across the pilot area.
● 280 of these are households not already known to public services
● Many of these households were in communities not previously considered as being at risk

Using school readiness as a measure enabled Essex Partners to gain more detailed information about children in Basildon who may need support in the future. Services can then be designed and delivered earlier to prevent issues from arising.

Future transformational projects

The Essex Data programme is also currently developing projects focusing on preventing escalating domestic abuse, addressing the issues of gangs, violence and vulnerability among young people and preventing the unnecessary use of A&E.

The insight from the first prototype on school readiness, together with community generated insight, is being used to reshape how Essex Partners delivers early year interventions in Basildon. The data was matched with the community’s experience and gave Essex Partners a full picture allowing them to be better equipped to make decisions to strengthen the services available in the area. These services are now able to give children the best start in life in Vange and in turn improve their longer term outcomes into adulthood- preventing service demand later on.

Essex Partners is delivering the Essex Data programme to support system wide transformation - creating an opportunity for public services across the county to safely share data and create valuable predictive insight. The data is regularly refreshed, providing a dynamic picture of the community. Alison Foster recognises additional opportunities to incorporate brand new technology like machine learning and AI. “If we use predictive analytics to be ahead of the curve, we will have better outcomes. This will have a positive impact on the health and well-being of people.”

Last updated 6 April 2018