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What needs to be shared (and not shared) when we share information?


This month, the University of Bradford School of Management hosted the second in a series of 12 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) seminars to address the urgent challenges posed by the sharing of personal information in public service delivery

Information sharing is a central concern across policy domains such as health, crime, education and employment. Disasters and tragedies have repeatedly been attributed to the failure of agencies to share information. Attempts have been made to fix the problem through a variety of legislative, policy and IT approaches, yet individuals and organisations still struggle to share and communicate information effectively. The Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing is trying new ways of supporting practitioners to share information well and is a partner in the seminar series, which is led by Professor Rob Wilson of Newcastle University.

The packed seminar entitled ‘Multi-agency, Multi-user, Multi-locale Working: Sharing Information for and about Families’ was organised by Dr Sue Richardson from the University of Bradford School of Management and Dr Sue Baines of Manchester Metropolitan University who together tailored the session to focus on multi-agency working delivering services not to a single individual but to a group of connected individual.

A speaker at the seminar was Newcastle University’s Professor Deborah Chambers, who said: “Not only did the event confirm the vital role of information sharing within a complex multi-agency regime of welfare provision in the UK, it also drew attention to pivotal issues about consent, ownership of information, the purpose of information and the differences in approaches to information sharing between agencies.

The seminar provided stark evidence that the lives of real families and real people are adversely affected when information sharing is uncoordinated, because it impedes the analysis that underpins the effective interventions required to improve those lives.

The seminar was not a 'how to' of information sharing; instead, it successfully brought together academics, practitioners and research students to discuss problems encountered, potential solutions and to share examples of good practice. Other speakers included Dr Kate Cook of Manchester Law School; James Cornford, University of East Anglia, Catherine O’Melia of Leeds Families First; Kate Karban of the University of Bradford and Paul Davidson of Sedgemoor District Council.

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