In 2016, Essex Partners launched the Essex Data programme, in partnership with PredictX, to use data to tackle some of their most challenging issues. Driven by an ambition to give children the best start in life and, in turn, improve their life chances – we predicted 511 households in Basildon where children, aged five, were most at risk of not being ‘school ready’. 280 of those households were previously unknown to public services working within Essex.

The Essex Data Programme

The Essex Data programme applies data science and predictive analytics drawn from organisations in the public sector to predict what challenges the future may hold for people. Too often issues are managed only when crisis occurs. In 2016 and 2017, public services in the UK spent more than £16 billion on ‘late intervention’ services such as education, health, housing, benefits, community safety and criminal justice.

The Essex Data programme focuses on safely sharing and analysing anonymous data about communities to drive decisions. 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 public service demand and cost.

Nicki Mallett, Data and Analytics Intelligence Manager at Essex County Council supports the Essex Partners’ Essex Data Programme:

“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 interested in predicting what challenges lie ahead for our residents, and understanding how we can better target our services to prevent risk or deliver support.”

“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."

Nicki Mallett, Data and Analytics Intelligence Manager, Essex County Council

The school readiness programme

Recognising the opportunity to analyse anonymous data they hold about communities and use it to drive decisions, Essex County Council, Basildon Borough Council, Essex Police and 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 which discovered many 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.

The model predicted:511 households are at risk across the pilot area.280 of these households were previously unknown to the services.Many of these households were in communities not previously considered as being at risk.

Essex Data Programme

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.

Next steps

The Essex Data programme is also currently developing projects focusing on school readiness, 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. This allowed 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.”