Helping non-expert and professional users understand a wide range of data for neighbourhood needs assessment
St. Helens Together is the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) for St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council. The LSP is a voluntary body that provides a forum where the needs of the local community can be highlighted and services designed accordingly. The LSP is currently focusing on five key themes: children and young people; communities and neighbourhoods; economic development and enterprise; healthier communities and older people and safer communities.
We spoke to Catherine Fletcher, Intelligence and Partnerships Manager, Policy and Partnerships, St. Helens Council, about the LSP’s information needs and how they are being met.
Catherine explains that the Local Area Agreement was a catalyst for sharing information between LSP partners and the next step was to gain a better understanding of neighbourhood needs. The partners therefore started looking at a way of presenting data that could work alongside the existing systems they had in place. “Our next step was geographical data presentation because we had got to the point where we were good at sharing information but we then needed to understand it,” says Catherine.
The LSP decided to use InstantAtlas and has now created an online and interactive resource called SHARE to provide key facts and figures about St. Helens. Catherine says the intention was to provide information on a wide range of topics viewed using tables, reports, graphs and maps.
The website was designed for non-experts and has an easy-to-navigate interface. However, users tend to be professionals and are primarily council officers and officers from other partnership agencies.
Meeting the need
A good example of how the website is being used as a shared platform is in the development of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA). Some priorities in the neighbourhood management programme have also been supported by the data presentation and statistics that are available on SHARE.
In addition, St Helens is one of the early implementer sites for Health and Wellbeing Boards and the platform is helping to develop links with local GP consortia. However, there hasn’t been a full public launch as yet.
“We have set up a stakeholder group to get feedback and the most common response we get is that the SHARE helps you get beyond the data. The site is easy to navigate and combined with our ‘narrative approach’ this makes us slightly different – we are much more story focussed, helping to develop a shared understanding of the challenges facing the borough,” says Catherine.
Catherine says SHARE presents plenty of opportunities for future development but they face the inevitable constraints regarding resources. “We would like to build on the performance function by building in extra capability around expenditure. For example we could help support our finance department by being able to link our data with unit costs. Having this information at our fingertips would mean we were able to make better decisions more quickly,” says Catherine.
“We would ultimately like to develop a central hub for information that helps us with our borough needs assessments and this would include sections on children and poverty - something that we are currently missing.”
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