Freedom of information response

Xantura / Children’s Predictive Safeguarding Model

Publication date: 
Tuesday 2 June 2020
Request: 
  1. We would like to know who is to be subjected to this gathering of personal information?  Is it targeted people or the whole population of the borough?  What are the exact categories being created? Is it segregating and marking the population according to certain categories which have not been publicly agreed or even disclosed?
  2. Are those whose information is being kept aware that they are the subject of these algorithms?  Have they been consulted?  Has the rest of population? 
  3. Who is to check that the information is accurate?  Who is to have access to it?  Will all professional bodies and institutions, including the police, be able to access it?  Can companies and politicians access it?  What are the implications for data protection? 
  4. What is the purpose of this automated “tool”?  Is it aimed at keeping children with their families, or at fast tracking the taking of children into care and/or finding candidates for forced adoptions? 
  5. Can it be used as evidence in law courts? 
  6. Will it enable the reduction in the number of social workers and other child protection staff being employed? 
  7. We understand that this programme is being developed by a private company.  How much money is the Council paying the company it has contracted to do this?
  8. How much money is this local authority expected to make on selling this programme to other local authorities?  It has been reported that local authorities will benefit from the government payments-by-results scheme according to how many families they “enlist”: what does this mean?  What are families enlisted for?  Are the families aware of this?
  9. Can you say what your local authority actually spends on support for children and families to prevent children going into “care” (Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act) as opposed to what it spends taking and keeping children in “care” (which is supposed to be a last option), including institutional care, foster care, special guardianship and adoption procedures in the years 2015-16 and 2017-18?
Response: 

1. The information is gathered from a range of systems that the Council already have access to in its day to day delivery of various services to the residents of Thurrock. There are no categories created and no segregation or marking of population according to categories. The platform only shares data about vulnerable people if they are showing signs of distress and where there is already an agency / professional working with family. The system does not make any decisions about subsequent interventions or services; these decisions should be and are always made by professionals / case workers.

2.

a. Our information Governance / fair processing of data details have been publicised throughout the programme on our web site: https://www.thurrock.gov.uk/information-about-you/fair-processing

b. Data is collected on the basis that:

  • Data is only used if consent is provided or there is a legal gateway for its use
  • The capability is designed to be positive in nature; data is used only for positive outcomes, and there will no negative impact on any resident’s life
  • Individuals are only flagged where a risk threshold has been crossed due to a change in life circumstances
  • Individuals are only flagged if they are already in contact with / utilising local authority services
  • Data is pseudonymised within the process.

3.

a. As with any system – accurate output is based on the accuracy of the information input. The information is input by service professionals into their “business as usual” systems that they use as part of their day-to-day service delivery mechanisms and is no less accurate than if the analytical system was not in place. Based on certain risk thresholds being reached/exceeded, the output of the analytical risk modelling system is provided to service professionals should they require it and allows them to carry out further professional evaluations based on higher priority case requirements.

b. Currently no other professional bodies or institutions have access to the output – even though they may contribute to the input.

c. Companies and politicians cannot access it.

d. Data Protection Act compliance has been maintained throughout the process.

4. The ‘tool’ is not used by Children’s services for those parts of their operation.

5. No. There is nothing tangible as an output that can be used in a court of law. It merely identifies priority early interventions based on risk.

6. It is not intended to enable a reduction in the number of staff being employed in social care. As per the answer to question 4, children’s social care do not use this tool.

7. This programme is being developed in partnership with a private company – it is not solely being developed without any input from the Council. Therefore in issuing our response the Council has applied S43 of the Freedom of Information Act. Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it). A commercial interest relates to a person’s ability to successfully participate in a commercial activity, i.e. the purchase and the sale of goods or services.

Section 43 (2):

Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it).

Definition: A commercial interest relates to a person’s ability to successfully participate in a commercial activity, i.e. the purchase and the sale of goods or services.

The Council are of the view that the release of the information in scope of your request would prejudice its own commercial interests and the commercial interests of the other parties involved. The reasons for this have been captured below under the public interest test section.

Public interest in disclosure:

It would inform the public of the activities carried out on their behalf and to scrutinise public monies spent

Public interest to maintain the exemption:

  • The council and Xantura should be able to compete fairly on a level playing field. If the details of the price paid to Xantura is made publicly available then this would put them and the council at a commercial disadvantage when future contracts are pursued.
  • Releasing commercially sensitive information about our contract with Xantura will hinder the ongoing working relationship between the 2 organisations.

8.

9.

  2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
  £m £m £m
Children's social care - Children Looked After 21.002 23.236 23.642
Children's social care - Children's and families services 12.452 10.946 12.982
  33.454 34.182 36.624

You are free to use any information supplied to you for your own use, including non-commercial research purposes. However, any other type of re-use, for example, by publishing the information or issuing copies to the public will require the permission of the copyright owner.

Where the copyright is owned by Thurrock Council, you must apply to the Council to re-use the information. Please email information.matters@thurrock.gov.uk if you wish to re-use the information you have been supplied. For information where the copyright is owned by another person or organisation, you must apply to the copyright owner to obtain their permission.

  • There is no intention of selling this programme on to other Councils by the Local Authority.
  • The platform is used to help ensure that any families entered on to the Government’s Troubled Families scheme meet all the relevant criteria to ensure the Authority does not put forward incorrect submissions. Further details of the programme is available here: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7585/
Request reference:
FOI 9988