What is FamilyStory and how can it help transform the way local authorities approach technology for children’s social care?
Instead of processes and policies that dictate practice, or case management systems focused solely on collecting information, it’s time for us to think and work in a user-centred way. In a way that supports the people working hard to improve the lives of families and young people, so that we all help keep children safe.
With this motivation, we’ve created FamilyStory.
What is FamilyStory?
FamilyStory is an open platform of accessible tools, designed to meet the needs of social workers, partner agencies and families. Capable of integrating with other tools for greater choice and customisation, FamilyStory allows social workers and families to spend more time collaborating, building better relationships and supporting families to have agency and ownership of their story.
Following a discovery phase, research and designing and prototyping with social workers and families, we’re proud to share that FamilyStory has entered its alpha pilot phase.
Over an eight week period, we’ll be piloting FamilyStory with three social work teams from Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham boroughs. Twenty-two social workers, six team managers and a Head of Service will be using FamilyStory, alongside their existing case management systems, with as many families as possible.
We’ve built FamilyStory using the latest web technologies. It was important to create new tools that would allow social workers to use FamilyStory:
- in a secure manner when away from the office
- take notes and save them without the need to return to the office
- support a wide range of devices to share agendas and notes between social workers and families
- introduce new mediums for recording
We’ve ensured that FamilyStory is usable outside of the office by integrating offline functionality. This allows social workers to take notes without an internet connection and sync work seamlessly once back online. The platform also supports a wide range of devices so agendas and notes can be easily shared between workers and families, as well as comments and future plans.
FamilyStory provides the unique ability to record visits in a different way in the moment with families. Social workers and families will have the freedom to experiment with different mediums, to capture important moments and information in a way that is right for them. From photos and videos to audio recordings, their stories and conversations become more than written notes in a case study. They become shareable information between families and professionals, with the ability to add comments, increase transparency and open up dialogue.
Supporting this functionality on a Microsoft Azure platform allowed us to bring in authentication already in use by the three boroughs. It has allowed us to scale the use of FamilyStory to various teams across the three boroughs by using hosting and capabilities already in place.
Entering the pilot phase
The pilot marks the first time social workers will use FamilyStory with families in a live environment. Social workers will have the opportunity to trial the platform for an extended time, allowing us to gain valuable insight into how the tools are introduced and used in everyday practice.
FamilyStory inherently asks social workers to work in a very different way. Through the pilot, we’re looking to understand how this changes the dynamic of a visit. How do both social workers and family members find the experience and what impact does this have on their relationship? We expect the new, innovative ways of interacting with families to be both challenging and hopefully rewarding.
At the end of the pilot, the three boroughs will conduct an evaluation to understand if:
- FamilyStory helps strengthen the relationship between the family and social worker
- families have a better understanding of the work the social worker is doing with them
- FamilyStory has a positive impact on the quality of social work practice with families
- social workers are able to spend more time working directly with families and less time recording information
Our hope is that following the eight weeks of pilot, we’ll be ready to share indicators of positive signs towards these outcomes. We’re in the early days and thus far, all teams involved have been engaged and willing to give things a go. We’re exceedingly grateful for their enthusiasm and courage.
Beyond alpha, we’re thinking about how to scale FamilyStory to beta and live, to create the greatest impact for families and young people and ensure the ongoing sustainability of the platform.