ICT improvement at Southwark
Serco works in close partnership with the authority to modernize and manage the ICT infrastructure that underpins all of Southwark's day-to-day operations. From Social Services, Housing and Finance systems to mobile working and web hosting, the systems we run touch the working lives of every council employee and all of the borough's 245,000 citizens. Serco's support for Southwark has achieved efficiency savings of 4% annually in terms of its service delivery. These efficiencies are key to enable the council to meet its targets set out in the government's Best Value and Gershon Reviews.
Progress across the last three years has been significant, with council workers and citizens already seeing visible improvements. The giant steps Southwark has taken towards its goal of being, "a modern authority, recognised as best in class that excels in customer care" were acknowledged when its Comprehensive Performance Assessment rating was upgraded to 'Good', a year ahead of plan. (Having been judged a 'Weak' performer at the start of our relationship, the council is now setting its sights on an 'Excellent' rating).
The interactive website (www.safersouthwark.org.uk) we developed in partnership with the authority to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour in the local community has been awarded Beacon status under a central government scheme to recognize excellence and innovation. The work of the Social Services Department, in particular, has been highlighted as an example of best practice by the Commission for Social Care Inspection. It awarded Southwark's social services three stars - the highest possible rating and one given to only 21 councils in the country.
Southwark's Social Services department consists of over 1,000 staff members who deal with more than 10,000 of the borough's most vulnerable citizens - the very young and very old - at any one time. Over the years, numerous specialised IT applications had been developed with the result that client and service provision information was spread over many disparate systems. This resulted in duplication and meant that the monitoring and improvement of business operations and associated spend was difficult and time-consuming. Furthermore, the existing IT systems did not support central government initiatives for integrated working with other agencies.
Southwark recognised they needed a single business system without sacrificing any features of the existing business applications. We reviewed business processes so that improved, standardized procedures could run alongside the
new system. We then planned and managed the introduction of a new support system based on modern industry-standard technologies that resulted in a sole social client record, accessible and maintainable by all relevant parties.
Early on, the Southwark Social Services team saw noticeable improvements in productivity as a result of streamlined business procedures and the automation of routine administrative tasks. There is no longer any need to enter the same data into multiple systems, which has saved time and reduced the risk of human error.
The resulting comprehensive information database - linking all information about clients and the services provided to them - means that accurate management reports and the statutory returns required by central government are just a few mouse clicks away. The system also links activity and finance data, giving the department a clear picture of total expenditure by client for the first time. Serco's partnership with the Council grows with the recent appointment of a two-year contract extension which will enable 24x7 support for Southwark staff in addition to existing IT services, to underpin the council's improvements to its frontline service levels to its citizens.