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Using technology to support partnership working with children and families

Ida Cohen, Senior Consultant Social Worker, Liquidlogic

Listening to the voice of the child’, ‘involving service users’ and ‘co-production’, are phrases used typically to describe how children’s services should engage with children and families to ensure they are listened to, and that their contributions are routinely considered as part of a partnership approach for assessments and intervention.

In its Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) report published in June 20211 , Ofsted cites: “There were some more positive findings in some of the areas we revisited, where parents and carers had been given meaningful involvement in planning and decision-making. The role of the parent-carer forum featured prominently in the most successful areas. In these, leaders had understood that co-production meant working with families as equal partners.”

Portal technology can help forge collaboration for local authorities which ‘require improvement’. In this article I focus on the areas of SEND and children’s social care to demonstrate how portals can make a positive contribution to partnership working with children and families.

A tried-and-tested solution

Without always knowing it, many people experience portals while using internet-based services. When I need to pay someone, I log into my bank’s portal to complete the payment and can check my balance and make transfers at the same time. During a recent claim on my car insurance, I had to use a portal to upload and sign off documents and communicate with the insurance company via a messaging service. Usage is widespread and portals have become a tried-and-tested tool to deliver effective services

Portal technology has started to transform the Liquidlogic electronic case management system so that it can now be used to engage with children, families and carers.

Whilst the case management system itself is used by the workforce, every child, parent, and carer can have access to their own portal account. Their portal account is not just a way of accessing information that is being shared with them by their worker. It is also where they can collaborate on forms, respond to surveys or consultation documents, and send messages to their workers and see a full library of documents that before would have been emailed or posted; keeping all their data secure.

The user experience is illustrated from the perspective of a parent and a care-experienced young person in the following case studies.

NB: these are not real case examples.

Scenario 1 Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs): a parent’s portal experience

“My name is Elly, I am Carl’s mum. Carl is 10 years old and has autism. Carl has lots of difficulties both at home and at school. He goes to our local primary school.

His head teacher has referred Carl to the council for an Education, Health and Care Assessment as he thinks Carl needs more help than the school is currently able to provide. I agree as he cannot participate in some activities at all as his behaviour becomes unmanageable.

The school said that he either needs to have more in-class support or he may need to move to a special school. When he can’t be at school, I have him at home and must juggle things between Carl and his sisters and end up getting into trouble with their schools as I’m often late getting them to school in the morning

I was contacted by someone called Steve Astbury recently. He explained that he works in the SEND team and would work with me and other professionals who know Carl, to assess his educational needs.

He said it was important that I have an opportunity to contribute my views as I know what the day-to-day experience of caring for Carl is like and express what I would want to see happen for Carl going forward.

Steve sent me an email with a link to participate in the assessment process and communicate with him through what he called a portal account. When I got the email, I clicked on the link, created a simple username and password and then I got a notification that my account was activated.

Once logged in, I could see Steve’s details and Carl’s school and social worker details. I could see the school’s referral for Carl as Steve had published it for me to read. I also saw Steve had posted a message for me to let him know when I have logged in by responding to his welcome message, which I did.

I could also see that I am only at the first stage of the EHCP process and there are other stages to follow which Steve explained. I know where I am in the process and can check back for progress updates.

Since then, we have continued to communicate via the portal. Steve has visited again and has been progressing Carl’s assessment. Yesterday, he posted the latest version to me and asked me to complete my section of the assessment. He said he would call me tomorrow so we can discuss it beforehand, in case I have any queries. It was quite simple really, just like an online survey.

Steve called today to discuss my contribution to Carl’s assessment. I said that Carl had made a drawing over the weekend about school which shows he really does love going there. Steve said I could send it over via the portal as it allows me to upload any documents I want to send with my response. I have now submitted everything and he said when it’s finished, he will publish the final version that goes to a panel so that I can read it."

Scenario 2 My Pathway Review: a young person’s portal experience

“My name is Emily Atkins. I still live with Amy, my former foster carer, when I am not at university in Manchester.

I have a social worker in the leaving care team called Ruby. I don’t see her that often, but we sometimes have Teams calls or we might meet up when I am back in London. Yesterday, I got an email with a portal alert to log in.

When I logged in, I read a message from Ruby to tell me that my Pathway Review meeting was coming up, I replied asking for this to be held at Amy’s house when I am back in four weeks.

Today I completed my Pathway Review report in preparation for the meeting. It is like filling in an online questionnaire. I get a chance to write about my progress and last year they introduced scores, which I like as I can compare my previous score and see how I think I am progressing.

The questions are about whether I am healthy, how my studies are going, and how my budgeting is going. Then there is a section I can use to say what I would like to discuss at the meeting. There is also a section which I can use if I want to say I am not happy about something, and it explains how I can make a complaint too.

I have told them that I think I am doing much better in my studies now and I have a bigger group of friends at university, but I am struggling financially and would like to discuss this at my review.

Before I logged out, I spotted that my address on the system is still at Amy’s and my university address is not included. I sent a message to Ruby to explain and hopefully she will sort that out.

Having the portal account has been really good, especially at university as it means all my information is with me through my login. I can access it on my phone, tablet or laptop at any time and message Ruby easily through the system.

I don’t need to have any papers around for anyone to accidentally stumble across and documents are no longer sent through the post, so Amy doesn’t need to forward anything or if I am home things don’t end up sitting unopened in Manchester either. I feel much better knowing that my information is safer and secure.”

Consolidated information across services

Information gathered via portal collaboration for a person receiving services is reused, where required, for other services that may be needed. This means the person does not have to provide their personal data repeatedly to the local authority when they need other forms of support, such as early years portage service, free school meals, post-16 college placements or sensory support. The person has one central record on the case management system which is accessed and kept up to date by all professionals in children and family services. This enables professionals working with families to provide the best possible service with the best possible outcomes because everyone has a full picture of the family’s circumstances and needs.

Find out more about Liquidlogic’s Portal solutions or email

1 SEND: old issues, new issues, next steps - GOV.UK (


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“Information gathered via portal collaboration for a person receiving services is reused, where required, for other services that may be needed. This means the person does not have to provide their personal data repeatedly to the local authority when they need other forms of support, such as early years portage service, free school meals, post-16 college placements or sensory support.”