The Data-Driven Way To Help Vulnerable People

Jim White

It’s a fact that’s impossible to deny or ignore: The UK’s public services are under constant pressure to do more with less.

An aging population, among other factors, is increasing the cost of social care to the point that a funding gap of £18 billion is expected by 2031. Meanwhile, budgets are in such a fragile state that social care services for vulnerable adults are on the verge of collapse. And in May this year, at Labour’s State of the Economy conference, Jeremy Corbyn warned that a ‘perfect storm of economic pressures’ – citing job insecurity, the housing crisis, rising debt, and falling living standards are all having a part to play and fuelling a mental health epidemic.

Most at risk in all of this are vulnerable people – i.e., those most likely to experience illness or isolation or be the victims of abuse or crime. The irony is that they’re also the very people that should be supported the most. It’s often a lack of early intervention that proliferates the problem here – like the legislation thought to be trapping vulnerable people into homelessness. The fact is that late intervention has a high cost attached to it (the UK spent £16.6 billion on this last year alone) and leads to poorer outcomes. This keeps the most vulnerable in the same position, with little chance of breaking out of the cycle.

From my experience at SAP, I know that delivery of care and prevention of crime can be improved by early intervention through technology. Which is why my team is pioneering a new data-driven approach to making it a reality.

Combining data and technology to create actionable intelligence

It’s often the case that money spent on health, social, and economic issues serves simply to keep relevant services afloat and doesn’t necessarily deal with the underlying problems or pave the way for change. The Institute for Government calls this a cycle of cash, crisis, and repeat.

But the data and technology is there to drive reform and improve lives – especially for the vulnerable – so why aren’t we using it? Actually, my team is doing exactly that, championing the creation of a data-driven government that’s capable of making real-time decisions and using actionable intelligence to guarantee better outcomes.

As I see it, it’s simply about accelerating the flow of information between public services to enable intervention at the right time. Every relevant recorded interaction that an individual has with any service should be connected in a secure manner. Obviously, technology is essential to achieving this – and it’s entirely possible. With automated data matching, predictive analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, this level of data sharing and collaboration can be achieved, empowering public service bodies to match people records and identify risks in real time.

Identifying risk, improving lives

It should be society’s mission to improve people’s lives and build a better future for everyone. That’s always the starting point, and we’re leading the way by engaging with public sector organizations to help make it happen – but we’re not done yet.

By using technology to identify risks and intervene sooner, the lives of vulnerable people can be improved. The cycle can be broken. And with the UK’s public services seemingly at a breaking point, it’s essential that we do so.

An integrated platform for vulnerable people can help the government to enforce data-driven reform once and for all, building an environment of shared data and multi-agency collaboration. Helping the government to reduce risk and be more cost-efficient, empowering public sector workers to do higher value work and help those most in need – and, above all, having a positive impact on our communities and society in general.

For more on how technology can improve lives, see Transforming Our World For The Better With Data.


Jim White

About Jim White

With over 25 years industry and consulting experience across Financial Services, Infrastructure and Public Sector, Jim sits within the SAP Innovation and Industry team for EMEA North with specific responsibility for Regional, Local and City Government. He has worked with National and Regional Government on major transformation and innovation programmes. These have included public sector reform within Local Authorities and multi-agency environments – a recent example was Digital Strategy for one of Scotland's new combined Community Health & Social care Partnerships. Jim is a proven Management Consultant and advisor to government. This has included strategic engagements within the UK and international work across the EMEA Region, enabling Public Sector organisations to use technology to deliver better outcomes.