A report examining the UK’s August 2011 riots has highlighted that government agencies should be sharing data on 500,000 “forgotten families” in order to identify risks in the community before they become an acute problem. 

The Riots Communities and Victims Panel was established in the aftermath of the riots to understand why the situation unfolded how it did, and has published its final “After the Riots” report today. 

“All families facing multiple difficulties should be supported by public services working together, not in isolation,” reads the report. 

“This will require joining up help for the 500,000 forgotten families. What support is provided is directed at individuals. State agencies don’t tell each other what they know or what they’re doing, wasting time and money.” 

Identifying risks in the community early on is cited as essential by the Panel, but it recognises that in any local area there are multiple databases, owned by a variety of agencies, that contain information on individuals, which are not being shared. 

It highlights schools, further education colleges, housing providers and health services as the worst offenders for not connecting with other agencies. 

“The outcome is that issues are not identified until they become acute – when the damage has already been done – making them considerably more difficult and expensive to address,” the report says. 

Barriers to sharing data are not due to legislation, according to the Panel, but are rather due to the culture of many organisations. It believes that the government needs to ensure that data sharing becomes “the norm rather than the exception”. 

The report calls for the government to commit to redefining expectations of public bodies to share data and work directly with any area that wishes to put in place quality systems to improve the way it handles and shares data. 

“Despite calls over many years, existing advice on best practice for data sharing is still not being followed,” reads the report. 

“The Panel recommends that government immediately produce statutory guidance to public services. This guidance should create a presumption to share data around the early warning signs of criminal behaviour or child protection concerns.” 

Computerworld UK contacted the Department for Communities and Local Government to establish whether government would take on the recommendations outlined in the report, but no response was given at the time of publication.