How information sharing between government agencies will help missing children

Posted in Government, Information, Public safety; Posted 21 February 2017 by Neil Makepeace

I was delighted to see yesterday’s joint announcement by Queensland’s Premier and the Minister for Child Safety. Amidst a number of important points, the Premier announced $6 million “to upgrade IT systems to allow for faster information-sharing between agencies for missing children” in response to the When a Child is Missing report, which followed the death of Logan schoolgirl Tialeigh Palmer. 

In an area like child safety, everybody wants to do the right thing. 

The people involved – people like child safety and police officers - have to manage significant responsibilities and risks, and they know a mistake could cost the life of a child.  So they need all the help they can get to enable information to be shared quickly and accurately between agencies to enable a speedy and effective multiagency response.

This announcement reflects the need to ensure that information flows to those who need it to make potentially lifesaving decisions.  It indicates correctly that IT systems have an important part to play in enabling agencies to share information effectively when a child is missing. But the solution to this, as with any complex real-world problem, is multi-faceted.  IT alone can never create business or public value.

The solution to any interagency information sharing problem is layered. On top of the technology components, the other necessary elements include significant work around data formats and standards, procedures, policy, formal interagency agreements, and perhaps legislation (most likely interpretation, not change), and of course people and culture. 

We’ve found the secret to this is to clarify the rules, standardise the key processes and information, explain the benefits and, importantly, work closely with those involved at senior and not-so-senior levels. 

Thanks in part to the ABC’s Four Corners program, there is heightened public awareness of the awful plight of children in out-of-home care.  It’s a privilege to be able to contribute in this area, and to work with the many dedicated staff across government who are trying to improve the lives of Queensland’s most vulnerable children.

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