Implementing an FOI solution on SharePoint


Freedom of Information is recognized as a human right by may countries in the world. It has been implemented in various forms, the Right to information (RTI) in India, The Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act) in UK and USA being examples.
All these have a basic tenets of asking for and being able to receive information about public bodies and organizations working in the public domain. Freedom of Information also considers another basic human right, the right to privacy.
SharePoint can be leveraged to build a request-response system that has the features below
1. Allows users to search for information
2. Has a request system where users can raise a query.
3. Routes the query to the right department / responsible person in the organization.
4. Allows the department / responsible people to create a document with the response or required information.
5. Provide ability to have reviews on the document
6. Publish the document with notification to the requestor.
7. Manage security on documents where access needs to be restricted due to Data Protection regulations.
8. Track requests and manage them within SLAs

Need help with FOI, RTI, other compliance requirements or information management in general? Acuvate Software can help.

Using SharePoint for Safeguarding Children


Every Child Matters

In 2003 the Blair government came up with a green paper with this title following the Lord Laming inquiry. The paper proposed a series of steps nationally, regionally and locally within communities for making the lives of the children better. A lot has been said and done since and every county, every borough and every parish in the country has taken steps towards safeguarding children. However, there is still a scope for improvement and it is still a priority for all of us.

In its new approach to safeguarding our children, the government decided to put Supporting Parents and Carers at the heart.

Key challenges:

  • Integration with the many parents and carers
  • Ensuring they have the right information available at the right time.

One  of the key areas that were highlighted by the Lord Laming enquiry was weak accountability and poor integration among the various departments and groups that work for Safeguarding children.  The answer – Director of Children’s Services, a single authority for safeguarding children and improving their lives in each council area and a Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB). The LSCBs have been doing good work at educating people on how to identify children at risk and caring for them. They have been conducting various activities and coordinating with various departments. In her report Professor Munro highlighted the crucial role of LSCBs in fostering multi agency partnership.

Key challenges:

  • Once again, integration of the various professionals and organisations
  • Ensuring they all have the right information available at the right time.

The government also decided to improve the workforce.

We should ensure we enable these dedicated and passionate people with the right tools and technology. At the same time in todays time of austerity, we should ensure we make the most of our existing investments in technology.

Public sites like www.safenetwork.org.uk (interestingly built on SharePoint) provide information and resources including trainings for parents, carers and other people involved in the LSCBs

SharePoint is not new to the local bodies. There are numerous councils at the county and borough levels that use SharePoint already.  SharePoint is quite popular with the council websites and I hear with their intranets too.

SharePoint is a powerful platform for collaboration. The different agencies in the council area, the police the self help community groups, the charities and the local authority itself can all come together on a common platform that is available to all of them securely from every where.  It can also be the one place for the LSCBs to collate and coordinate their efforts towards safeguarding children.

  1. Effective 15 April 2013, there is a revised safeguarding statutory guidance for  working together. The Working Together guidance is now less prescriptive and allows LSCBs to be more flexible. It also mandates that documents on lessons learnt and other knowledge be made suitable for public consumption. The new process of the SCRs, managing knowledge and working together can happen better with SharePoint.
  2. Councils can build Extranet sites for agencies working on safeguarding children to collaborate. These portals can bring data from various systems using Business Connectivity Services, webservices, other integration options to create a single profile for each child .
  3. Often children at risk are identified as a result of multiple observations. SharePoint can be used a single platform for keeping these observations. The platform can also be used to log and track cases of concern and take remedial measures.
  4. The information collected can be used for analyzing trends. Metrics gathered from the system can be used to focus on areas that need the most help.
  5. Joint initiatives (projects) can be managed using the Project Management features of SharePoint. These features have significantly improved in the current version as explained here

SharePoint is a robust collaboration platform that can be leveraged in multiple ways to empower the people working to safeguard our children. It is a platform that many councils have already invested in. Using SharePoint for Safeguarding Children can benefit us in more ways than one.