Jon Betts is the lead for public sector at Trilateral Research and has been developing the CESIUM application within Trilateral’s STRIAD cloud platform from concept stage through to production and delivery phases as the Project Manager. In this interview, we discuss the challenges that CESIUM solution will tackle and its impact as a game-changer in partnership working.
What was the genesis of the idea to create CESIUM solution?
Whilst working in the technology arena as an adviser to the Home Office towards the end of my Police Service it became apparent to me that the biggest impact technology might have on the efficiency of policing and subsequent improvement in public safety was apply it in order to make better use of the high volumes of data to improve understanding of risk and decision making.
Such data is already held by policing and child safeguarding partners but is not well connected, often siloed and not easily shared or assessed.
After a year or so of concept development working within Trilateral, along with Lincolnshire Police and NWG we secured government-backed funding to create CESIUM, a solution to automatically identify vulnerabilities and risks posed to children in an automated and pragmatic way.
What are the top challenges in Child Exploitation which CESIUM will look to resolve?
My challenge to the technology development team was to “Uncover what remains currently hidden in the data to offer child safeguarding professionals information for early and harm reduction interventions, and provide them with better, more informed and timely insights about the children they already know about so that they might optimise their actions”
Anyone that operates in child safeguarding and community safety knows of the challenges to resource sufficient research and analytical capability to support safeguarding professional to address the burgeoning challenges of Child Sexual Exploitation, Child Criminal Exploitation and County Lines.
These challenges in research and analytical capability inhibit early intervention and harm reduction approaches and tend to result in a reactive post harm response.
What does CESIUM offer police and partner agencies in their fight against Child Exploitation?
CESIUM provides a 24/7 ‘Always on’ capability to dive into police and partnership information.
It analyses information across the entire child cohort of an area or district, to provide an understanding of risks and vulnerabilities often hidden and not linked in existing data.
In this way we target and support professional analysis and highlight information which might give rise to concern.
CESIUM offers the opportunities for safeguarding professionals to securely combine their data across a local safeguarding partnership to change their existing operational paradigm of approach from reacting and responding post harm event to preventing and protecting pre harm event.
Timely and appropriate information sharing or more accurately the lack of it is normally the single most repetitive concern from previous Serious Case Reviews / Child Safeguarding Review. It’s high time we responded to this and in CESIUM we have the opportunity of filling the gap and enabling better information sharing and safeguarding processes following The Wood Review and support the implementation of policy and direction from government ‘Working together to safeguard children’.
Of course, CESIUM supports investigations where harm is already occurring, as it identifies key investigation opportunities through features such as its automated network analysis and the automated nominal event timeline as well as geospatial mapping and temporal event analysis concerning all manner of events ranging from missing from home incidents, to police contact and child social care referrals. The list of insights only limited to the ambition of organisations to share data.
How does CESIUM support information sharing?
In addition to providing 24/7 insights, CESIUM is very simple to engage with and can offer a shared partnership operating space for Safeguarding professionals to organise themselves in the prioritisation of cases that should form a multi or single agency response, these decisions often made within the commonly termed Multi-Agency Child Exploitation (MACE) process.
In this way, agencies can share information freely and have confidence that appropriate information has been captured and considered, reducing the reliance upon human memory and analogue processes.
The assessment process time can be significantly reduced in terms of human effort and overtime cases and related actions will be able to be monitored for good governance purposes through a case management function.
CESIUM can build in safeguards in respect of what data is visible to any given partner at any given time but be assured nevertheless that it has been used in the assessment process. This acknowledges that different partnerships are at different places with their data sharing arrangements and ensures human interventions for detailed data release depending upon local arrangements. A gamechanger in partnership working!
One of CESIUM’s core principles is to inform not replace the professional judgement of safeguarding professionals and agencies. How do you see the relationship of algorithms developed for policing/partnership purpose and the application of professional judgement?
We have considered this long and hard and taken into account user feedback from the many engagements we have had with safeguarding professionals across the UK.
The key issue here for us is making sure that professionals are made aware of emerging and existing risks and then are supported in their decision making, from easy reference to the data. We have designed our algorithms not only through academic research but equally through working closely with operational safeguarding professionals.
This isn’t a case of a binary “Computer says Yes/No , Act or Don’t Act !”. Instead, CESIUM draws inferences from events to present a picture of potential risk and vulnerability from which the professional then takes the lead in the final assessment and determining actions.
Whilst the key for us is supporting contextual safeguarding, CESIUM can work alongside other familiar tools such as existing risk matrices and vulnerability trackers which help organisations in their management of CE, and by doing so add value by comparing outputs through the identification of gaps and disparities which decision-makers should be aware of. We can offer to any adopter of CESIUM the integration of existing processes in risk identification to augment their insights on a case by case needs basis.
What do you consider the main innovation of CESIUM?
For me there are three ‘silver bullets’ which the CESIUM application offers:
- Firstly, any solution that can overcome the sensitivities of child safeguarding partnerships in respect of what data to share and how to share it in order to make better assessments as to risk and vulnerabilities takes the whole safeguarding agenda forward to a new level. CESIUM will become a catalyst for more joined-up approaches and improved partnership working.
- Secondly, CESIUM offers a 24/7 always-on, and automated research and analysis capability washing across the entirety of partnership data providing vulnerability and risk insights across the entire child cohort held within the data. This is a complete game-changer in terms of creating opportunities to protect children from harm.
- Thirdly, CESIUM will bring the best that cutting edge machine learning technology can offer and deliver its outputs so as to seamlessly support the safeguarding professional to protect more children from harm. Perhaps more a golden nugget than a silver bullet in this case!
How has the project gone so far?
Owing to the unwavering and insightful support of Lincolnshire Police and NWG our partners along with the expertise all colleagues have brought forward, the project has gone very well. The project is providing an alpha solution that is now ready for operational implementation.
I have been delighted by the interest of the wider user base within the UK who have engaged to a high degree offering guidance. Soon, we will have briefed and sought feedback from approximately 50% of all UK Home Office Policing areas to enhance the development process and in February 2021 we will be hosting a free Webinar to demonstrate CESIUM and its alignment to wider national safeguarding and policing priorities so keep an eye out for our invitation!
What does success look like for the CESIUM product and aspirations for the future?
Safeguarding children from harm is our measure of success and has been the focus of all our work from day one.
During 2021 we will be looking to secure early adopter organisations from Policing and Safeguarding Partnerships across the UK.
Moving forward, as a cloud-based application, my long-term ambition is to enable safeguarding partnerships to share insights derived through CESIUM across the country to regional boundaries and eventually to upscale to national level. The benefits to be realised, particularly in respect of issues such as County Lines, are obvious and achievable.
CESIUM has had the scalability to achieve this and my sincere hope is that leaders in safeguarding across the UK share my ambition to do so, starting one area at a time.
On a personal level, the success of the solution will allow me to look back over my lifetime career in law enforcement & community safety in the knowledge that along with skilled colleagues I was able to help create in CESIUM a legacy through which children may be protected from harm for years to come. That’s a great feeling!