British local authorities adopt predictive analytics to identify need for child services

In 2018, at least five British local authorities began developing systems intended to use predictive analytics to identify families needing attention from child services on the basis that algorithmic profiling could help them target their scarce resources more efficiently. Data about at least 377,000 people were incorporated into predictive systems managed by a variety of private companies: Xantura (used by Hackney and Thurrock) or by systems they developed internally (Newham and Bristol). IBM (Brent) was developing a system intended to predict vulnerability to gang exploitation. Overall, the data collected included detailed records from schools, housing associations, and police. Brent's system also incorporated data from social care and gang area intelligence; Brent also suggested it would be able to generate income by selling the system to other councils once it had been fully tested. A pilot project intended to improve school readiness at Essex county council incorporated pseudonymised data including housing and benefits, social care, youth offending, police, and crime. The protocols specifying how information could be shared barred individuals from requesting their own information under the Data Protection Act on the basis that because it had been pseudonymised the data was no longer personal.

Writer: Niamh McIntyre and David Pegg
Publication: Guardian