Have you ever thought about all the data that the council, the NHS, police and schools store about you and your family?

We call this Family Civic Data. Here’s a few examples:

Council housingMedical recordsNames & birthdatesMissing children reportsHealth visits
School attendanceChildcareLiving arrangementsDomestic violenceLibrary usage
Allergies & VaccinationsSocial worker visitsSports centre usageASBOsJob interviews
Criminal recordsChild supportBenefits being claimedYouth offencesRelationships

All the civic agencies you interact with each keep their own records, but sometimes they share your data with each other – for example the police may want to share information with social workers or your doctor may want to share medical information with your child’s school. At the moment, this is often done in lots of different ways – maybe a phone call, or an email. Across the country a number of projects are underway which are exploring the idea of joining these different systems together, to build new computer system that will allow social workers and officials to share family civic data more easily, but also more securely.

The hope is that this can really help North East families; if social workers and health visitors have access to a more complete picture of your family life, they can make better decisions. But any effort to consolidate all your family’s data in one place and share it between lots of different people might carry some downsides too, and families might raise questions like:

  • Why should councils and doctors have access to all this information about us?
  • What happens if our data is sensitive and gets into the wrong hands?
  • What would happen if you wanted to stop certain data about your family from being shared?
  • How could you find out what information is stored about you, or who has it?
  • How could you correct it if there is a mistake?

These are the sorts of questions we want to consider as part of this research project, which is which is funded by Research Council UK and conducted by Open Lab. We want to make sure that any new computer system is built in a family-friendly way, not just as a way to give civic agencies more power and control over your life. So we think it’s really important to talk to families like you to learn what you think about how your family’s data be is and should be shared. We want you to tell us what the a data sharing system should do to keep your family safe and so that it keep things running smoothly in your interactions with councils, doctors, schools or police, rather than creating new problems.

So this is your invitation to get involved!

If you volunteer, between May and August 2017, we’d like to meet up with you and your family between 1 and 3 times to talk about Family Civic Data. Each meeting will take 2 to 3 hours, and will take place either at your home (if you’ll have us!), or at Newcastle University or an appropriate public place. During these meetings, we’ll ask you and your family members to take part in a variety of ways, which might involve chatting about your family, your interactions with government agencies, and your opinions, sketching or writing down ideas, making videos or audio recordings, thinking up ideas together, or playing games that explore the topic of family civic data. These meetings will be fun, informal and easy to do.

Then, after we’ve talked to a few families, we’ll compile all the data (anonymously) and use it to help define the design for a family-friendly way of handling civic data, which could then be used by civic agencies to ensure that when they share family civic data, they keep the needs of families like you in mind.

We hope you’ll be interested in helping us. If your family takes part, we will give you a voucher worth £50 for a family day out at a local attraction of your choice.

If you’d like to sign up, please fill in our sign up form. If you have any questions, please check out our frequently asked questions (FAQ), or email our primary researcher Alex Bowyer on a.bowyer2@newcastle.ac.uk.