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Data Scientists at Britain’s largest defence, aerospace and security company, BAE Systems, have revealed details of a technology pilot aimed at supporting child protection agencies. The initial project, run in partnership with Gloucestershire Constabulary Police Force, was the brainchild of data analysts who saw an opportunity to improve the speed and accuracy for identifying potentially vulnerable children.
In a unique pilot, BAE Systems adapted technology normally used to protect and safeguard businesses against fraudulent activity, to quickly and accurately bring together data relating to an individual and reveal the full picture of a vulnerable child’s reported issues.
The trial has demonstrated how this technology could help reduce the number of cases of maltreatment towards children through early intervention. As well as creating a faster, more efficient process for identifying and sharing key indicators of potentially harmful situations, it also allowed child protection practitioners to delve into more incidents, in more detail and implement urgent care plans where needed.
The project analysed three years’ worth of historic data sets in just four hours, bringing together data from a variety of disparate agencies. The successful pilot achieved results ten times faster than under existing processes, solving the challenge of sharing data, linking it together, analysing it and identifying what required further investigation. As of July 2018, 61,500* children were listed on the child protection register or subject to a protection plan in the UK which highlights the scale of the challenge.
Ravi Gogna, Principal Consultant at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, said: “After the tragic case of Baby P, we identified the need to overcome the data problem and adapted our existing technology and data science techniques, which helps banks and insurers tackle fraud, to amalgamate key historic pieces of data across agencies. This provided child protection officers with access to a more in-depth and comprehensive data profile of each child in the quickest possible time.
“The challenge is that we are looking for red flag events – such as a child self-harming or coming into A&E with multiple broken bones. We have an opportunity to help improve the way the child protection system identifies risk, by bringing together all the information about a child and quickly giving a holistic view of what is happening.”
Kath Davis, Head of the Child Protection Unit, Gloucestershire Constabulary, said: “The pilot proves that, with increased information, we have a greater chance of intervening early and preventing catastrophic events from happening down the line. To work with people from a completely different sector shed a whole new light on things. Things that we thought were impossible, became possible.”
The UK’s current system makes use of Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASHs), which aim to provide a single point of contact for all safeguarding concerns regarding children and young people. MASHs bring together expert professionals from multiple agencies that have contact with young people and families, and make the best possible use of their combined knowledge to keep children safe from harm.
However, the NSPCC currently estimates that 1 in 10 children in the UK has suffered some form of abuse or neglect, and the figure continues to grow. With resources continually stretched due to the ever-rising number of cases of neglect in Britain, the current manual processes are becoming strained, with the potential to miss vulnerable children.
BAE Systems will be publicly presenting the results and overview of the project for the first time at New Scientist Live, on the 11 October in London’s ExCeL. To find out more visit the Technology stand at 15:45.
Learn more about the pilot

For further information, please contact:
Nick Haigh, BAE Systems
M: 07525 3909782
Rachael Gordon, BAE Systems
M: 07793 423682   
Notes to Editor
*NSPCC Child Protection Register Statistics
What has the pilot achieved?
  • This new approach is significantly faster than the existing process. The project took three years’ worth of disparate and historic data sets from each agency and analysed the data in just 4 hours.
  • Presented with a rich and complete analysis of the information, practitioners were then able to research cases by up to 10 X faster than under the existing process, leaving Child Protection Practitioners with time to actively implement change. 
  • The results not only discovered children previously identified as being at risk, but also highlighted additional risks that hadn’t previously been spotted as a result of the new analyses, identifying 2 instances where cases of vulnerable children had previously been missed and as a result had their care plan changed.
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