United Kingdom
Type of client
Local government
3 years
Staffordshire Council
Design support


The tragic death of ‘Baby P’ in August 2007 caused shockwaves through local government and the care profession in the UK. The 17-month-old Peter Connelly had died after suffering a series of injuries inflicted by his parents over eight months, during which time was seen repeatedly by children’s services and health professionals.

Part of the problem is that although in theory the group of professionals supporting a vulnerable child are aware of each other’s involvement and able to share concerns – as a series of care scandals have shown, often this isn’t the case.

Communication between these care agencies is surprisingly difficult, most agencies use case management systems which hold information too detailed and sensitive to share widely, creating gaps in knowledge. Each organisation has its own way of working and practitioners often find it difficult to refer their client to the right person to help.

Dominic Campbell, founder of design agency FutureGov, felt this was an area where social networking technology could make a difference. Networks like Facebook and LinkedIn had already made a huge impact on the way we communicate with friends and colleagues – but the potential of the social web to improve public services was largely untapped. FutureGov brought together a multi-disciplinary group that included children’s and social services, teachers, police, health workers, technologists, designers and funders to discuss what could be done.

Sat watching the case of Baby P unfold on television, I was left feeling hugely saddened, frustrated and powerless to help. It got me thinking where I might be able to provide some support, specifically how we might be able to draw on social technologies to contribute to safeguarding children.

Dominic Campbell
Founder, FutureGov

How design helped

Working with practitioners, FutureGov built a prototype for a service called Patchwork. Patchwork is secure web tool that connects professionals, allowing practitioners from different organisations to quickly and simply access the contact details of others working with their clients.

Patchwork means frontline staff, such as district and county council contacts, fire service and social workers, can log on to a website, enter the name of a client, and immediately see which other agencies and professionals are supporting that person. They are also provided with details of the best way to communicate with those people, whether mobile, landline or email.

In a child protection case that means if you have got an uneasy feeling in your stomach, you can find another practitioner to test your theory with, and then do something about it.

Dominic Campbell
Founder, FutureGov

FutureGov was able to raise €350,000 in start up investment to take Patchwork from prototype to product. This investment came from three local councils in the Staffordshire region of the UK, as well as two innovation charities: Nesta and the Nominet Trust. These organisations not only provided funding but also a strong network around the project.

Using rapid prototyping as a basis to innovate and iterate ideas was crucial to securing funding, and meant everyone involved had the opportunity to shape the project and feel part of its success. A rigorous design approach was vital to creating a user-led service to tackle this difficult and complex issue. FutureGov worked with front line staff to make sure they created a service that would work for them – putting an effective tool in the hands of people who could make a difference.

Ask what the most important thing is first off, then build that – and then every two weeks, every month, release a new version, so you’ve already started change on day one, not year three.

Dominic Campbell
Founder, FutureGov

The outcome

  • 300 care professionals using the service
  • 711 agencies signed up
  • 3,865 clients supported

Patchwork is now live across two UK councils, Staffordshire and Surrey, word spread fast and the service is now being used in Australia in the states of Victoria and New South Wales which have a combined population of 12.3 million.

​One of the most useful things I find is the ‘Email all’ button, it means that really quickly I can update people with what's going on. Before I had to do this in Outlook and it was just messy, and took time to check who was who. Now one click and the email is sent.

Maternal & Child Health Nurse
Yarra, State of Victoria

User numbers are growing all the time, currently these are:

  • Surrey (UK): 438 agencies, 409 care professionals, 1,082 clients
  • Staffordshire (UK): 126 Agencies, 625 Agents, 2,473 clients
  • State of Victoria (Australia): 147 agencies, 410 agents, 310 clients
See how Patchwork helps care workers

See how Patchwork helps care workers

New South Wales is the latest region to trial Patchwork where they are piloting it across young people’s services. In the first month the number of agencies has grown from 12 to 19, the number of agents has increased from 39 to 100 and the number of clients from 18 to 50.

Through the Patchwork project we’ve demonstrated you can have cheaper, more elegant, easier to use technology that does a job, doesn’t need huge week-long training sessions, saves money and changes councils.

Dominic Campbell
Founder, FutureGov