Link Maker is used by almost every local authority in the UK to increase placement choice for children, making needs-led placements easier to find, and giving the opportunity for authorities to use a common platform. This reduces duplication and wasted time, and improves data regionally and nationally.
Both local authorities and placement providers can use Link Maker for commissioning free of charge. All staff can create user-accounts to identify and arrange individual placements for any number of children with in-house carers, within closed framework or consortium arrangements, or through national searches where necessary.
- Evaluate vacancies quickly. All in-house and external vacancies can be ordered according to how they may best match a child's specific needs, and filtered by requirements such as geography and required start dates.
- See the widest range of vacancies. All vacancies are instantly visible whether in-house, on a framework, or nationally. Whatever the criteria or level of need, there is no delay in accessing all options.
- Manage provider groups. Create custom groups of providers (including other local authorities) according to contract frameworks, or those providing specific services. Groups can then be used to filter available vacancies, or to define a range of providers to which a commissioning profile should be issued.
- Issue placement requests. Issue placement requests to any defined provider group or groups, and within tightly defined geographical criteria, instantly and securely. Deploy current documents and contact details more efficiently, or use the new universal commissioning profile.
- Reach all current providers. Placement requests can be issued to all providers with whom an authority works. Those not already using Link Maker would receive invitations by email to register for free in order to securely access placement requests that have been issued to them.
- Access off-contract placements. Where a vacancy from a different contract framework is of interest, details of the provider, including membership of other frameworks, are available so that options can be explored.
- Universal commissioning profile. Clear and complete information is captured including the purpose of the placement, the outcomes sought, the child's views, assessed risks, and when the placement is needed. The new form has been developed for Link Maker by Marie Tucker at CICADA Services, based on her research for ICHA into the use of placement request forms. The form will be kept under review to ensure it continues to meet the needs of the sector. An existing placement request form can be uploaded instead if preferred.
- Define response timescales. Request that placement offers are submitted by a specific date to allow consideration of options, negotiation of contracts and planning of the placement.
- Manage cases and tasks flexibly. All users accounts are specific to individuals, so that cases and tasks can be shared between managers, commissioners, placement officers and social workers according to prevailing practice and policy in the organisation.
- Meet data protection obligations.Â Link Maker is ISO 27001 accredited and all data is hosted in the UK.
- Keep information up-to-date. All users can update their profiles and cases directly, in real time. Link Maker monitors all activity and intervenes directly with users by email and telephone whenever an update, or a user response, may be overdue.
- Effective oversight. A range of user-level permissions can be applied, granting the ability to view activity against all cases and to run detailed activity reports.
- Readily available support. Unlimited email and telephone support for all users from 9-5pm, Monday-Friday
- Ongoing development. Nothing in children's social care stands still, and Link Maker's continuous development is shaped by feedback and suggestions from users.
Additional functionality is available with a licence, including live, online support, secure document sharing, performance & sufficiency dashboards, enhanced foster carer involvement, and the ability to create automatic schedules for referrals, eg. by tiers or lots. To simplify procurement, licences are available from the government Digital Marketplace framework.