Lots of people need extra support to do the everyday things that many of us take for granted. This is where adult social care services come in, empowering people of all ages with a range of needs to live independently.
We’ve been working with Buckinghamshire County Council to improve access to quality information and advice when it comes to social care for residents.
Together, we’re building a unique front door: one place to help residents and professionals navigate options and get the support they need. In a multidisciplinary team of FutureGovers and subject matter experts from the council, we’ve been researching, building and testing prototypes with input from residents and a wide range of professionals.
Adult social care is complex
Throughout our process of learning and designing, one thing has remained clear: adult social care is complicated and complex. Residents, practitioners and even council professionals are navigating complex needs in a complicated system.
Buckinghamshire County Council and its partners (such as health services or voluntary and community sector organisations) provide a range of services and guidance to support adults. With many providers or services, we’re left with many ‘front doors’ for these services. Scattered across multiple websites, the opportunities for support are messy for residents to navigate.
A lack of clear information and guidance means that people aren’t aware of how they can support themselves. People bounce around the system before reaching the right service when information and support could be at their fingertips!
We need to do more to help people understand support options, whether it’s from council services, local communities or charities.
People start looking for information at crisis point
Planning future care can feel intimidating and emotional. People often start thinking about care at a late stage or crisis point, looking for information and support as they go through a life-changing event; losing a loved one or receiving a diagnosis are examples of life events when someone might need support.
This is why we’ve been talking a lot lately about the importance of designing services with life events. The research we’ve done shows that navigating options based on life events is the most popular and useful option. When creating platforms to navigate services, we need to cluster them around life events to reflect people’s experience.
With this in mind, we’ve started by building a new website with the council that leads with navigating options by life events. When visitors come to the site, they’ll easily be able to see the types of situations that they can get help with.
Providing the right content
Researching with residents, we’ve learned about the type of information, advice and guidance people need. Regardless of who provides a service, residents just want to know their support options, what they can get, how they can get it and any associated cost.
“People don’t care whether it’s the NHS or their local charity who is best placed to help them when they lose a loved one. They just need help here and now.” — Social worker
Through this, we’ve designed content structured around a typical life event containing:
- an overview of support available for the life event (emotional, practical or financial support…)
- signposting to council and partners info and services that are directly relevant to the life event
- a map to explore services by area
- tools to help people understand entitlements or costs
- a point of contact for council services
- personal stories from others who’ve experienced similar life events
Finding empathy through the stories of others
Telling personal stories are a powerful way to bring empathy into services. We found that reading about the experiences of others can be inspiring and helpful in guiding us to similar solutions. These relatable stories bring empathy and a humane approach to the information. When testing this approach with residents, they reported feeling inspired, recognising their own needs and wanting to find out how they could take the same steps.
“It’s a good way to talk about a difficult topic, sending, sharing a story to discuss things that are a bit taboo. (…) I would read it to my granddad to tell him ‘this might happen to you too!’” — Resident
Some people wanted to be able to share stories with others as a way to discuss tricky topics with relatives.
Residents even expressed a desire to connect with the people in the stories and meet others who’ve been through similar experiences. Including links to social media groups or community figures is a helpful way to get the community connected and supporting each other.
More user-centred public services
Many local authorities organise services in a way that makes sense to them and little sense to the people using them. We see this in the experience residents and other organisations have when trying to find the information they need online. When people can’t find what they need, they give up (and usually call the council).
Organising information by life events is a powerful way of designing content, helping people find the right information at the right time.
What we’ve achieved together with Buckinghamshire Council is just one example of the ways we can organise our services around the needs of citizens. Imagine what we could achieve and how outcomes could be improved if services and entire organisations were designed around life events (not just the online content)?
We recently launched LocalGov Patterns, a shared library of service patterns for local government, to identify and understand common service patterns. Please help us build this library by contributing the service patterns used in your local authority.
Designing an adult social care digital front door for Buckinghamshire was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.