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Hampshire: Our information hub can prevent social care demand

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The council has has developed a one-stop digital hub to encourage independence, health and inclusion.

  • Project: Connect to Support Hampshire
  • Objectives: To create a single, centralised online information hub that Hampshire residents can use to find local information and advice about living independently within their community, and which could also be used by voluntary organisations to promote their services, and by health services to support social prescribing
  • Timescale:
    - Commissioning website development to launch: Three months
    - Commissioning app development to launch: Six months
  • Staff working on project: Five council staff worked together with a team from Public Consulting Group UK, which was commissioned to build the website and app. The council’s Connect to Support Hampshire team has since been expanded to support ongoing marketing and engagement with the public and stakeholders
  • Outcomes: The Connect to Support Hampshire website was launched in mid-2016 and the mobile app with offline functionality was created in late 2018. This has been complemented by intensive marketing throughout 2018, which has led to the website reaching its site traffic target of 10,000 hits per month.
    The website and app are being actively used by a growing number of Hampshire GPs and work is now underway to integrate Connect to Support Hampshire with the NHS Directory of Services for the area.
  • Officer contact details: Nicky Millard

Adult social care in Hampshire, like its peers across England, faces growing demand for formal services and continued cuts in public funding.

nicky millard

nicky millard

Nicky Millard

We recognised the need to focus on preventative interventions minimising the likelihood of residents developing the need for formal social care. We wanted to do so in a way that encouraged social connectedness – key to good health – and for residents to be supported to take more responsibility for their own health and care needs.

We knew an array of community support services already existed across the county, including support groups, voluntary services for specific care needs, and regular social clubs. These services could be better used if people knew where to find out about them. We needed to somehow gather and centralise this information for our more than 1.3 million residents.

Our adults’ health and care call centre team had been in operation for several years, letting us resolve simpler social care queries on the phone, freeing up social workers to focus on more complex cases. But we knew that we could go further.

Many of the individuals contacting our call centre could be supported to self-serve solutions for their queries if they could easily access the right information, while our call advisers could use the same tool to help callers.

The idea for Connect to Support Hampshire in mind, we approached a private firm to help us design and build a website with information about all aspects of independent living, a directory of community-based services and activities searchable by region and topic, and directories of Care Quality Commission-registered home care agencies and registered care and nursing homes in Hampshire.

To ensure residents would always access the most up-to-date details for smaller groups and activities, we decided the Connect to Support Hampshire community directory would not include individual listings if information was held and updated elsewhere. Rather, we would function as a search engine signposting relevant website where core information is held.

The website needed to be accessible for all ages and technical abilities and for individuals with vision impairments or cognitive difficulties. To get this right we worked with the University of Southampton – a leader in web accessibility – to inform the website design.

While the website was in development, we began putting together a robust marketing strategy mostly aimed at Hampshire residents. This included paid adverts on social media and radio and on-the-ground market stalls at community events and hotspots.

We also planned a year of intensive stakeholder engagement where Connect to Support Hampshire representatives met with community stakeholders to show how they and the people they supported could use the website to their benefit.

Initial feedback was that the website was easy to navigate, but we wanted to make it as quick and simple as possible. We therefore developed the information finder tool, which allows users to select the topics of most interest to them and provides relevant links to information pages and directory searches, as well as external websites.

The results page can be emailed to others. This tool has proved particularly popular with the public and with our call centre advisers who can select topics whilst speaking with a caller and then to email results to callers who have internet access.

We next began tackling the issue of making Connect to Support Hampshire accessible for those who had little or no internet access, and developed a mobile app with offline functionality that could be downloaded once and later accessed offline.

Offline users can still access all the general information and guidance pages and search any of the directories, but they can’t use hyperlinks to websites. The app has also benefited those working in hospitals and emergency services, as our colleagues now have an easy way to show members of the public what Connect to Support is and how to use it.

We want Connect to Support Hampshire to become the go to site for anyone looking for health and social care information and advice, making it the tool of choice for ourselves, our partners and the public. To support this, we have grown the Connect to Support Hampshire team and anticipate a further two- or three-year campaign of focused work, ongoing site and app improvements, marketing and stakeholder engagement.

Our next milestones include working with our NHS partners to integrate Connect to Support Hampshire into the NHS Directory of Service and facilitate training for the NHS 111 service’s call handlers on how to use the service. We are also working with our district and borough council partners to include a directory of holistic information intended to prevent people from entering a housing related crisis, as per the information requirement outlined in the Homelessness Act.

Our aim is for Connect to Support Hampshire to be able to signpost certain groups of people to specific information to pre-emptively address care, support and health needs. If someone used the community directory to search for social clubs in a community which public health data showed had a particularly high rate of falls, then the user could be prompted with information and community listings about falls prevention.

Likewise, by better understanding what factors drive people’s decisions about health and care we can tailor the way in which information is presented to encourage the public to make more informed choices. For example, would an individual be more likely to consider domiciliary care in their parent’s own home instead of residential care home if they could compare the average annual cost for each scenario?

We are continuously learning about the types of information that should be provided on Connect to Support Hampshire and the best way to present it. Our goal is for Connect to Support Hampshire to be the first port of call for anyone looking for information to support a happy, healthy and connected life in our county.

Nicky Millard, customer care manager, Hampshire CC

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