SENA Phase 2 – Funding Announcement
Covid-19 has, in one way or another, affected the majority of the population. In late 2020, Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) was awarded a grant as part of the Local Digital Covid-19 Challenge, a programme designed to help fund new and existing digital, data and technology (DDaT) work that responds to pressing needs and challenges faced by local government as a direct result of the pandemic.
HDC’s project, known by its acronym SENA (Societal Early Need Application), is an ongoing programme now in its second phase. The District Council saw a need to try and mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on its residents without creating dependency on the already stretched resources within the public sector. The desire was to make early small interventions to households to help prevent the need for larger costlier interventions later. The project aims to achieve this by validating the existing “life event risk scoring” model to help pinpoint households at risk in the future, and develop a set of earlier interventions from small behavioural nudges to integrate multi-agency working to help support the needs of the household. To support this and future efforts, the project is helping to support the creation of data standards in this area enabling a cohesive response across the public sector.
Phase 1 – Recap
The first phase, currently just completing, focused on 2 elements: validating the model, and contacting residents to develop engagement scripts to understand how to reach our residents.
Research and Reaction
Phase 1 highlighted how the Covid-19 pandemic was different to other situations showing different types of reactions. Initially we saw a near 200% increase in request for universal credit, and then 6 months later, a similar increase in food bank usage within the district. When we engaged with these households, as expected, Covid-19 had impacted those already known to the public sector who were already receiving support, but the impact wasn’t as significant as we had feared. Our contact also showed that entirely new cohorts of households were affected who had not previously engaged with public sector support services, and that in some instances there was a significant impact.
We also tested our initial vulnerability model and found that it was not providing accurate predictions in all cases, we believe this was due to having not taken into account resilience factors, e.g. a household’s support network, and only accounting for the events that had occurred.
Phase 2 – What next
In March 2021, the programme received an additional £85,000 of follow-on funding to continue the work. The second phase is aimed at focusing on the citizen and how we can interact more effectively with them.
- How can we get the information we need about a household to understand their vulnerability and the services that can effectively support them?
- Can we create rules that match the public and third sector services that are available in a locality with the needs of a household?
- How can we maximise the likelihood that a household will engage with these services without creating dependency?
- How can we share data effectively between all parties to provide a good feedback loop and create a better experience for our citizens and our partners?
The ultimate aim is to build a standards based open source scalable digital solution, as this will mean that we can encode our learning into a system that can be adopted across the public sector and be interoperable between organisations. We are working towards this in this phase by:
- Working with technology partners to develop a backlog of user stories to implement the insights we gain from our user research on top of the LifeRay community edition.
- Providing feedback to the related SAVVI project on implementing the standards they are developing.
- Co-designing a service blue print for end to end services with our citizens and our partners.
We will be undertaking the project working in a series of agile sprints with our partners PlaceCube and Unboxed. Our partners will provide additional subject matter expertise and staff to support the councils own Community and Transformation teams. The project is due to start with a Sprint 0 in April, then follow with a set of 3-week discovery and design focused sprints. The 3-week sprints will allow staff from the council to be able to more effectively balance the “day job” with this project ensuring we keep delivering the services our citizens need while creating more effective solutions.
Our overall solution design, and the focus of our work, is captured in the diagram above showing in green the focus of our user research, in blue the focus of our service design work, and in purple where we see data standards being critical in supporting the wider adoption of the solution. There are other elements of the total solution we want to encompass in a later iteration of the solution.