SENA – Connecting citizens to services
The ambition of the SENA project is to help connect residents with services, provided by a range of different organisations. We want to help address the issues citizens might have by using a scoring model to match needs to solutions via a digital platform – helping more people in a more effective way. SENA will also offer a tailored approach for those who are most in need to prevent someone spiralling (or snowballing) into crisis. This is a blog about the journey so far of developing the needs and scoring model to underpin the model.
Don’t reinvent the wheel – it works!
We started our thinking by going right back to the beginning of categorization of human needs by drafting our own take on Maslow’s theory. Needs were put into categories of ‘healths’ like ‘physical health’ and ‘economic health’ but it soon became clear that some needs we had identified just didn’t fit into our concept.
We recalled all the really good examples of needs and solution matching models that we had seen on our SENA journey such as the Troubled Families scheme by Bristol City Council and the Thriving Communities Index from Oldham Borough Council and our thoughts turned to how we can build on what’s already out there.
The LGA esd – toolkit Needs List seemed to be a good place to start because it includes a broad range of needs (over 50) and had already linked services to address them. This comprehensive model is focussed on services provided by Local Government. One of the challenges we face is the need to align national and local voluntary and community sector services too so we can deliver a full service catalogue which also compliments a place based approach.
Testing, Testing, Testing
We put our theory into practise and began testing how the model works in real life. In Phase 1 of SENA, journey maps were completed of real life situations that some people in our district had experienced. We took some of the events and circumstances from a period of time and mapped them against the needs the LGA model identifies and the services it provides as solutions. Early indications showed it worked well. Next we asked our Resident Advice Team (who offered individual support to vulnerable people during Covid-19) to carry out the same exercise, using the same stories to see if their tailored approach to service provision matched the needs and solutions offered by the model. Some needs that we know about from our Covid support work (such as medicine and food provision) were missing. But broadly speaking we learnt the LGA model identified more needs and services than we (humans) may have offered with such a small amount of detail available to us. There are gaps, we need to do more testing with other solution providers but we are confident that we can build on this.
What’s the score?
Now we had the underlying model in place we started thinking about how we can apply it in practise and allocate scores. There were some questions we asked ourselves.
- How do we decide what score an event generates?
- What level of detail will citizens be willing to share?
Scoring wont be used to dictate what advice and information people are offered but used to help us filter who needs help the most based on the needs we think are potential catalysts for crisis. Every need will generate a website or signposting solution at the lowest level of support offered. Some needs will be linked to support offered by local Recognised Organisations (we call this handholding) to make sure they can access the support being recommended. In some situations (those with highest risk of crisis) a case worker will be assigned to provide a fully holistic service, considering root causes and adopting early intervention practices.
How will we match the level of support to what people need? By using a multi tiered scoring system.
There are three elements we believe are key to the scoring system:
- The impact of the need on a person’s life
- The urgency of the need in a person’s life
- The intensity of the need on a person’s life
A need in a low category would score 1 point, a need in a medium category would score 2 and a need in a high category would score 3. The image below gives an example of some of the needs from our model and what we think their impacts might be.
Whilst all support offered is aimed at providing early intervention, combining scores for an individual would allow us to identify snowballs (multiple events in a short space of time) where extra support may be needed. This could be provided by a case worker or Registered Organisation.
We would apply another three tier scoring system for the urgency of the need in someone’s life. The image below shows how the scoring could be allocated according to impact and urgency.
By adopting a granular approach to assessing the level of need by asking specific questions, we could set scales taking into account how the person has described that particular need. Scores for each question might also be weighted, so the answer indicating the greatest need for losing weight might only score half the points compared to an answer indicating the highest need for financial support.
We are still exploring options for how we will progress the model taking its complexities into account.
At HDC we are always learning and asking; what do we know now and what will we do next? We have learnt not to reinvent the wheel – building on good work is a good place to start. We think the LGA model aligns with what we are developing but there is a lot to do next to match the full range of solutions SENA offers. Review is needed by some key stakeholders and thresholds need to be set. We also need to make sure that the language used by the LGA is user friendly (after all the LGA model was written for the public sector to use) which is likely to require some labelling and matching in the background. We should get some valuable feedback on this and other topics from participants in the User Research we are doing in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to hear what they think and one of the key learning points will be around how much information and what level of detail they would be willing to share if they were using the app. There are some important decisions to be made and work to be done to refine our proposal – so watch this space for the next steps of SENA!