In her thought-provoking TedTalk, entitled ‘Social Services Are Broken. How Can We Fix Them?’, author Hilary Cottam suggested that 86% of a social worker’s effort is spent feeding information to meet the needs of support systems - leaving a maximum of 14% of the social worker’s time to gather information from their clients and to build a relationship with them.
In addition to that, social worker time is spent sifting through cases of those who may seek support, but who are, more likely than not, unable to meet the eligibility criteria.
The costs and dynamics of this system are unsustainable. In an increasingly digital age, it’s simply unacceptable that the lion’s share of a social worker’s time has to be spent on data entry and admin. The balance of effort spent feeding information into the system, versus client-facing and relationship-building time must be reversed. But how can this be achieved? And, how can the system be improved for social workers?
Help your customers to help you
When customers first seek out social care support from their local authority, the first port of call is often their council’s website.
However, finding an up-to-date and reliable view of support services in an area is more difficult than it needs to be. Fragmented service directories offer a confusing and, often, only a partial view of what is available to people within an area.
By outsourcing time-consuming data-entry activities, such as entry of personal details, to the clients themselves, by providing them with effective digital solutions, you give them faster and more convenient access to what they see as improved services. You also give the power back to the citizen, as they can ensure their details are up to date and correct.
Alleviating the pressure with a digital Service Directory
The fragmentation of available services is not a technology challenge. With cloud-based computing, modern browsers, and communications - an instant view of all services is already available to local authorities and more accessible than ever before.
Councils are perceived as one of the ‘go to’ organisations for citizens and they have an important role as a trusted focal point. Digital solutions can provide a central place online where users could easily access information without having to ask their social care provider. This empowers both staff and the public alike.
For example, IEG4’s OneVu Citizen Engagement Portal provides access to all mainstream services offered by a council. It can be used to present information to one social worker to help them in their role, or it could help thousands of citizens to find services relevant to them or those they care for.
Choosing the right provider
By implementing citizen engagement platforms on local authority websites, we will see improved access for citizens via a single log-in portal, which can support a wide range of services within the single platform - taking service directories for social services mainstream.
This can be quick to achieve by working with the right provider, who has the knowledge and expertise to help find the right solution for your organisation. It can also be cost-effective through the reduced call-handling volumes and the freeing up of time for social workers to focus on those tasks that really matter, such as spending more one-on-one time with people and building those important relationships.
The right citizen engagement portal will help people navigate to the relevant services earlier, which not only reduces escalations and crises, but also has the potential to alleviate the pressure on our social care system. This can only be seen as beneficial to all stakeholders.