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Engaging social care staff is key to increasing take up of online services by clients and carers says new briefing

Persuading social care employees and delivery partners of the importance of digital in the future of social care is key to driving online take up in the sector says the latest briefing in a new series developed jointly by Socitm, the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS).

The briefing Promotion of online services, says that all employees and partners involved in the delivery of social care must understand how online facilities work and why they are increasingly important. Employees should be seen as digital champions, able to persuade those clients and carers who have not yet done so to go online.

To achieve this, social care departments need to develop a good understanding of current trends in the development of the internet and, in particular, of the major influences affecting the digital divide.

They should be collaborating with and promoting corporate digital inclusion programmes of awareness, training and ongoing support, whether or not online social care services are being introduced, and must learn how to support online takeup through assisted digital approaches. 

The briefing cites councils where employee and partner engagement has been a core activity in driving online takeup, including Kirklees, Liverpool, Hertfordshire Croydon, and Newham.

Where employees understand how the online system works, says the briefing, they can help clients and carers with whom they interact to use the same facilities. They can also set the expectation that council services will be online wherever possible and, as they are likely also to be local residents, they can be powerful champions by word of mouth with family, friends, and neighbours. If negative about change, they can quickly become a major barrier.

As well as delivering the message about employee engagement, the briefing provides a comprehensive and practical guide to seven aspects of driving take up of online services. 

In the developing online world it describes the profile of current internet users and explains that those not online are likely to be older, poorer, less well educated, more severely disabled and living in rural isolation. However this is not a reason for social care to ignore online delivery – in fact the opposite is true.

The need for a measurement system explains why systems need to be put in place to collect data in order to baseline existing take-up and then to track progress. 

A section on using data to create insight shows how the characteristics of those likely to become online users can be indentified and evidence be gathered to counter gut feel’ decision making that can stall plans for going online.  It also shows how understanding the ways customers react to online services ensures they deliver to expectations so that users will continue to use them.

The need for digital principles emphasises the need for corporate buy-in to the idea of self-service, through adoption of a set of digital principles to drive channel shift. A case study illustrates this point.

range of promotional options is described, ranging from simple online ‘nudging’, to the execution of traditional marketing campaigns, illustrated with case studies.

A section on assisted digital addresses the needs of the significant percentage of people who cannot or do not go online because of lack of skill, access or inclination and how they can be supported. This is an area where social care departments will have much to gain by collaborating with corporate initiatives. A range of examples and case studies are referenced.

A final section covers the value of online citizen accounts that allow the council to personalise the relationship between itself and the service user, including carers.

Promotion of online services can be downloaded free of charge from https://www.socitm.net/research-improvement/engaging-citizens-online


Further information:

Martin Ferguson martin.ferguson@socitm.net

Director of Policy and Research at Socitm 01604 709456 

Vicky Sargent vicky.sargent@socitm.net

Socitm Press Office 07726 601139