View from the frontline

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Learning from the frontline

Chris Owens, manager at the Adult Single Point of Contact team at Neath Port Talbot Council is part of the expert squad project working in partnership with Social Finance. In this latest blog post Chris gives his experience of working with the project so far.

Service Manager — what it’s been like for me!

Welcome to my first blog for the Centre for Digital Public Services (CDPS). I am the team manager for our adult single point of contact @NPTCouncil, and I’m working with the first Centre for Digital Public Services digital transformation squad. We’re looking at how we can improve services for the user in Adult Social Care.

Why I got involved

Having worked in social services for 16 years I have seen a considerable change in how services have been designed over that time and I wanted to be a part of the team shaping those for years to come. As a frontline service the contact with our residents is the most important thing and, in particular, how our residents experience our service and how we deliver the best possible outcomes for those who need us most. We felt being part of this project could mean more residents have a voice in shaping our services and where we need to make changes to support this.

Stepping back

As a social worker our training continually asks us to reflect — what did we do, what went well or didn’t go so well, what did we learn and what we are going to do differently next time to improve. The project has allowed us to take a step back and reflect on the residents’ experience and whether this is good enough. We needed to show humility and acknowledge that to improve our services we needed to consult the experts in its design — not us, not CDPS, but the residents themselves. We needed to make sure their voices were being heard.

Using ‘Agile’

Working on an ‘Agile’ project was a new experience for me and I wasn’t always sure as to the technical words being used. It’s sometimes like speaking a different language, but the most important part for me was ensuring this wasn’t another project that took so long that by the end the reason for doing it was already outdated. That’s one of the key things the Agile approach has given us. The project has moved quickly, we have established a way of using language that means something to us all. The team from Social Finance has listened to our experiences and found a way of translating that into a meaningful digital picture with help from our residents and the interviews that have taken place. On a personal note to see a project move with such speed and efficiency is the reason it’s been worth putting so much of my own time into it.

What I’ve learned so far

· It’s vital to have residents’ views in the design of our services. They are the heart of why we need to get this right.

· I’ve learnt about the differences between our three local authorities (this is a joint project with @Blaenau GwentCBC and @TorfaenCouncil) and hopefully taken the best of each other’s services and learnt from what doesn’t work so well for us all.

· Moving quickly, the show and tell is a great way of keeping people engaged in the process, it keeps things at the forefront, and you feel valued as a member of the group.

· That doing this alone would be impossible, it has taken a variety of skills and people to pull it all together. And importantly listening to each other without being defensive and opening up to new possibilities.

· Lastly, I have learnt that engaging in this project has opened ideas for different areas of improvement and how we can also take those forward in future.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed being part of the project and I’ve felt valued and engaged. The team we have has worked so well together and I’m really confident that the end result is going to be an insightful and meaningful look into how we can improve everything we do, focusing on the resident experience.

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