Making life easier through improved advice services
Multi-Agency Referral & Tracking Case Study Renfrewshire Council
As part of Renfrewshire Council’s ‘Tackling Poverty Strategy 2015-2017’, the Commission reported on its child poverty findings and proposed recommendations for responding. The report covers a wide range of social impacts and sets out its strategy to help Renfrewshire families in poverty. As a result of the report, Renfrewshire Council set aside funding for 52 individual projects, one of which was to join up advice services in Renfrewshire. The Advice Partnership Renfrewshire project is already making a difference to people living in the area and aims to “… make advice as easy to access as possible in Renfrewshire, ensuring people who need advice can get appointments quickly and at a convenient place.” (Renfrewshire Council, 2015) Advice Partnership Renfrewshire comprises of 12 advice agencies including Shelter, Citizens Advice Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire Wide Credit Union and Recovery Across Mental Health and all deliver a wide range of specialist support services to the general public. These invaluable services offer advice and support covering a variety of needs such as housing, legal, debt and money advice, and health concerns.
Historically, when a member of the public approached an agency for help, it was often the case that the individual would need to be referred to another more appropriate advice agency, or a collection of advice agencies due to the complexity of their needs. To establish the individuals’ precise support requirements, a certain amount of information would need to be recorded and logged in the advice agency’s database. The support worker would then decide on which advice agency or agencies would provide the most appropriate support and start to contact them to make the appointments.
The task of creating these referral appointments with another advice agency or multiple advice agencies involved support workers calling and/or emailing individuals within the other agencies. This would often depend upon any pre-existing relationships between support workers in partner agencies. The sort of challenges that this caused both for the agencies and the individuals were wide ranging. • The speed of manually processing each advice agency enquiry was often hampered by repeating and re-keying the same information numerous times as individual advice agencies had their own separate databases. There was no infrastructure in place to share an individual’s information with other agencies. •
- There was no single system in place to create, manage and track multiple referral appointments and no quick way to monitor the progress of an individual’s referral. As a result, limited updates could be given to the individual as to the progress of their case, putting both the individual and the advice agencies under considerable stress.
- Setting up multiple referral appointments with other agencies was via specific contacts which could add to delays if specific support workers were not present or on holiday. In collaboration with Renfrewshire Council and Advice Partnership Renfrewshire, Pulsion Technology created a Multi-Agency Referral & Tracking System that would address all these challenges and significantly improve the referral and tracking of multiple advice agency appointments.
“Advice services are provided by a range of agencies, all doing a fantastic job in supporting customers. In Renfrewshire, we have developed an Advice Partnership to provide a more “joined up” service, and the Pulsion referral and tracking system made this more effective by creating links that help customers navigate the various agencies.”
Gary Innes Customer Services Manager Renfrewshire Council
In order for Pulsion to fully understand the needs and wants of the respective user communities a User-Centred Design (UCD) approach, involving multiple stakeholder workshops, was used in combination with an Agile development methodology. Multiple iterations of the system were developed and through continuous user testing and refinement, the finished solution was quickly delivered to the advice agencies.
“The online referral system allows us to track the referrals easily, and check the progress of each individual case”
Income Advisor Advice Works
The digital solution was developed using the latest Microsoft technologies and provided secure access for all the advice agencies involved. The shared digital solution securely stored all necessary information and was available to all agencies via the internet. The solution was fully responsive on all internet browsers and mobile devices. This common digital solution eliminated the need for any rekeying of data as the information ‘followed’ the individual from agency to agency as appropriate and could be updated by any of the referred agencies involved. Specifically, it also quickly and easily created multiple agency referrals, tracked their progress and provided feedback on the conclusions of these referrals to the advice agencies and the individual concerned. The Multi-Agency Referral & Tracking System delivered the following improvements:
- A secure system which was optimised to support the advice agency personnel in order to deliver the most relevant advice and assistance possible to the individual, regardless of whether this was from one agency or multiple agencies.
- The new system eliminated the need to re-key and/or duplicate client information – the individual would only need to provide this information once and was accessible to all relevant agencies at the time of the appointment.
- The system’s user interface was optimised to increase the speed of data capture of the individual’s needs, making this a less time-consuming task for the advice agency.
- Support workers within the advice agencies simply and easily created multiple referral appointments without having to contact partner advice agencies directly themselves. All organisations worked in partnership through the system rather than via defined contacts and phone/e-mail.
- The new system facilitated data sharing, improved the quality and accuracy of the information captured and ensured consistency of data across all the agencies.
- Significantly, this system captured and generated management information with no need for manual aggregation or intervention.
As a result of implementing the MultiAgency Referral & Tracking System, the following benefits have been realised by the Advice Partnership Renfrewshire:
- Improved Service Efficiency & Delivery – the entire end to end appointment referral and tracking experience was optimised based on the support worker’s requirements and significantly increased the efficiency and transparency of the service provided to the general public.
- Enhanced Communication – data sharing between the advice agencies improved collaboration where agencies worked in partnership through the system rather than relying on individuals.
- Insights into Reporting and MI – the system captured and generated management information with no need for manual aggregation or intervention and reported on the achievement of specific aims and any emerging trends.
“The system is easy to access and is user-friendly”
Senior Income Advisor Advice Works