Nichola Glover-Edge 14 March 2018

Bucking the trend

Most people would expect their local council to provide the information and support they need online – and in a simple, easily-accessible way. But a recent local government report reveals that this is not the reality.

In a recent survey of all 152 websites for councils that have responsibility for providing social care services, most were left found wanting.

Through a lot of hard work, careful planning and relationship-building at Cheshire East, we are making sure that we do not fall into that group.

We launched ‘Live Well Cheshire East’ in May last year, and it has been met with great success. It is an easy-to-use directory with more than 3,000 services and activities that has one straightforward ambition – to provide our residents with access to the things they need to enable them to live longer and healthier lives independently.

Live Well Cheshire East has been the vehicle for the change but the positive reaction to its launch has been about more than simply providing an online location for information. One of the biggest steps towards being more customer-focused in our approach has been led by our adult social care team.

We ask residents how we can ‘help them to help themselves’. It’s a subtle change but a significant one, allowing us to solve a potentially longer chain of challenges rather than simply the one in front of our noses. It’s a change in the conversation that encourages each individual to achieve their goals and to feel we really are looking out for their best interests.

Historically, the approach when people came to our services would have been to complete an assessment to see if they were eligible for various types of support.

Not any more. Now instead of asking someone what problem they have, we will ask them what they want to achieve. Then we connect to the Live Well Cheshire East website to help them find a solution.

Live Well Cheshire East gives advice about areas such as health, money management, home repairs and adaptations. But it also provides the kind of information that is sometimes much harder to find– like clubs or groups that people might want to join.

Once we’ve sourced a suitable solution, that’s when the wide scope of the offer really starts to kick in. We make contact with local area co-ordinators who connect the people to the resources available. Crucially though, these are not purely council-run services.

They could be dance classes, arts and crafts groups, dog walking groups. Whatever someone’s interest might be, we are now in a position to connect them more smoothly and efficiently. The knock-on effect to that person coming into contact with our services is huge. Instead of being caught ‘in the system’, people are getting a new lease of life from clear and swift signposting to services and support.

If people prefer to do all this more independently, residents can also simply enter their postcode into the directory on the website, where results are filtered to meet their needs or interests.

One of the best aspects of Live Well Cheshire East is its flexibility. It truly is a resident-focused service and we are very proud of it.

Live Well Cheshire East has been recommended by the Society for Information Technology Managers (SOCITM) as an example of best practice and being ‘one of the best integrated directories’ its testers had seen.

That’s great news for Cheshire East Council – but, more importantly, greater news still for our residents.

Nichola Glover-Edge is director of commissioning for adult social care at Cheshire East Council

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