How might we improve the way social care is provided and recorded?

Background

Hackney Council suffered a severe cyberattack in 2020, which left them with no social care system. We helped them recover from this attack, by supporting them to create more effective and efficient services from scratch, and building more robust and needs based products to support this. We worked in 2-week UX sprints for over a year, working closely with delivery managers, engineers, researchers and social care staff.

My role

My responsibilities extended beyond interaction design, due to lack of resources and strict timeframes I was involved in front-end development and research to speed up delivery. My role also involved design capability building to allow the client to adapt to this process and understand the value of design thinking.

Duration

1 year

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Design process

We followed a research-led design approach testing and iterating hypothesis-driven designs. We used a variety of research methods, including both formal approaches such as interviews etc and informal, google chats etc. I facilitated over 50+ sessions throughout the course of the project and ran some sessions introducing changes, this enabled me to build trust with staff to improve their openness to changing their habits. Below is an image of some of the research gathered against designs.

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“We collaborated frequently on the project. They listened to our concerns and needs. They suggested a solution that could work for us. They were quite creative and involved me with different project tools.”

 

- Safeguarding team manager

Ways of working: workshops and capability building

Throughout the project, I led several types of  workshops including ideations sessions, research synthesis sessions and more. During the process I improved the design maturity of the organisation. The images below show an ideation and research synthesis session.

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Ways of working: interaction design

I experimented with multiple interaction design approaches prior to user testing. These included experimenting with variations of designs and creating moodboards. To eliminate designs before testing  heuristic evaluation was used, alongside design and engineering crits. Below are two early design explorations for a team work tray and a sketch following a dashboard ideation workshop.

Ways of working: with engineering

I worked as part of small multidisciplinary teams to develop the solutions. This enhanced efficiency and bridged the gap between design and engineering. I worked closely with the engineering team to eliminate overly complex designs. For three months of the project I worked as a front-end developer to help support the team, despite this being a new workstream to me I thoroughly enjoyed the exposure and gained a deeper understanding of the end-end implementation of UX design. Below is a handover of designs I facilitated with the engineering team.

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“The Figma designs you create are helpful, they allow us to demonstrate a prototype to the users and also provide a lot of value to the engineers when implementing your designs”

 

- Senior Engineer, MadeTech

Learnings: trust

From research it was apparent that they staff had trust issues with technology formed from previous systems and the cyber attack. This fear was heightened by the nature of their work involving vulnerable children and adults, and stories of legal cases depending on the nature of care provided. These fears created a reluctance to try an unfamiliar/new way of working which we had to be aware of. 

In order to work with this, we had to understand their previous mental models and unpick their fears, alongside building trust through co-design and share backs sessions. In order to help them to adopt these new ways of working and feel secure we also offered training/support chats.

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Learnings: building a children's social referral tool

One of my roles involved designing a new way for the children’s social care to receive monitor and act on referrals.

 

In order to create the tool for the referrals service, I worked closely service designers and had regular workshops with the teams. As the sole interaction designer on this project I created prototypes best on our hypotheses, tested and iterated them.

 

From the prototype testing it was realised:

 

  • There were four main stages of the referral service with differing needs in terms of prioritising their work trays. For example the Referrals manager would need to know the screening decision whereas Business support would be more interested in the police rag rating. Due to this different information was surfaced on differing stages

  • Each role had differing time thresholds they would have to meet which depend on the type of support needed. They would prioritise work that had the least time left to act on therefore it was helpful to sort by ‘time left’.

  • Previously colours were included in the designs tested, although the colours indicated urgency and this was preferable by managers, the staff on the ground found this stressful to look at so this was removed.

  • In addition to this, staff would receive a lot of calls about referrals but found it hard to have oversight about the progress of the case. Due to this a search functionality was included in our tool to allow them to identify cases without waiting on email replies.

Below are some of the explorations that were tested with the team.

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Outcomes

We developed a set of open source small reusable tools, training material and handbook to improve confidence/safety behind the changing process. That could provide low-cost solutions for social care departments for the rest of the country. To view a video of the tools working see video link here.

 

The new service for the children's social care referrals team enabled the team to prioritise work based on urgency, whilst having the capacity to oversee their colleagues work and potentially intervene in the case of blocked urgent cases. Altogether giving them more trust in their process and delivering urgent care faster.

Towards the end of the contract, I led the design of a platform with the capacity for 10+ specialised teams to manage and oversee their work. By understanding how the specific needs of each team vary I was able to design a minimum viable solution that could be developed within the timeframe. This functionality was crucial for the staff to fully adopt this new system and move away from their previous approach.