Connect to Barnsley - Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

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Project description

Connect to Barnsley is a universal information and advice hub that provides a single interface for information about health, social care and wellbeing. The hub was developed by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, it went live in summer 2013.

This is a partnership project with service users and carers, health colleagues such as the acute trust, community health providers, JCP, children's and adult services.

The project was structured around two work packages:

  • Universal information and advice hub: This is a website that collects, delivers and manages information and advice across the borough.
  • e-Marketplace of adult social care services: This allows commissioning organisations, service providers and people who use services online access to provider catalogues and enables them to buy services.

Who is the service for?

The service is for everyone who lives in Barnsley or has family in Barnsley, local organisations and professionals.

Intended outcomes

The project aims to provide people with the right information so they can take action themselves to meet their needs and 'self-serve'. It also aims to enable any professional or information and advice provider to better support the people they serve, by making information available in one place.

Why is the service being developed?

The service was set up in recognition of the need for a more strategic approach to information and advice in Barnsley, which had evolved in a reactive, localised, piecemeal way. Until recently, information tended to be seen as an adjunct to other strategies and services, rather than an important service in its own right. The problem was exacerbated by providers operating in silos, often unaware of services delivered by others. Information that was provided via websites was often structured around services and not always written in a user-focused way.

The council and its partners recognised that access to, and provision of, good quality information and advice was a key aspect of early intervention and prevention, in order to promote independence and wellbeing.

Were the people who use services and carers and other key stakeholders involved in setting up this service?

Initial concept, navigation and content for the hub was tested with members of the public, staff and partner organisations. Feedback was collated and analysed and used to inform the next stage of the hub build and design.

Has the service met the intended outcomes?

As the site only went live in June 2013 information about outcomes is not yet available. Work is still being undertaken to determine how outcomes should be measured and evidenced, but it is likely to be through a combination of performance information gained from site usage and feedback from people who use it.

User testing of the test site found that the hub was easy to use, logical, accessible and well designed. Since the site went live, feedback - including initial data from Google Analytics - has been positive.

Do you have information on costs or savings?

The project team was brought together using existing resources. In addition, a web developer was commissioned on a fixed-term contract.

The council anticipates that, as the website becomes more established and well known, the number of face-to-face and telephone transactions may reduce which can only support the financial challenges that Local Government faces.

What were the learning points in setting up this service?

  • Use project management methodology
  • Share leadership across partner organisations
  • Do not under-estimate the effort and resources required
  • Be prepared for staff to need to adapt quickly and learn new skills, in order for the site to be built and populated to meet the requirements of an evolving project
  • Do a robust cost-benefit analysis of building the site in-house against purchasing an 'off the shelf' product.

Contact details

Margaret Essex
Project Manager, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council
Telephone: 01226 772869