Connect to Support in Yorkshire & Humber

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Project description

Connect to Support (CtS) is a website developed by Local Government Yorkshire and Humber, it is for people who use social care services or who are looking for information and advice about what support and care is available in their local council area. It is shared across 13 councils in Yorkshire and Humber and the City of Manchester and provided by Shop4Support.

Connect to Support provides three services:

  • Information and advice
  • A communication mechanism between people looking for services and local groups and activities
  • A transacting platform where people can purchase products and services from providers.

Each council has a lead officer and their own implementation team, which includes user testing groups and customer feedback mechanisms, and steers the local implementation of Connect to Support. Each council is implementing the site at their own pace. By September 2014, all participating councils will have gone live.

Who is the service for?

CtS is for anyone who uses social care services or who is looking for information and advice about care and support in Yorkshire and Humber. Specific target audiences include self-funders, users of direct payments, external brokerage organisations, internal brokerage teams, and holders of managed accounts.

The site is able to support a wide variety of groups, including young adults, people who fund their own care, and vulnerable people, with appropriate support services. It therefore also acts as a catalyst for the development of external brokerage services and individual service funds.

Intended outcomes

CtS aims to ensure that:

  • People have a consistent experience when accessing information from across councils in the region
  • Individuals are enabled to have informal conversations with local groups and agencies about their needs and preferences, and to benefit from the community-based opportunities that are available
  • Service providers have a new route to market
  • Participating councils can monitor purchasing patterns in communities and develop informed commissioning plans.

Why is the service being developed?

The website was developed for two main reasons; to enable people who use services to exercise choice and control by dealing directly with service providers, and to manage increased transactions more cost-effectively as more people receive a personal budget.

The business case developed in 2009 showed that, unless some kind of mechanism was developed, it would become increasingly costly for councils to manage the individualisation of previously block contracted services.

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

Once a draft specification was developed with councils, it was shared with people who are looking for care and local provider markets through 'soft' market testing processes. People who are looking for care were invited to give feedback through council customer forums, while providers participated in a structured consultation exercise. This helped generate a final specification for the service. Individual council implementation team work with customer groups and tailoring CtS locally to user needs.

Has the service met the intended outcomes?

The service has been welcomed by people who use it and by new social care providers, who are enthusiastic about having a ready-made route to market. Established providers see it as a way to attract additional business from people who fund their own care, and to prepare for increased numbers of people who use direct payments.

While feedback is positive, actual transactional experiences are expected to remain low until councils systematically promote the site to residents. Transactions are expected to grow over the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial year.

As of July 2013, more than 400 providers have stores on Connect to Support and there are over 7500 local groups and activities. The stores contain nearly 6,000 differently priced products and services that can be purchased. Connect to Support receives an average of 7,000 visits per month.

Do you have information on costs or savings?

Savings delivered by the CtS programme are difficult to establish, because the impact of choice and control for people who use services is hard to quantify. CtS does not, in itself, generate savings, except to the extent that it encourages transparent pricing, competition and comparison. Cashable savings are generated by reductions in activity in other areas of the council, such as block contracting, internal brokerage services, and support planning processes.

As the original business case shows, the costs of personalisation to councils increase significantly unless a mechanism is made available which can deal with larger numbers of individuals purchasing their care and support packages.

What were the learning points in setting up this service? What were the learning points in setting up this service?

  • It is worth taking time to agree the specification with all participating councils, to understand the business case for collaboration, and to get the right funding model
  • The payment by results process for Shop4Support has been a good safeguard and motivator in delivery
  • Regional coordination is needed to help manage 14 participating councils working with a single provider
  • Councils need to commit to embedding Connect to Support in their day to day activity and this means engaging with corporate teams and allocating resources to working with providers and the internal work force
  • Communications and marketing to both internal and external customers are key parts of the implementation process
  • Shared learning during implementation has generated significant efficiencies as councils have shared plans and strategies with each other
  • It takes time to negotiate consensus between different organisations with different ways of doing things. Clear leadership is essential.

Contact details

Tim Gollins
Personalisation & eMarketplace Programme Manager, Local Government Yorkshire & Humber