Durham Information Guide (DIG) - Durham County Council

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Project description

The Durham Information Guide (DIG) is an online database developed by Durham County Council, it allows people to search for information and contacts in order to give them choice and control over the care and support they receive. It enables people to manage their personal budget, and treats the individual person as the expert in their particular situation.

Topics covered include getting out and about, living at home, managing disability, legal and financial help, health and wellbeing, keeping safe, and care and support choices.

There is also a directory of services that allows users to search by keyword, geographical area or service-type, plus links to external websites that can provide additional help. Service providers can log in to the system using a username and password, and once they have registered they can then update their own information, which is moderated by a member of the project team before it goes live. People are able to provide feedback on the site on the services they have used.

Further developments in the pipeline include users of the site being able to store their 'favourite' services, and a basket facility that will enable users to obtain an estimated cost of the services they have selected.

DIG was developed by the council in-house, by a project team that included staff from commissioning, marketing, performance and systems and IT. Work began on the database in mid-2010, and the system was officially launched in November 2011.

Who is the service for?

DIG is for everyone in the county who is looking for advice, community groups, services or products to help them remain independent or enjoy a better life. It is for people who fund their own care as well as for people who have an assessed social care need. Where a person chooses to manage their personal budget through a 'virtual budget', the council manages the personal budget on their behalf and the person can use DIG to find the services they want.

Intended outcomes

DIG aims to improve local information and advice, in line with the national personalisation agenda, in order to support personal budgets and self-directed support. The aim is to promote greater independence among people who use services, to change the purchasing behaviour of individuals and council staff, to reduce bureaucracy, and help people get the best value from a personal budget.

The long-term goal is that DIG becomes a fully functioning e-marketplace from which people can choose and pay for their services.

Why is the service being developed?

DIG is part of the council's approach to delivering personalisation. A key element of self-directed support is access to information, advice and guidance to enable people to make informed choices on the best services to meet their care and support needs. The options available need to be wider than traditional social care services and include leisure, benefits, housing, transport and health services.

In October 2010 the council's personalisation team developed a 'menu of services' (MoS) to help people develop their own care packages through a signposting service that was available through social work teams and online. The first MoS was published in paper form and electronically in November 2010. From November 2011, the information was moved from the list form of the MoS to the much more interactive and user-friendly DIG.

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

People who use services and carers were involved in pre-launch testing of the system at several pre-arranged events around the county. People were given a test sheet incorporating set scenarios, searches for particular information and set questions about how the DIG looked and how easy it was to use. They were asked what future developments they would like to see, and to give the system marks out of ten. Improvements were then made prior to the launch, and ideas were collected for further phases of development.

Has the service met the intended outcomes?

DIG is meeting the intended outcomes. Between October 2011 and October 2012, the site was accessed more than 20,000 times, with more than 12,500 page views from unique visitors. Feedback from users has been very positive, with a survey at the end of 2012 showing that 60 per cent of users rated DIG as 'very good' or 'good'.

The introduction of DIG has also resulted in an increase in the number of provider organisations accredited by the council, which means that people have a wider range of services to choose from.

Do you have information on costs or savings?

DIG has proven to be value for money. It has reduced the council's printing, distribution and marketing costs, and reduced the time staff spend communicating with service providers. By developing DIG in-house, the council saved 23 per cent on production costs based on estimates received from external suppliers. Further savings have been made by allowing providers to update their own information.

The council has also saved money - along with people who pay for their own care - as a result of local providers agreeing to publish their costs in a competitive market through DIG. Seeing the costs of service that are similar to their own has meant that some providers have reduced the amount they charge.

What were the learning points in setting up this service?

  • Follow clear project management principles
  • Resource back office systems properly
  • Ensure that all key service areas are involved with the project group, not just IT
  • Do not under-estimate development time, especially during the testing phase
  • Take a long-term view of the system that can be broken down into annual developments
  • Ensure the system fits with any corporate information strategies
  • Decide evaluation criteria at an early stage.

Contact details

Philip Malyan
Strategic Commissioning Manager, Durham County Council
Email: philip.malyan@durham.gov.uk
Telephone: 03000 267395