Information Now - Newcastle City Council

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Project description

Information Now is a website developed by Newcastle City Council: Quality of Life Partnership; it was developed with and for older people in 2007. It provides accurate and concise information and advice to enable older people to maintain a good quality of life, to live independently for longer and to plan for the future. It is a preventative information service as well as useful to those who are at a crisis point. It also ensures front line staff can access an up to date resource of information.

Information NOW is a key element of Newcastle City Council's strategy for advice and information for older people and is part of the city's Age Friendly City programme. The Council funded Quality of Life Partnership to develop and maintain the website as a citywide resource.

Information Now has spawned two initiatives. 'First Contact Newcastle' was developed to engage with the most vulnerable and hard to reach older people in the city. The concept behind this was based on Nottinghamshire's First Contact scheme. This service is operated on a partnership basis and managed by the Quality of Life Partnership. Partners complete a questionnaire with older people to identify any support needs. Direct referrals can then be made to support the older person, for example to have a benefits check, smoke alarms fitted in their home and to attend exercise and mobility classes.

Peer to peer support is offered by the Elders Council of Newcastle via 'pass it on' sessions. They visit community groups to raise awareness of key services in the city including Information Now and a series of publications designed by the Quality of Life Partnership called 'Just What I Need'. In return, the Elders Council gathers the views of older people on the issues that older people experience in the city to help inform future work and make Newcastle more of an age friendly city.

Following the consistent success and popularity of Information Now the website is being upgraded.

A new partnership is being established with three other key online information providers in Newcastle, forming the 'Information in the City' partnership. This includes a families website, a care website and a health website (primarily for health professionals). Joining forces to share information will avoid duplication and mean that accurate information is available to specific groups within Newcastle.

Who is the service for?

Information Now is aimed at older people, their family friends, carers and those who support older people, such as information and advice providers.

Why was the service developed?

It was important to provide accurate and up to date information, presented in a way which was relevant and helpful to older people and their families. Although there was criticism for developing a website rather than a printed directory, it was decided a web-based resource would be most effectively kept it up to date. The website was designed to be simple so that information pages could be printed off when required. There was confidence that older people would catch up with using technology and this is proving to be the case. This is also supported by a grassroots digital inclusion programme.
Front line staff needed an information resource which they could access easily when supporting and advising older people. A comprehensive website resource was considered ideal.

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

The Elders Council was a partner in the development of the website from the outset, ensuring that older people and carers were central to the initial design and development of the Information Now website via focus groups and a steering group. Older people are involved in the current redesign of the new website.

Has the service met the intended outcomes?

The website on receives approximately 8000 visitors per month. Around half of these visitors are information providers and half individuals.
From the number of page views, it is possible to determine which issues are most popular and monitor the concerns of older people in the city. 'What to do when someone dies' is consistently one of the top 3 pages viewed each month. Other important topics of information include, keeping a warm home, benefits payments, health and keeping fit.

Feedback has been extremely positive from both professional and private users of information now. We welcome all feedback as this ensures that the website continues to develop and remains relevant to those using it.

Do you have information on costs or savings?

  • Initial development costs - £ 40,000 (one off cost in 2005)
  • Promotional costs - £1,500
  • Annual maintenance - £1,728 (pa)
  • Staff costs - £39,500 (indicative of one development officer post per annum excluding overheads)
  • Redevelopment costs £15,000 (one off cost in 2012)
  • Website hosting - £250 per annum

Please note that there is also a significant amount of in kind support from older people and local agencies contributing to the maintenance and development of the website and related programmes.

What were the learning points in setting up this service?

  • Involve older people and their carers in meaningful ways to ensure that their experiences inform the development of information and advice services
  • Build in dedicated officer time so that the necessary development work is not neglected
  • Develop as a citywide resource so that it is not owned by one agency, but co-owned by partners in the city
  • Avoid partnering with 'the usual suspects' so that the range of information provided responds to the reality of people's lives. Continuous dialogue is key to the success of these partnerships
  • Provide opportunities to engage with front line staff and enable them to learn from each other to support their critical role in giving information and advice to older people and carers
  • Learn from other areas
  • Link to opportunities provided through local and national policy.

Contact details

Lauren Hoy, Development Officer (Information and Advice), Quality of Partnership
Phone: 01912082703