A workshop on ‘Engaging Citizens Online’ sounded up my street. It was only a short event focussed mainly on social care applications and was at Rainton Bridge between Durham and Sunderland. Keith, one of my colleagues was giving a presentation. He did a good job.
Of course it wasn’t clear from the title whether we would be talking about how to engage with citizens online or about citizens who are already engaging, that is pleasant and interesting, and online but once again I am being pedantic. English is a funny language. I really knew exactly what it was about.
There were a dozen councils in attendance. Each of us gave an update on where we were in addressing the Care Act. Since April last year we have needed to make sure information is available to all our residents about the social care service available in the area, how to request an assessment of need and how to get independent financial advice to cover the cost of care. Putting any thoughts on a digital divide to one side, the best way to provide this is through the Internet. Each of us were at different stages. With the mixture of applications, the different priorities of each authority and the different stages we all were in integrating services this is inevitable.
The workshop was useful and interesting. It showed us that in some ways we are ahead of the game yet in others we still have a bit to learn. The relationship between health and social care is a turbulent arena and will only get more so over the coming years.
What was missing for me though was the engaging bit. Most of what we discussed was not about engaging our citizens but rather pushing our processes and procedures online to make them more accessible and easier to use. These are essential drivers to improve the quality and availability of the services yet to engage our citizens we need to engineer what we deliver to be pleasing and attractive. We need to be able to connect with our customers in a way that holds their attention and interest rather than through a set of mechanistic process.
Through this dash to go digital we need to transform the way that services are delivered to make them more engaging. It is the services that need to be engaging rather than the citizens.