"If there’s something particular that has been brought up, we've got a method of recording that. So it’s all kept in one place, very securely. We're learning all the time and the adaptability of the app and the software allows us to do that in a very responsive way," Simon says.
Torfaen Council: Immediate response to COVID-19
Matching volunteers to the vulnerable
The Spectrum Spatial Connect-powered app provides us with another stream and layer of safety for the community. It gives residents reassurance and helps us deliver very positive outcomes. It’s easy to use and its flexibility enables us to add new features.
Simon Rose, Housing and Commissioning Manager, Torfaen CBC
Torfaen County Borough Council serves a community that includes vulnerable people and provides a diverse range of services, some of which are complex. The restriction in movement due to COVID-19 made it very challenging for council workers to identify vulnerable individuals and ensure that people being advised to stay at home due to medical conditions could access essential services.
"We just didn't know the volume of who we were potentially going to be dealing with. People who don’t have friends, family or neighbours to help them out at this time to get the essential items they need. We needed to identify them as quickly as possible to get key messages out," explains Simon Rose, Housing and Commissioning Manager, Torfaen CBC.
The easiest way to do this was to collect information from members of the public or neighbours who were concerned about people they knew. A central hub was set up, where staff could engage directly with the community through social channels such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. But it was taking a lot of time and resources to establish the structure and control needed to ensure people got the support they needed.
"We started to build up a ream of information about local services that sprang up, volunteers that were coming forward, and it gave us a picture of what was happening on the ground. The challenge for us was very much about how we pulled some of these threads together. We also wanted to see how we could better link support provided through established social services to the newly created central support hub," Simon says.
Torfaen County Borough Council (Torfaen CBC) is the governing body for Torfaen, one of the Principal Areas of Wales, UK. It covers an area of 126 sq km with a population of around 93,000.
Precisely is the global leader in data integrity, providing accuracy and consistency in data for 12,000 customers in more than 100 countries, including 90 percent of the Fortune 100. Precisely’s data integration, data quality, location intelligence, and data enrichment products power better business decisions to create better outcomes.
Torfaen CBC had been using Precisely's Spectrum Spatial Location Intelligence solution to assist with data sharing with partners such as the UK National Health Service, police and registered social landlords. This has been able to tell them where vulnerable people are actually based, and help deliver them services in times of need, such as heavy snowfall. The system uses URPNs (Unique Property Reference Numbers) to map people.
What was needed was a way to enable members of the public to better connect and provide information. To do this, Precisely helped create an app for Torfaen CBC, using Spectrum Spatial Connect, a flexible, powerful and quick app creator, that allows online and offline mobile apps to be created with no coding.
The app took just three weeks to set up and is very user-friendly and easy-to-use, even for people with no technical background. It enables volunteers to come forward and offer specific help, such as shopping, collecting medication, dog walking and regular calls to combat loneliness. People needing support due to the restrictions in movement can also apply for the services they need. The location data then made it easy to match people in need to volunteers nearby. Within just a couple of weeks the app was providing another channel for people to access the Covid-19 support and having a hugely positive impact.
"What we're also doing is limiting the amount of time that volunteers are traveling across the borough. Because we're able to see quickly and visually where those volunteers are, and their level of availability. So for us it gives us a very responsive approach to very serious issues and residents who can't get access to those services."
Spectrum Spatial Connect’s platform makes it very easy to enhance and expand an app’s functionality. Torfaen CBC has already been adding different features, such as case notes and records in response to the evolving Covid-19 situation and the needs of vulnerable people.
Torfaen CBC also plans to carry out data analysis to identify people who may be vulnerable after the lockdown. This will allow them to do forward planning for future services. They’re also discussing how the app could be used to tackle other issues, such as social isolation, in the future, by harnessing the sense of community that’s come out of the crisis.