Essex financial assessment discovery
The future experience of financial assessments
Essex County Council (ECC) plays a critical role in safeguarding and supporting the most vulnerable people in the county. With demand in adult social care services increasing, the council recognized an opportunity to better understand the existing financial assessment service experience.
Citizens in need of care are dealing with a stressful and emotional life event. To arrange care support, citizens must first undergo a financial assessment. This often happens during the care assessment process. Meaning, difficult conversations about finances often coincide with the first time an individual receiving care, and their support network, meet their social worker.
Essex processes around 50,000 assessments per year, a figure that’s continually increasing. ECC wanted to ensure that this service is meeting increasing levels of demand through a more efficient financial assessment service, while also providing the best service for their residents.
Working in a blended team with ECC’s service design team, we led a three-month discovery to better understand the current financial assessment service experience for both citizens and staff.
Through research, mapping, conceptualising and testing four early ideas, we outlined challenges, uncovered pain points and identified opportunities to improve the financial assessment experience. We gained insight through interviews and shadowing by speaking with 20 social workers, 6 citizens and their support networks, more than 50 internal staff and 20 local authorities.
From this research, we found that:
- social workers have different levels of experience and confidence in discussing finances
- inconsistent information and communication material causes confusion for residents
- we could improve transparency and collaboration between the contact centre, social care and finance teams
- we could improve guidance on approaching and planning for financial changes
In parallel, we completed a technology discovery to understand the challenges on both sides of the market (capability and product). We learned that the service is reliant on paper but restricted by manual processes. There’s also a lack of understanding about capabilities of the current suite of systems meaning technology is not enabling and no clear product vision or strategy to gain the most value from service improvements and guide a coordinated effort across Finance and Adult Social Care
We explored a range of potential interventions to the current service experience which could improve user satisfaction, make considerable efficiency savings and provide more accurate and timely data to the council. We found two main opportunity areas (before and after the assessment), in which we developed four concepts.
Before the financial assessment
We designed our concepts around solving the challenges citizens and ECC colleagues feel before a financial assessment begins. Two concepts we settled on were a conversation toolkit to support social workers in providing consistently correct and relevant information and a more easily found online calculator.
The potential impact would include a more consistent approach to information provision, giving social workers higher levels of confidence and service users a deeper understanding of the financial process. As well as better accountability and timeliness in triggering an assessment into the service, whilst providing better data quality.
During and after assessment
Technology can enable a redesigned online-first assessment and an online personal account for existing clients. Our research suggests this could lead to:
- a better experience, quicker and more transparent process and quicker feedback to citizens.
- drastically reduced time consuming administration tasks for social workers
Combined, these interventions could improve process efficiency and reduce administration tasks by up to 80%.
Before the financial assessment, implementing the conversation toolkit and online calculator could mean a 40%+ reduction in the number of social care complaints relating to financial assessments and a 50%+ reduction in self-funders progressing to full assessment alongside more accuracy and timeliness in the information collected could mean less errors. There will also be an increase in accountability, knowledge, tools and confidence for social workers which will create the best start to a citizen’s experience with the council by setting better expectations.
During and after assessment, new technology would drastically reduce the time consuming manual practice of a largely paper-based process for financial colleagues, 80% of assessments could be done online. This would save 60+ hours per week in administration.
This online development could see the council see a £43k reduction in paper transaction costs per year and an 80% reduction in the time to receive and complete an assessment. As it would be faster and easier for people to complete an assessment, there would be less time validating and chasing the right information for Finance.