Hampshire County Council: Speeding up support for over 50,000 vulnerable people shielding at home from Covid-19

With over 50,000 vulnerable people shielding at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, Hampshire County Council urgently needed to understand their support needs. PA Consulting explain how a 7-day programme of changes dramatically enhanced the Council's ability to reach those most in need.
Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

By PA Consulting

19 Jan 2021


With over 50,000 vulnerable people shielding at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hampshire County Council urgently needed to understand their support needs. In just seven days, we developed and launched a Wellbeing Automated Call Service (WACS), dramatically enhancing the council’s capacity to do this. Used in conjunction with live call handlers, WACS let the council reach its shielded residents in a fraction of the time it otherwise could have. This helped tens of thousands of people get through isolation safely. 

Key Successes: 

  • developed a prototype solution within four days to meet the urgent requirement for increased call capacity
  • launched a new automated call service within seven days, enabling contact with up to 2500 vulnerable residents a day
  • enabled the council to find people unable to connect with the council themselves faster – and ensured no-one slipped through the net
  • enabled the council to support the original 30,000 shielded residents, plus a further 20,000+ added later, without resources being overwhelmed.

Working Smarter to Reach Vulnerable People Faster

Under its shielding programme, the UK government asked millions of clinically vulnerable people to isolate at home during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. For several months, they would be unable to go out to get food or pick up prescriptions. Many were likely to suffer from loneliness or other hardships. The government asked local authorities to contact every person on the shielding list regularly to check whether they needed help. For Hampshire County Council, this meant having to contact up to 50,000 residents regularly to ensure they’re well.

Acting fast was essential. But with a dedicated call centre of 50 people established for the purpose, it could have taken months to contact everyone. A smarter, faster solution was needed.

Freeing Up Call Handlers to Focus on Human Interaction 

Within seven days, we enabled the council to launch a Wellbeing Automated Call Service (WACS) that accelerates the contact process dramatically. WACS makes an initial automated call asking people whether they need support or not. Anyone who does is diverted to the call centre to talk to a live call handler, who can empathise, discuss options and provide onward connection to support, including a volunteer workforce. Using WACS in conjunction with its call centre resource, the council was able to contact up to 2500 people who were shielding every day. 

Joining the Dots Across Digital and Social Care 

To develop the new service as quickly as possible, we turned to technology that’s already proven in the market: Amazon Connect, the cloud contact centre system from Amazon Web Service (AWS). By bringing together our digital expertise and our deep knowledge of the social care sector, we were able to build a solution and supporting processes that fitted the context – from developing scripts that are encouraging and accessible for people in a vulnerable situation, to incorporating robust processes to ensure data privacy. A key design principle was to make the service as accessible as possible including the use of landline phones and the ability to respond by voice, for example by saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ rather than pressing buttons.

You can read the rest of this article here. 

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