Over 60 per cent of calls resolved first time to keep you independent

More people are having their care needs successfully met on their first phone call to the County Council, thanks to Somerset’s innovative new ways of working.

Around 60 per cent of Adult Social Care phone enquiries to the Council’s customer services, Somerset Direct, are now being resolved on the first call and on some days this is higher than 70 per cent. Call advisors provide information and advice and put people in touch with Community Connect drop-ins, local activities, networks, and support in their community to help them remain independent.

Another 20 per cent of customers have their query resolved within 24 hours and the final 20 per cent have more complex needs and often require further conversations or a home visit.

At the start of this year only around 37 per cent of calls were resolved first time and customer’s queries were often added to a waiting list. Customers may have waited days or weeks to speak to a social worker to assess their needs and decide next steps.

Since the start of the year, much more effort and time has been put into improving the first contact people have with the council – giving staff extra training so they are better placed to discuss people’s needs, have a more in depth conversation and provide information and guidance about activities and support available in their community.

In most cases, people want to remain living independently in their own home and in many cases, simply providing advice and making connections is all that is needed to make that happen.

While the average length of a customer service call is around 3 minutes, Adult Social Care calls with trained advisors can last up to 25 minutes – but it is time well-spent.

The customer service call advisors are now seen as a crucial part of the Adult Social Care Team. They act as professional advisors and they are making a huge difference to people’s lives every day. Satisfaction of customer’s being supported by Somerset Direct advisors are on average 94 per cent.

Councillor David Huxtable, Cabinet Member for Adults Services at Somerset County Council, said: “Our call advisors have an in-depth conversation, signpost people to useful information and direct them to helpful local services and activities.

“These calls are often about relatively simple things and low level needs that don’t require Adult Social Care support once you know what else is out there. People are getting the advice they need quickly and getting on living their lives independently.

“If a call advisor can’t help the customer straight away then someone from Adult Social Care team will get back to them or they are advised to visit their local drop-in to have a chat with the friendly team.

“We know people want to live independently. They want the tools and the local support to be able to get on with their life and this way of working allows them to do just that.”

One call advisor said: “Working in this way gives me the freedom to connect with the customer. I can offer a more personal service and build a relationship over the phone. It is very satisfying to be able to support people to find services and connect with their community to help them stay independent.

“It is very different to how we used to work when we had a script. Now people are really surprised that we speak to them about their interests and needs and they are very grateful for our advice.”

Another call advisor said: “What is most satisfying is that I can help people today. It is great for the customer and rewarding for us to give people advice on actions they can take today to improve their life. For example we may tell the customer about a benefit that they didn’t know they can claim which will help them cope better or an activity group that can help them meet likeminded people. We also call people back after two weeks to see how they are doing. It is great to hear that our advice has made a difference and people often say they feel less stressed and happier after speaking to us.”

This way of working is bolstered by the Community Connect drop-in sessions that the council has helped establish across the county.

Bringing together social care workers, Community and Village Agents (employed by the Community Council for Somerset), health professionals and volunteers, the drop-ins are relaxed and welcoming. People can get advice on everything from care and support options to money matters, volunteering opportunities and support for carers.

One customer at the weekly drop-in in Minehead said: “I’ve got more information in 10 minutes at the drop-in then I’ve been able to get in the last six months from other places.”

Watch a short film from the drop-in in Minehead. Emma and Caroline talk about how they help people and why people should visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Xx9lzDH87s&feature=youtu.be

Find a local Community Connect drop-in by going to: www.somerset.gov.uk/dropins or to speak to an advisor call 0300 123 2224.