Service Transformation

13.04.17

Adopting design to tackle service challenges

Source: PSE Apr/May 17

Design Council’s director of growth and innovation, Ellie Runcie, on how design can enable service transformation and why London is next to benefit from the successful Design in the Public Sector programme.

It has been nearly two years since we launched Design in the Public Sector – an intensive 16-week programme, funded by the LGA, for local authorities to build skills and capacity to use design as a catalyst for innovation and improvement of services.

The programme supports public sector leaders and managers to apply strategic design approaches to tackle service challenges affecting their local communities and, through a structured, people-centred process, enables them to identify potential solutions. 

It aims to improve the understanding of the value that strategic design can bring to local services, enabling local government, service delivery partners and agencies to embed design into a wide range of practice on the ground. 

Over the course of two years, Design in the Public Sector has supported 48 service teams across eight English regions, to use design to deliver improved outcomes across the areas of adult social care, community cohesion, children’s services, planning, health and criminal justice. 

In Staffordshire, the scheme helped the council to develop community-based solutions to support vulnerable families with babies and pre-school children, including the introduction of a membership card and a reshape of children’s services.  

Our design-led approach encourages a collaborative, people-centred way of working and enables teams to cut across service and organisational silos, to reframe complex challenges to better inform the development of new service models. 

Increasingly, local authorities have been using the programme as an opportunity to address fundamental service challenges, tackling issues that resonate at both local and national levels, and further emphasising pressures within local government to do more with less. 

Tackling London’s challenges 

The Design in the Public Sector programme in London started in March with six local authorities (see box out) working collaboratively with strategic partners and agencies on a wide range of challenges, including redesigning the model of support for young care leavers; improving homecare to maximise independence of service users; reducing temporary accommodation and homelessness; redesigning services for children with special educational needs and developing new pathways to support adults facing multiple disadvantages. 

Our experience and evidence highlights how design enables teams to redefine challenges around the people using the service, and developing more effective and efficient systems and practice. 

In Somerset, Mendip District Council took part in the programme to tackle housing issues experienced by vulnerable adults. They developed a ‘positive lives board’ which brings together a range of agencies, including health, police and probation, to oversee a number of projects to make sure vulnerable adults are getting the right help and support. 

A great example is the change in use of the emergency family hosting model, which was previously exclusively for young people. Vulnerable youths who found themselves suddenly homeless were ‘hosted’ by families for a short period of time. Following the programme, this has now been opened up to people at any age which is both hugely cost-effective and better for the individuals, who benefit from having the support, network and also the ‘feel’ of having a family. 

Throughout the scheme, we introduce senior members and frontline staff to key design methods to instill new ways of working, embedding the skills and capabilities within the public sector to promote stronger cohesion between stakeholders, service users and within the councils themselves. 

At a time when the economic climate is pushing up demand for public services and budgets are simultaneously decreasing, service providers are being forced to think of alternative ways to deliver services; design has never been more integral to the performance of each and every local authority.

For more information

W: www.designcouncil.org.uk

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