Are Social Workers the Secret Weapon for Local Authority Transport?Andrew Fish | March 13, 2015
Local Authority transport teams around the country work closely with social workers every day to arrange transport on behalf of adults and children with special needs. Such processes often result in costly and time consuming paper chases involving significant duplication of data entry – which of course increases the opportunity for errors and the amount of time spent on the telephone.
Is it time we considered better solutions? We all know that modern technology has revolutionised communications between organisations and third parties. Can we use these same advancements to enable Local Authorities to mobilise stakeholders as a business resource – thereby making better use of their limited transport resources?
Consider the Tax Disk
If the above appears a selfish desire, consider that it can actually deliver significant benefits to all involved. To illustrate, think about the way you can now purchase your car tax disc. You no longer have to physically visit the post office or even send off forms; instead you visit the DVLA website, enter the details and – hey presto! – your car tax is sorted for a further six or twelve months.
In so many aspects of our everyday lives, organisations are searching for ways to engage customers and stakeholders as a business resource to help streamline their administrative processes – and it’s something that customers and users are requesting or even demanding.
In the tax disc scenario, we as users are doing the DVLA’s work – and we actually appreciate opportunity to do so; not only in terms of convenience (you can do it from the comfort of your sofa), but also control (you can do it when you want, ensuring the task fits with your diary, not vice versa).
Local Authority Transport Environment
So how does this translate to a Local Authority transport environment? With so many Local Authorities operating with limited budgets the possibility of using third party stakeholders as a business resource is one with considerable potential.
We envisaged Web Worker as a way to enable social workers to make transport bookings directly, rather than tying up booking office staff through the time-consuming administrative process outlined at the start of this article.
In planning the system we had to recognise that it is typically more difficult to train stakeholders than it is internal staff, so processes must be simplified with any complexities removed. We spent a long time testing Web Worker’s online booking screen for that reason.
We also understood it was critical that any new interface didn’t reduce the options available to the person travelling. We therefore ensure that the more feature-rich back office booking screen remains an important and available option whenever required by the transport office, while Web Worker handles the simpler requests.
The resulting system empowers back office staff by limiting the time they spent dealing with mundane admin tasks and enabling them to focus on the important task of scheduling the transport bookings to an appropriate vehicle in an efficient and optimised way.
Interestingly, when we launched Web Worker we anticipated that it would introduce significant efficiencies, but we hadn’t realised quite how powerful the online channel would prove in terms of facilitating a direct link between the transport authority and the social workers.
Early adopters have benefited from the ability to make announcements relating to service changes or centre closures, but there are many other opportunities to add value: for example confirming pickup times, displaying vehicle locations, or collecting feedback from social workers that might be useful for improving the services provided by the transport authority.
We believe Web Worker has huge potential for Local Authorities to work more closely and effectively with social workers throughout the UK, but there is also potential for the technology underpinning Web Worker to be used in so many other areas.
Mobilising stakeholders is an exercise which could be beneficial with groups such as parents, guardians, carers, transport operators, schools, day care centres, carers and more. There is a real opportunity to use this technology to improve Local Authority transport in so many different ways and it’s possible we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible.