Plan Ahead is a tool designed to help residents travel in their daily lives and overcome anxieties or accessibility challenges they face. The solution is an easy-to-read, use and follow map with navigation aids, such as pictures of landmarks.
The Camden Adult Social Care 2018/19 survey found that 29 per cent of respondents struggled to get to all the local places they wanted to go to. In the discovery phase of the project, the team explored this with older people, people with learning disabilities and people with mental health conditions in the area.
The initial aim of the project was “to explore how technology can be used to address issues that arise with travel assistance and independent travel, to prevent social isolation and promote independence.”
The project team focussed on the problem:
How do we support people to get where they want to go
This incorporated people’s sense of their community, the issues they face when leaving their homes and travelling, as well as their use of digital solutions. This enabled the project team to understand how they could best support those that already use technology and understand why some struggle with technology and how to improve this.
Key aims and achievements
- Residents have more independence, greater connection with their community, and are physically and mentally healthier.
- Raised profile in digital innovation for adult social care in Camden with potential to expand product to other London boroughs.
This tool will allow people with learning disabilities to start leading and making their own decisions.
Synergy support worker
Due to the impact of Covid-19, a significant proportion of the implementation phase of this project focussed on conducting a further research phase which reviewed and tested the prototype with users and gauged how people felt about travelling. The project team used August and September to rescope the project, working with Synergy (a group of experts by experience within Camden Disability Action) to understand what changes could be made to the map to make it useful in the Covid-19 context. They then procured Snook as their service design partners. A closed beta product has been co-produced with people with learning disabilities and plans are in place to develop it into a public beta version.
The project team highlighted that the solution they have developed still fits within their original aims, but due to the constraints of Covid-19, they have not been able to add all the functionality they would have liked. They have, however, adjusted the content to take account of the Covid-19 context - for example, reminding users to wear a mask, keep a social distance and use hand sanitiser.
User research and prototyping
During the implementation phase of the project, user testing was split into three key phases:
Testing during the research phase
A group session was held with six members of Synergy and one-to-one testing sessions were held with older residents. In these sessions they discussed how the map could be repurposed in the context of Covid-19. They ran through the prototype as if they were making a journey, gathering feedback on what worked well and what might need changing.
These were held with 12 support staff who would be planners for the map, including social workers, key workers from the supported living services and day centre staff. During these sessions, they ran through the prototype with the staff to discuss the language, images and icons used and any changes that were needed.
Additional group testing
Whilst the map was being developed, they ran an additional four group sessions with members of Synergy. This included a virtual walk-through of the map where the team observed how the map would be used in practice.
Going forward, the project team plan to test the map branding with potential users, as well as testing the map in person with Camden residents once it is safe to do so. This will involve travelling around Camden with someone using the map to understand what works well for them and what does not. They also intend to test additional features that may be added to the map, such as nearest accessible toilets.
Financial and social benefits
Throughout the implementation phase, project teams were asked to produce reports forecasting the cash, non-cash, societal and quality benefits. The project team has forecast the following benefits over the next 10 years based on a predicted roll out of the map to five other London boroughs, as well as older adults within Camden.
The team identified the following unanticipated benefits:
- Working with the Camden Access Transport Service – the team discovered that their product aligned well with wider service changes planned in this area.
- Through working with a service design partner, the team have learnt a lot about the tools used in digital development and the approaches taken, which they will be able to apply to other work.
The project team developed a logic model to guide the implementation phase and to help in quantifying the inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts which are likely to result from the delivery of this project.
Key outcomes and impact measures:
- Improved health and physical wellbeing
- Enhancing local people’s autonomy and independence
- Improved mental health
- Improved confidence and self-esteem
- Reduced isolation
- Reduced digital exclusion
- More sustainable strength-based adult social care
- Raised profile in digital innovation for London Borough of Camden
- Increased community networks and connections
- Increase of local shopping in the area
- Increased access to jobs, education and recreational facilities
- A good foundational product with a clear plan for future development – the project team have developed a base product with a roadmap for future development to include aspects of the project not feasible within the timeframes.
- A product based on co-production – the team have focussed on user involvement, ensuring that they are delivering a product that people want to use and that will be useful.
- Potential for the project to be scaled-up – the team believe that there is significant potential for the project to grow. They are currently looking at scaling within London but there is potential for it to expand further.
- Team-working – the project has involved multiple teams (ie digital transformation, adult social care, Snook and Synergy) and they have worked together well, using each other’s strengths to benefit the project.
Challenges and lessons learned
- Funding: the team highlighted that there is going to be a significant financial challenge facing the council as they recover from Covid-19. The team need to ensure that funding is in place to help the map reach its full potential.
- Difficulties recruiting for testing: at the start of the testing phase, the team struggled to recruit volunteers. This was due to there being a lot of research being undertaken regarding Covid-19 and the fact that many potential users were not yet online.
- Adaptability: flexibility throughout the pandemic was key to success. It was important to have a core vision of what you want to deliver but be flexible in the delivery.
- Co-production: the importance of co-production in product design and testing was paramount and it was important to ensure co-production was included in every stage of the process.
Impact of Covid-19
- The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on this project as the map and user testing (as originally planned) were dependent on users being able to move about/use public transport freely. In March 2020, the project was put on hold until August. The project team recognised that the map would need adapting as research suggested that people may feel anxious about leaving their homes and travelling again after months of lockdown. As such, the project team shifted their focus to use the map to help people become more comfortable with journeys they used to make or try out new journeys virtually.
Within Camden, the project team are looking to work closely with the Accessible Transport Service to explore further uses of the map. The team have already identified a few potential options for the map including it being used to support travel training. The team are keen to work with other stakeholders to explore the potential of the map. They are planning to draft a communications plan when the map moves to public beta to raise awareness of their product and boost its use.
The project team believe that the product has the potential to be used much more widely. As the map stands, it can be used for any London journey. The product is currently tethered to the Transport for London Application Programming Interface (API), and so if it were to be used outside of London, it would need to be linked to another travel planner. That said, they plan to do more rounds of testing before approaching other London boroughs with the product.
The team’s ambition is that the product will be open to the public – Camden-owned but not restricted in its use.
Find out more
Shallom Sithole: Shallom.Sithole@camden.gov.uk
Jessica Lawson: Jessica.Lawson@camden.gov.uk