The team behind Hackney’s Covid-19 online support map are aiming for it to evolve into a long term project for voluntary support services that could stretch beyond the borough’s boundaries.
Further features have been added to the map since its launch in March, and efforts have begun to develop collaboration with other organisations.
Meg Dibb-Fuller, digital product lead at the City and Hackney Integrated Care System – which has worked with Hackney Council and voluntary body Hackney CVS on the development – said this reflects an earlier intent of its Find Support Services Near You programme to create a ‘single source of truth’ on voluntary and community services in the area.
She said that since the first publication of the map it has been placed on the websites of the Hackney CVS, City and Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group and Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust, and that feedback from organisations and the public has led to the addition of new features.
These have included a free text search function, a ‘clear map’ button to clear any filters used, and categories on support for families, staying safe and healthy – which includes domestic abuse, addiction and health advice – and a ‘chat and check-in’ feature.
Work is also taking place on a list of organisations providing support, with an interim feature being the ability to download details on a spreadsheet, and a video has been created to show people how to use the map.
But the team is now looking to the use of the service beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The vision has always been for this to be a long term solution providing access to relevant up-to-date information across City and Hackney,” Dib-Fuller said. “It has been very Covid-specific in response to what is happening at the moment, but we plan for this to be an ongoing resource that will continue to evolve once the pandemic calms down.
“We are in contact with surrounding boroughs as we don’t want it to be just Hackney focused. We would love it to be pan-London and we are open to any input on how it could develop.
“There could be a collaborative approach to getting this up and running. We are already in contact with North-East London CVS and Healthy London Partnership.”
She said the initial desire to build the single source of information on voluntary and community support derived from an increasing emphasis on social prescribing in the integrated care system and the presence of 13 different directories for relevant services around Hackney. Their data was kept up-to-date and presented in different ways, which created problems for users and a big duplication of effort and data.
The team subsequently developed a database of voluntary and non-statutory services, along with a digital presence guide to help smaller organisations develop their online profile.
“We have a way to build capacity in the voluntary sector and enable them to get on a level footing with statutory organisations,” Dibb-Fuller said.
“The rationale is we wanted to raise the profile of organisations that wanted to get better at this, but enable them to do it on the right online channel rather than everything. We wanted something quick and easy to enable them and ensure they would get onto the map.”
She added that an important element of further developments will be the voluntary organisations ensuring that they keep their information up-to-date.
“We’re designing this process to have minimum overhead requirements once it has become business as usual, and the only way to do that is for the voluntary organisations to keep their information up-to-date and become more digitally savvy,” she said.
Image from Hackney Council