Worcestershire County Council has developed an online Here2Help service to coordinate support efforts through the county in response to coronavirus.
It is using it in its work with local district councils and support groups and adding more functions as it identifies needs.
Jo Hilditch, Worcestershire’s digital delivery team manager, said it has come from a need for wider coordination of pockets of local support offers that had emerged on social media.
Here2Help has initially comprised two online forms developed on the council’s OutSystems low code applications development platform, focused on requests for help and offers of support from the public and organisations.
“We built the two forms in two days,” Hilditch said. “There is a comprehensive back end dashboard to eanble staff to match requests and offers based on needs and location.
“It’s been very much an agile development. It’s evolved in terms of front end forms and the requirements once the back office staff started to see the data coming in. We’ve added more filters and things like DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks.”
The request form asks for the type of help needed, such food and supplies, collecting medication and support with money issues, along with location and contact details. For some categories they are diverted to other websites.
The offer of support form requests location and contact details, provides for the upload of a DBS certificate, and enables community groups and charities to sign up.
Other elements include a GIS mapping function to give staff a clear view of where the requests and offers are coming from, the ability to match them with one click, a reporting function and ‘read only’ access for social care staff to cross-check.
The county council has been encouraging community groups and district councils to provide links to the service, and with the districts on coordinating the deployment of volunteers.
“We’re working on enabling the districts to have access to the volunteer information,” Hilditch said, adding that they generally have stronger links with local voluntary groups and can better direct their deployment.
Here2Help also includes a website with information and self-help resources for dealing with the coronavirus, and a dedicated telephone number for residents unable to access the online form.
Hilditch said that from the launch of the service on 18 March until 3 April it had received approximately 550 requests and 800 offers of help.
It is now looking at increasing the number of categories of support, and working with OutSystems on making a template for the service available to other local authorities that use the platform.
Worcestershire has also developed a handful of internal applications to support its HR function through the pandemic: for identification of existing medical conditions with a declaration from staff; absence from work due to coronavirus; identifying people with previous experience in the care sector; and for the redeployment of volunteers.
“We’re asking staff to let us know if they have any of the skills we’re short of,” Hilditch said.
Image from Worcestershire County Council