The Assisted Digital team at GDS is working with departments to develop assisted digital support for services being redesigned to be digital by default. The first 25 of these are known as exemplars, as their progress will inform and guide that of other services.
Our goal is to make sure that the 18% of UK adults who are offline have access to digital by default services. The first step is to talk to departments to find out what they know about their offline users and the issues they currently face. Once we have an initial idea of who the users are, we talk to departments and to people outside government to define user needs and develop ideas for assisted digital support.
Last week, we ran a workshop on the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) exemplar with the assisted digital Stakeholder Reference Group and colleagues from the Office of the Public Guardian and the Ministry of Justice Digital Services Division. Our Stakeholder Reference Group has representatives on it from the Post Office, Citizens Advice, GoON UK, Age UK, Digital Unite, the Shaw Trust, Carers UK, UCanDoIT, Online Centres Foundation, Shelter, Ability Net, RNIB and Scope. These organisations know lots about offline users and are already heavily involved in providing services to them.
At the workshop, we asked the group to identify user needs or user stories for offline users of the service, and to prioritise these needs. We also asked them to think about potential assisted digital solutions that would meet these needs. Some examples of user needs identified are:
- As someone with literacy issues, I want help understanding the complex terms so that I can submit an accurate LPA.
- As someone who is socially isolated with no family support, I want access to a support service staffed by qualified people so that I can get the help, advice and support I need to complete an LPA.
The attendees emphasised that all users should be able to get information about the service in an understandable and accessible format, offline as well as online. This is really important, as applying for a Lasting Power of Attorney is not always straightforward and some of the concepts and language will be unfamiliar to a lot of people. Some attendees also noted that users needed to have access to a printer to print out completed application forms to sign, as the current process still requires the Lasting Power of Attorney form to be signed by hand.
Among the options the group discussed was the possibility of allowing users without internet access to complete an application offline and then go to a place with internet access to upload it quickly. Attendees also thought a phone-based assisted digital solution would work well. For example, a user could phone the Office of the Public Guardian, or a trusted third party, who would then talk them through the digital service or support them in accessing it.
A few weeks ago, we talked to members of the Digital Advisory Board about the Lasting Power of Attorney exemplar. They also highlighted the phone as a preferred route for delivering assisted digital support. They suggested using a contact centre with new technologies, such as remote access to a user's computer, that would allow an agent to be fully aware of a user's progress while talking to them about the support they need.
We've learnt a lot from the work we’ve done so far, but we know we won’t get the final answer for assisted digital from just two workshops. We think it’s really important to involve a range of people from outside as well as inside government in developing assisted digital support, and we’re trying to do that right from the start. In the coming weeks, we'll be continuing our work on the LPA exemplar. We'll also be running workshops with our Stakeholder Reference Group on other exemplar services and will be talking to members of the Digital Advisory Board to get their input.
And we want to look more widely. We will be talking to offline service users, organisations interested in inclusive design, people involved in service delivery, and others with relevant experience and expertise. We know that we need to get assisted digital right to make sure that everyone benefits as services become digital by default.