On how digital can help to improve service delivery across remote and rural areas.
Important: Opinions expressed by Digital Pioneer interviewees are their own and don’t represent those of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Peter Rainbird, Digital Inclusion Facilitator of Quarriers North East of Scotland Team tells us more…
Tell us about Quarriers!
Peter: Quarriers provide practical care and support for vulnerable children, adults and families facing extremely challenging circumstances. We challenge poverty and inequality of opportunity to bring about positive changes in people’s lives.
We have four services across the North East of Scotland, supporting over 2,500 unpaid carers of all ages and providing care in a wide range of circumstances. We support children, young people, adults caring for adults and parents caring for children and young people with additional needs. The needs of the people we support have driven our use of digital within our service delivery.
How have you been using digital?
Peter: As an organisation, Quarriers has been using digital for a long time. Since 2005 we have used SharePoint for managing files, procedures and media within our organisation Intranet, and we use Social Media to help reach and support our clients, including enabling face to face peer support. Our award winning digital inclusion project funded by the Challenge Fund, Go4IT, works intensively with digitally excluded individuals with learning disabilities, enabling them to digitally participate and benefit from all that being online has to offer. Our lending library of equipment and resources enables people we support to develop their digital skills by borrowing devices.
Tell us about a recent digital change you’ve made
Peter: We recently rolled out use of Skype for Business across our network to help our staff communicate more easily with colleagues, and to help support carers in remote and rural communities in Scotland. To support this roll out we’ve developed digital training for both our staff and carers.
What motivated you?
Peter: Like all services, we wanted to balance meeting the needs of the people we support with managing our increasingly limited resources. Increasing our use of digital enables more time spent on case work directly with the people we support and less time travelling, and offers additional creative opportunities to identify their needs and preferences for support.
How did you go about it?
Peter: Working with our IT Department, we tested several software options before settling on Skype for Business, which was the most robust and met our needs. The IT Department also supported us by enabling an appropriate infrastructure to meet the challenges presented by our large, rural area.
We used a blend of digital and face to face communications to introduce and roll out Skype for Business. We assessed how confident our staff and carers were to allow us to target our training. We then utilised a Digital Champion to train those that needed support.
We also created step-by-step guides which were well used. We’re now creating Digital Champions across our teams and networks to support each other with digital more generally.
We’ve been using Skype for Business for some time now and our training is ongoing. We continue to adapt our support to meet the needs of our users. So far we’ve trained up over 20 carers and 40 staff.
Who was involved?
Peter: This was a collaborative effort by all at Quarriers, including carers and staff helping to identify needs and taking part in training, the IT department ensuring we had the correct technical support and developing an appropriate training programme, and our CEO and Board showing digital leadership and approving the significant investment of resources required, in recognition of the resulting value in terms of service delivery. We all played a role!
What’s been the impact?
Peter: Using Skype for Business has meant we’ve been able to introduce more flexible support for carers in remote and rural areas, particularly in Aberdeenshire. The likelihood of a 2-4 hour round trip to have what turns out to be a 15 minute support meeting can now be significantly reduced by the meeting taking place online. This has increased the number of carers reached in a day, whilst still maintaining face-to-face support.
We have over 2,500 unpaid carers registered across Aberdeenshire and Moray. Digital is helping make us more efficient, freeing up funds to focus on front line service delivery and freeing up staff time to engage directly with more carers.
Adopting this digital approach to communicating has had a positive impact on staff, who feel they can respond more effectively to carer needs and carers are receiving support that makes a difference for them.
Peter: Trying different communication software packages before adopting Skype for Business took time, but by exploring different options we were able to settle on the right solution, making it work for us and the carers we support.
On reflection, it might have helped to produce a plan to guide finding the right digital communication tool, in terms of who to speak to, when and with what focus.
Peter: Our advice to others in the voluntary sector thinking of making a digital change would be:
- Gather lots of views and identify common elements
- Talk to those directly involved to better understand your clients’ needs
- See what’s out there and talk to others already using the tools you’re considering
- Have a clear plan of how you’ll implement your digital change and work to a deadline
What’s on your digital horizon?
Peter: We’ve got some really exciting digital developments in the future, including a training app aimed at carers to make accessing training easier and more personally relevant. We’re also looking at a new Customer Relationship Management system.
What’s digitally inspiring you at the moment?
Peter: Digital health innovations aimed at supporting carers and those being cared for at home!
Thanks to Peter from the North East of Scotland Team of Quarriers for sharing how they’re using digital in the voluntary sector. We hope you’re feeling digitally inspired after reading it. Don’t forget to share it with your networks to keep the inspiration flowing and tell us what you think @digiscot using #digiscotpioneers.
If you’d like to help spread some more digital inspiration across the voluntary sector then get in touch with us @digiscot and firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you and share it with our networks!