Results of Adult Support Croydon alpha service assessment

The council assesses another of its digital public services against the government service standard.


We carried out our first alpha service assessment on the Adult Support Croydon platform in January this year. As part of the council’s Local Digital Declaration pledge, we assess all new digital services against the Government Digital Service Standard to ensure they are of high quality, then publish the results openly here on this blog. (Albeit a bit belatedly in this case!)

The service

Adult Support Croydon is a digital marketplace providing people living in Croydon with information, advice and support for themselves, their families and carers. They can search for, choose and purchase services and activities, as well as using it to gain information about the social care, health and wider support opportunities that are available in the borough.

Key users of the service are:

  • borough residents
  • borough businesses
  • non-residents using the website on behalf of someone else

Others users include:

  • LBC politicians and decision-makers
  • Croydon Digital Service and content owners

The problem

The service was procured before Croydon Digital Service was set up, and didn’t go through the rigorous discovery phase we would have hoped to see. User research revealed issues with the service, such as:

  • it was cumbersome to use
  • information was hard to find

The new site is supplied by an external company, PCG UK, which held design sessions with Croydon Digital Service. This collaboration resulted in a new look and feel for Adult Support Croydon being agreed.

The aim of this new website is to ensure that:

  • clients can find the information they need easily
  • information is presented clearly, making it simple for the client to make the best choice for themselves

The assessment process

A week in advance of the assessment, I met with the service representatives to walk them through the assessment process. This was to instil a level of confidence that we would work collaboratively with the panel to deliver a great digital service to our users in the community – in other words, that it isn’t a “wrist slapping exercise” but is about helping them to deliver the best service they can.

The purpose of the reviewing panel is to question the service representatives after the walkthrough demonstration and review their responses. Our panel consisted of

  • User Centred Design Lead – Annie Heath
  • Strategic Delivery Lead – Atika Mohammed
  • Technology and Architecture Lead – Jon Mellor

For future CDS service assessments, we will also invite the Digital Business Partner assigned to the relevant service. The Digital Business Partner works as the liaison between CDS and the service to identify their needs, so they are knowledgeable about the service and the reasons why it is being assessed.

The assessment was scheduled for 2 hours in total, with the first hour allocated for the end-to-end walkthrough demonstration. After the demonstration, we had an hour of questions and answers. The questions are based on the government Service Standard guidelines.

The team that represented the service at the assessment worked very hard to ensure that the service was ready and prepared for its first alpha assessment. At the end of the assessment, the service representatives were congratulated for their demonstration and responses to the questions posed by the panel.

After the service representatives left, the panel remained in the room to discuss their opinions on the responses to the questions asked during the assessment and the areas of strengths and weaknesses.

The outcome

I’m pleased to say that the team passed the service assessment, and the Adult Support Croydon service achieved a “partially met” outcome, and was given the green light to proceed with a beta phase.

The main issues identified were:

  • lack of initial user research, which had led to usability issues in the initial design (now rectified)
  • support model not yet arranged, for how the service will be maintained after launch
  • lack of clarity on how success will be measured, both in terms of the metrics and resource
  • further work needed on how the service will be promoted to its intended users
  • questions over data protection and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which will need clarification

Lessons learned and next steps

The assessment report will enable the service to implement the recommendations, ultimately leading to significant improvements in the service.

Working iteratively and collaboratively with the design teams will enable incremental improvements to be made to the service. Future beta assessments will be scheduled in due course.

Given that this was my first attempt at organising a service assessment, I also learnt some useful things for future reference:

  • meet with the service as soon as possible to discuss what will happen at the assessment
  • share a copy of the assessment template and walk through the list of guideline questions
  • share a previous assessment report with them so they get a view of what to expect as a potential outcome
  • confirm the availability of the panel and service representatives as soon as possible
  • remind the service that this is quite informal and enjoyable for all parties and is designed to improve how we deliver great digital services to our users
  • keep accurate records in a tracker
  • agree on who should write the blog post for the assessment

Watch this space for future service assessments!

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