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HSO Michael Lonnon and Jon Rallings

Transcript

Intro 

Welcome everyone to the HSO Dynamics matters podcast. 

Your regular sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology related matters and much more besides. 

I’m your host Michael Lonnon, and for today’s episode I snared a man who knows more about local government than you can shake a stick at, Jon Rallings from County Council Network. 

If there’s a lesson in how to do more with less then those in Local Government have mastered it. So I wanted a chat with Jon to find out how technology is helping authorities to enable their citizens to live their best lives.  

So, grab a brew, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. 

Michael Lonnon

Netflix or Amazon?  

Jon Rallings

Amazon I’m a bit of a movie buff and since they’ve updated prime you’ve got all the movies. It’s my dream ever since I was a teenager that I can access like old Betty Davis films, and stuff like that from the 30s and 40s.  

Michael Lonnon

What’s your favourite film at the moment?  

Jon Rallings

My all-time favourite film is Now Voyager with Betty Davis from 1942 classic weepy, absolutely brilliant film. 

Michael Lonnon

Sweet or savoury?  

Jon Rallings

Definitely a sweet tooth.  

Michael Lonnon

Where does innovation come from technology or people? 

Jon Rallings

People, it has to be people. 

Michael Lonnon

In your line of work technologies, because technology is quite important what are the biggest challenges for councils and delivering social care today? 

Jon Rallings

There are a number of well publicised challenges that local authorities face in delivering social care. Obviously, there is a financial component to this, we’re hopefully making great strides with the government’s plans at the moment with the health and social care Levy and hopefully going to bring in some new funding. I don’t think we should underestimate the challenge that we have ahead and that’s particularly pertinent for the current councils that that we represent, because the demographics within county councils are significantly older than other more metropolitan parts of the country. So, we’re aware of the fact that in terms of older people’s care, we are going to have over the next 5,10 or 20 years increasing numbers of people who are going to require at least some level of social care. There’s a real positive story around all of this is the fact that we have got more people living longer and many people living longer with a much better quality of life, but what it does mean is that we do need to rethink how we’re delivering levels of social care to people in a way that perhaps wouldn’t have been as pertinent even two, three decades ago. Certainly, going forward, we need to work out more ways that we can incorporate that into people’s lives, because I think people have also become more sophisticated. People have become more, attuned to a level of living their own independent lives as individuals that perhaps people might not have done several decades ago. We want to make sure, within local authorities, that we ensure people are as far as possible, able to live their best lives within their own homes, with their families and technology, I think, has an increasingly important part to play in this going forward.  

Michael Lonnon

That’s a great message, enabling people to live their own lives as independently as they want in their own households. Where does technology fit within those challenges. You talked originally about the funding problems, but if they were given as much money as needed to deliver services, where would technology fit? Bigger investments, better investments?  

Jon Rallings

That’s definitely where we would be looking to tech companies like HSO and others to help us not only see what possibilities now exist, but also to think about the things that nobody has actually come up with yet. Simple example, we published a paper last year about this topic, looking at how we can enable more technology within care, and it can just be some really simple things particularly now that more people are digitally aware, being able to give somebody who’s got multiple sclerosis, access to an iPad that’s attuned to actually turn on the light and adjust things can make a big difference. It will allow a carer or a partner to be able to pop out to the shops for an hour and know that that their partner is not going to be stranded or alone, and able to actually take care of themselves, and people are very much attuned to using that. So that’s a very simple example where a nice easy app can make a big difference to the quality of a person who needs care, but also the carer who’s helping them. It can make it a more informal process rather than needing to send somebody round from the council as a care worker to provide that respite care. At a deeper level, it’s not about the systems that go in and directly used by carers, it’s also about being able to apply those systems to the professional side of the workforce. And that means some of the things that are being developed, like smart socks, which will enable you to have a better idea, back at the council headquarters, of whether or not somebody may be developing some sort of condition, and you can monitor that data. We know that one of the principal cliff edges is that people who are in the social care system can often face is that things can be precipitated by a common fall within the house and that can lead to a hospital stay and then need respite. And often that can lead to quite a transformation in the later stages of life. If we’ve got things in place that can identify when somebody has fallen, we can get carers out there quickly. It also gives the user themselves a degree of security, that they know they can go about their lives knowing they’re connected, is particularly important as well, you must understand for county areas, we have large geographies we have a lot of rural communities, remote coastal areas, etc, that can make delivery of social care much more difficult to coordinate. It can also make it more expensive as well deliver carers out there because you’re having to travel much greater distances, so technology, from our point of view, enables us to connect with our service users in a far more ongoing fashion than we’re able to at present. 

Michael Lonnon

I was going to ask you how technology helps connect those rural communities, people that perhaps aren’t as well connected to central hubs as others.  

Jon Rallings

I think that revolution we’ve been seeing, particularly through the COVID era, is certainly helping more people understand how distance can be lessened. I think a lot of the time social care is one of those things where it is not always needed, at the same time, and can be expensive, it’s difficult and it’s not possible for us to have a care worker sitting on hand in somebody’s house all the time, for that fraction of the time they may need it. If you’ve got the technology enabled, then it makes it easier for the service user and the council to  connect at the points that care is needed. There are also challenges within county areas in terms of making sure we have the infrastructure that enables digitally smart devices to operate effectively and that’s something the County Council’s network has been pushing hard on over several years now, in terms of making sure that levelling up doesn’t just include, crude dynamics like north south, but also looks at differences that may exist between different communities such as rural and urban, and addressing things like broadband coverage 

Michael Lonnon

Accessibility of data, which I think you mentioned there at one point, is very important in using applications to understand and respond to people’s needs better as you say without having somebody there on site all the time, the ability to capture, manage and monitor data, then do something and because of what the data is telling you, is important, isn’t it?  

Jon Rallings

Absolutely. We’re all aware that we’re on the edge of an almighty revolution in what data is going to be able to do for us and we’re not going to be talking from a local authority level about the really, really big national or global data that may exist, that data, once it’s accumulated can make a difference. We are already beginning to understand some of the potential this may have in terms of the predictive nature big data can pull out but we’re also alert to the fact there are possibilities we haven’t scratched the surface of yet but we need the investment to start putting it in place for adult social care so we can really understand how to use this most effectively to help our residents and citizens live their best lives.  

Michael Lonnon

How, important is collaboration between councils? At the moment, would you say that they are quite siloed? For example, if somebody is using technology in a particular way to advance social care, would they then open that information and share it with other councils? Are they good at doing that? 

Jon Rallings

I think absolutely. The experience we have, it’s the same as anything in a market-based system that essentially if somebody is doing something well, then probably somebody else is going to copy them and make sure they’re doing it well. So, to that extent, I think local authorities are very much driven by collaboration, particularly at an officer level. Where some of the challenges, such as the silo nature you’re picking up, comes from the dynamic that always exists in terms of how you put forward governance. And one of the reasons we have local government is precisely because we’re aware that the area that I live in Greenwich, a suburb in London, is going to have very different needs to say, Bradford, a city in the North compared to you know, perhaps the needs of Gloucestershire. So, the reason we put local government in is to make sure that services respond to their particular needs. Having different local authorities is great because it allows you to tailor your services accordingly, but the crucial aspect we need to make sure is happening is that we’re working with technology providers to ensure that systems effectively talk across each other so that when a particular local authority is needs services from another local authority, for whatever reason, that data can easily be shared between systems that may be different  

Michael Lonnon

The sharing of data has come up a lot. It’s not just the sharing of the data, it’s also the applications and the tools used to gather and use the data, for example, you’re saying about different councils have different needs, but a lot of the time the same application, or the same systems have been developed could be replicated in some way with a few tweaks, to be used elsewhere to service a different need, but using roughly the same sort of system? 

Jon Rallings

That is probably where the challenge is. This is a dual problem because at the one level is a philosophical level about issues around data sharing that exists at a high level, in terms of privacy, and how people have their data used. That is something for national governments, that we have data protocols in place. They need to be communicated and developed but then there’s the technical level, and making sure that things operate on the ground. One of the challenges we do have is, if you’ve got an awful lot of different systems, what you don’t need is barriers created when needing to talk to each other. What we’re really keen to do is more work with various partners that may be supplying systems to make sure those systems are able to work together and able to share data effectively, because it’s not to say it would not be right to dictate and say that every local authority needs to use exactly the same system, or just have a national system. The discussion we talked about earlier in terms of iPads for somebody with MS, that may be appropriate in one area, whereas giving an iPad to a group of people without Alzheimer’s is not necessarily going to have the same effectiveness. So you do need to tailor services. But what is important is that the way data is collected and shared between local authorities is enabled between different systems. 

Summary 

Councils must operate with a business mind-set, just without profit as the driver. Instead, it’s citizen welfare that’s the focus. Jon believes that by-and-large people have grasped the world of digital tools, and that many local authorities have adjusted to support citizens using them, but there’s more that can be done. Key to improving service delivery, connecting rural areas, sharing of best-practices and so on, is data. If not in the physical exchange as such, then at least in the learnings that data presents each authority. Lessons that can be shared and used to enable people to live their best lives. 

I hope you enjoyed this episode, do visit www.hso.com/dynamics-matters for more podcasts. And until next time, take care of yourselves. 

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