During the COVID-19 pandemic, councils have had to react quickly and efficiently to launch new services, move staff members to new departments to support increased demand and work remotely. New services they needed to launch early on included; supplying Business Grant forms, supporting vulnerable residents, delivering food parcels and waste management services.
Medway Council quickly produced an easy to use coronavirus webpage, bringing all of its essential information, such as business support resources and where to go for a test, into one place. The council created a centralised place for the latest news and updates for residents and enabled staff to easily update the page. The page has been well-received by Medway residents.
During an early customer call, where we held an open conversation between almost 70 organisations across the Globe, Catherine Iles, Head of Digital at Medway Council, told us how Medway managed to deliver services for users so quickly, and how the council was approaching the recovery process already. Here are some of the key points:
Business Support Page
The most popular coronavirus pop-up page for Medway started out as an information page for local business owners and grew as new Government developments and support were announced. The team quickly spun up a Business Grants form, which was uploaded onto the Jadu Library for others to use, which has been well received. Catherine estimated that at the time of the call, around two-thirds of local businesses in Medway had accessed and used the form.
Medway Council kindly donated its Business Grants Form to the COVID-19 Community Toolbox on the Jadu Library. You can view it here.
“We've had really good feedback. People are really positive that the website is being kept up to date and are pleased with the online services that we've been able to build - especially the business support grants. A thousand businesses have used that one so far, that's really positive.” - Catherine Iles, Head of Digital
There are further conversations surrounding local business as a lot of these businesses will change the way they operate and be looking into what support and guidance is available. Similar conversations are happening regarding support for vulnerable people too, customers need extra support at the moment, whether through shielding, job loss or any other reason. They may not have access to the services they need or they maybe ones the council isn’t currently running due to Coronavirus and government guidance, so looking into how they can help, support and create new services is a high priority.
Heading for Recovery
On 5th April, Catherine’s team ran a report on website usage. From 15th March - 5th April the website had nearly a 50% increase in unique page views. During this time the coronavirus page had 85,000 views and the service updates - 51,000. The Medway Council digital team is keen to keep the site as the first port of call for those looking for information.
“So the bit around recovery that I'm really interested in is how do we maintain that channel shift, how do we maintain that and keep people there?” - Catherine Iles, Head of Digital
Medway Council has had Jadu CMS and CXM since 2018, and has mainly focused on building up its website and creating new, well-structured online services. But as Local Government heads into recovery, Catherine and her team are keen to explore possible integrations available via the Jadu platform, having already prototyped Bartec and Confirm at the time of the call. With waste disposal being such a vital service for the council and increased demand, the council is eager to ramp up the service and keep on improving it for residents.
Creating new content
Medway Council’s quickfire response to the Coronavirus saw it prioritising and publishing vital content, very quickly. One of the challenges Catherine now feels the council has is ensuring the services and information is to the same standard as before the pandemic, especially as services will be opening up gradually and offering a different service now.
“One of the challenges we've got is how we get that information back as good as it was before. How do we make those online services available in quite the same way that they were before so that we know the user journeys are still good? And I think we're going to have an interim period where some of the services will be open.” - Catherine Iles, Head of Digital
Medway now has the task of ‘resetting’. During the call, Catherine referenced Socitm and the way they used to schedule their top tasks and had a list of criteria that they would look through to make sure that those top tasks are really usable, realistic and accessible.
Medway Council has received a very positive response from its residents regarding the new services, and the existing ones that were moved online. Catherine and her team have been able to react to the COVID-19 pandemic with speed, and have created a great opportunity for themselves and their citizens to keep services online moving forwards.
If you haven’t already, you can listen to the podcast created from our call with Catherine Iles, as well as other podcasts we’ve created. You can also download our Channel Shift eBook, ‘Councils: Ready for Reset’ which features other conversations we‘ve had with customers, similar to this one.