Service design for social services

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The idea began as… “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if, by really looking at people and their specific context, by truly understanding them, we can offer them better services and help get them off social benefits?” A number of years ago, I was confronted with service design and was immediately convinced of the amazing value which this approach can add in the services provided by organizations. The first organization which sprang to mind for its use, was social services departments.

Application among part-timers

Together with Muzus , I put this idea to the social services departments in Drechtsteden and Amsterdam, who were both immediately enthusiastic and wished to apply the approach to the group of clients who work part-time. What obstacles do they encounter? What can the social services department do to make it easier for them? What stops people from working part-time, is it all the administrative challenges which they encounter or are there other issues at hand?

Follow our findings

In recent months, Muzus has spoken with a number of clients of both these social services departments in order to understand their context and their motivations. In this blog, we (Sanne and myself) will inform you regularly about the insights we gained. I shall be sharing one of the insights below, which in my case provided a totally different viewpoint from outside in.

Just as scary as a hospital visit

One of the greatest risks of working in the practical field on a day-to-day basis, is that it is difficult to change your perspective. Can you truly step into the shoes of the person at the table with you, when they are one of the many people you supervise in a certain process? Nobody will ever find that simple. Many social services departments are therefore unaware that the perception of people dependent on supplementary benefit is almost identical to the perception of people visiting a hospital.

  • I’m unsure, I know nothing about the process I’m heading into
  • I’m scared, all kinds of things could go wrong
  • I’m dependent
  • It’s a big organization, who does what?
  • I can’t have direct contact with the person I need
  • I can’t take it all in on my first visit because I’m nervous

We’re on our way!

These insights in themselves are already very useful in adjusting the journey undertaken by a client on supplementary benefit. They can help raise employee awareness of the impact on their client. But they also provide them with tools to remove uncertainty, providing a description of the end-to-end journey to be undertaken or the obstacles which may be encountered, for example. It is a great first step on the road to improving customer experience, which in this case benefits both the social services department and its clients.

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