Introducing the Social Care Digital Innovation Programme [Part 1]

Post by Ed Humphreys

I have never written a blog before, but the blogs I have read often start in the same way. They commence with a catch-all topic or something whimsical about the train journey the author is currently on before linking this seamlessly (or not) to the main topic of their blog….

Just over two weeks ago I became a father for the first time (catch-all topic introduced). Prior to the birth, I read a few things about being a parent so I could be as prepared as possible from delivery day. When our son was finally born (two weeks late) much of what I read went out of the window. It is difficult to know the right approach without meeting and engaging with our son. Over the last couple of weeks we have been getting used to what he wants and needs (milk on demand and a clean nappy please), and adapting accordingly.

This man (not me) does not understand the user’s needs

Understanding what the user wants is an essential formative element of any digital project (there is the link). I oversee funding from NHS Digital to encourage local authority led digital innovation in social care. In the first wave of funding last year, I visited one of the funded projects to see some assistive technology being installed in a gentleman’s home. As the installation progressed, the gentleman became agitated and said he wanted the bit of tech removed. It was clear that this was not what he wanted in his living room but there are lots of other bits of assistive technology out there that could have been utilised in this man’s home.

Prior to joining the LGA in January, I worked in social care commissioning in two London boroughs. With the funding pressures and increased demand for services, it is difficult to find time to step back and ascertain exactly what the user wants. I have been seduced by flashy gizmos without discovering if it is what the user really wants and been sucked into digitalising services that might not be as good as they can be in the first place.

This is why we have introduced a discovery phase for the next round of local authority funding from NHS Digital and why my colleague Mark Golledge blogged last month about the importance of user focused service design. In this year’s Social Care Digital Innovation Programme we will be funding 12 local authorities to undertake a discovery phase to help tackle the big issues they are facing.  There may or may not be a digital solution available after the discovery phase, but by doing this phase properly we think we can increase the chance of the outcomes of the project being met.

I should really now link this blog back to fatherhood…. like parenting much more information and advice is available on the web. All you need to know about this year’s funding is at My next blog creatively titled ‘Part 2’ provides an overview of last year’s programme.

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