At FutureGov, we aim to make things simpler. We know we can have a positive impact on services by getting public service professionals to think deeply about how they do things and understanding what it means for a user to access support.
It’s easy to make things complicated when they aren’t consciously designed. How we understand the system, and how people access it, is often described in one way: complex. But this doesn’t get to the root of the problem. ‘The system’ — that is, public services — is complicated. People with complex needs have to interact with this complicated system.
It’s our job to show the impact of this and of the beauty of simplicity in service design.
Complex or complicated: what’s the difference?
Systems are complicated. They are difficult, often with many interconnecting parts because they aren’t designed with the complex needs of users in minds. Traditionally, it’s been considered easier to design services around each individual perceived need of the user, segmented into siloed areas. It’s difficult for users to make their way through a complicated system because they don’t know where to start or where to go next to reach the end goal.
People’s needs are complex. It’s often the case that someone who seeks support has a presenting problem, but this is one of a number of areas where they need information, advice or help, sometimes from multiple agencies. Consider the wonky view of welfare where an individual needs housing, but they also need employment to pay for that housing. User needs are complex, needing support across multiple areas, yet they have to traverse a complicated, unlinked system.
This has an impact at every level with repercussions for user experience and outcomes. For users, it’s difficult to know where to go for support. Too often, the result is users passing between parts of an enormous system until finally arriving at a service that can help.
Finding the shared perspective
FutureGov is currently reviewing all adult services in North East Lincolnshire. Not just social care, not just health care, but all adult services. The scope is massive and understanding where one service stops and the next begins isn’t always easy.
We’ve found that having a shared lens and perspective on what is and isn’t part of adult services is hard. The scale of the system introduces a high level of complication, which makes putting the jigsaw together in a clear or consistent way even more difficult. This is true both for staff and residents. Add in the different cultures and models of professional practice that exist across health and social care (this is true everywhere, not just North East Lincolnshire), and you really start to get a sense of the challenge.