I'm doing some research for the Richmond upon Thames project looking at online agency to agency referral options, (with a key focus on data security).
There seem to be two models:
1) Online forms - potentially accessed from the public website e.g. Westminster Advice Services Partnership who are using a secure third party form provider, or from a private webpage via a log on (I'm sure there's an example of thi somewhere!)
2) A database accessed via a web portal log in e.g. Norfolk Can, Uttersford Frontline and Somerset Advice Network
There are obvious security necessities - encryption of data transfer and storage, but if both of these are met, the advantage I can see with the latter, is that there is one place where agencies can indicate that they have accepted a referral and there can be some reporting built in, in terms of number of referrals.
I guess web reporting using Google Analytics and individual agencies reporting back re number of online referral forms - could gather the equivalent data, but it wouldn't be automated in the same way.
We are also keen to avoid duplication (a range of databases are already being used by various partners) and a protocol is being developed where there is agreement re how much data is required - tho invariably there will be some personal data as defined by the Data Protection Act.
Does anyone have any other input / experiences of the merits of either model??
Hi katewhite, it's fine pitching for the views of others but please do declare an interest in future - not everyone will appreciate you work for an ICT support service provider and that their input may in fact be assisting you develop products for market
For information, the rules of this section have now changed: you are also free to market your services here in the ASTForum open area. So, feel free to plug what you do - people entering the staff-only area will then have the opportunity to check out the work you do and contact you if they wish
I'm sorry if I didn't declare interests - yes I do work for an ICT support provider with a geographical remit of South London - but was in no way pitching for business through this forum nor will be developing products for the market. But I understand you need to challenge this
Our role is to provide technical advice and research existing solutions, so that rather than reinvent the wheel / waste money on developing something from scratch, the ASTF project in question can choose from a list of appropriate options to suit their budget and the needs of their partnership.
I did also get in touch with Ilegal previously to find out where it was appropriate to post this request and Patrick explained about the Staff only area and suggested I post in the open area.
Post by alisoneastbourne on Apr 14, 2014 11:04:30 GMT
This sounds like interesting work. I would be interested in finding out more about the outcomes of your research. Our project is looking at referrals but it is early days for us and we do not currently have any IT options built into our budget. However, I am keen to consider all possibilities as there are so many possible options it would be great to get a better idea of what is available and what the benefits of each system may be.
I recently attended the ASTF conference in Bristol. Nearly all partnerships were developing some form of referral system - probably the best I saw was Wolverhampton.
However, I am increasingly concerned about certain issues
1. A lot of money is going to be wasted and many new referral systems will die a quiet death at the end of the project as there will be no one in post to adminster them or encourage/ enfoce their use. 2. The issue of legacy is not being addressed as part of a risk assessment for any new service or policy. When this funding ends how and by whom are the services/ new procedures going to be administered? There will be no new money and the word "sustainable" seems to have been forgotten by some. we have taken the view that whatever procedures we set up must be able to be adminstered within current funding levels. ASTF coordinators will go at the end of the funding so their work will have to be undetaking by the remaining managers. Is this not how the fudning was set in the first place? 3. If your area has a MAS ( Money Advice Service) contract it seems likely that on line referral system will be implemented as part of the contract - which you will not be able to choose. This is due to start in Septmeber 2014. Thus there is potentail for 2 different referral systems having to be used which will be confusing for caseworkers and an unnecssary cost/ duplication. I do not know if MAS are going to pay for the implemetnation of the referral system as they are with interpreting services - but if they are - the most sensible cost effective and administrativley sustainable route to go would be to adopt whatever referral system MAS decide to use. 4. I believe the MAS contract will also ask for the referring agency to record the outcome of the work undertaken on behlaf of the client by the agency to which they were referred. Is any one esle doing this? It seems a very sensible but administravely heavy ask fo the legal advice sector.
I welcome a discussion on this. We are currenlty holding back on the referral system as, being a well established partnership who had already implemented a referral system in the past. This did not work and we have many lessons learnt. The most important of these seems to be that the caseworker could not see what was "in it" for them and tended to make referrals outside of the system as it was seen as an unnecssary administrative burden. As its use was not encouraged/ enforced through staff supervsion its use wained quite quickly.
If any could tell me how you are dealing with this issue - changing managment practices across partnerships to encourage the use of a referral system I would like to hear from you.
We are instead looking at the potential of using an active signposting route with a website to update the information for all advisers to use. Is anyone else doing the same thing?
Finally, as part of the "fact finding" mission I am on at the present time, I am contacting support and council agencies who do not have established links with voluntary legal advice services as we are keen that any system that is set up is easliy used by new and emerging groups. This will add to the sustainablity of the service. Is any one esle undertaking a similar piece of work. Again I would like to hear from you.
I think you raise some really interesting points. There does seem to be a lot of areas interested in developing referral systems or referral networks and I do question the sustainability issues.
As someone who is relatively new to the advice sector, I find the notions of inter-agency referrals very interesting. There are a few different definitions around about what a referral is and when one should be made.
There seem to be two main referral situations:
When an agency has a client who would be better served by a different agency. The initial agency contacts the new agency with some basic details about the client (ether by completing a form, entering information online, making a phone call or sending an email). The new agency then takes responsibility for contacting the client.
When an agency has been working with a client but reached the limit of their knowledge, skills expertise (or possibly the client is moving out of their area) and they need to pass the case on to another agency who can pick up the work and take it forward.
Invariably it is a bit of a continuum and some referrals may fit other definitions but I think they are probably OK for general purposes.
My instinct is that the second type of referrals are quite limited in number and probably not best served by an electronic referral system. There may be significant paperwork (paper or electronic) to transfer, detailed knowledge to pass on etc and this can only really be done by having a discussion with the new agency – probably the actual caseworker who will take it on. The referring agency would also want to get confirmation from the receiving agency that they could take it on in the first place.
This therefore leaves the first type of referral which is trying to be met by the development of these referral systems. The concept seems to be that the client “knocks on the door” of Agency A. The client explains their situation and Agency A says yes we can help you with X but you have also told me about Y & Z and we are not going to be able to help you with these but there is Agency B who should be able to help with Y & Z. Agency A then completes the online referral form (having obtained all the relevant permissions) and off the referral goes to Agency B. Agency B will either then accept or refuse the referral.
I think this then brings us on to a discussion between signposting versus referral. The alternative option in the scenario above would be for Agency A to simply give the client details about Agency B and leave it for the client to contact them. It is of course much simpler and therefore cheaper to signpost rather than refer. When you signpost the responsibility is with the client not the agency. Agency B will not incur any cost until the client contacts them. With the referral method Agency B will have to:
review the referral to decide whether to accept or decline it and advise Agency A of their decision,
create a file for that person (electronic or manual)
record the referral for their statistical purposes
contact the client to arrange a “consultation” (which might involve considerable chasing, and might actually lead to the client advising the Agency they no longer need the help)
make sure their staff are trained on the referral system
Someone somewhere has also paid for the development of the referral system as well as the need to fund its on-going existence.
There is also the possibility that the appointment (if one is arranged) might result in a no-show. I wonder if a no-show for an appointment is more likely if the initial contact with the agency has come from a third party rather than the client directly.
The argument for the referral system seems to be that it prevents the client having to tell their story more than once. I understand that but I have a sneaking suspicion that even with a referral system, the receiving agency will have its own questions to ask and therefore still need to go through the client’s situation again with them. For example, a client with a housing need might go to a housing agency. During the work with the agency the advisor might become aware that the person would be eligible for services from Adult Social Care. So they make a referral to ASC. You can guarantee that ASC will ask that person’s history again because they need to ask different questions. It also reduces the potential for misinformation to become established – The initial agency interprets something they client has said and this then gets cascaded out to the new agency.
That is of course assuming that the receiving agency is happy to be part of the referral network. I can see the large agencies are less likely to want to join in with these networks especially if the agency is a national or regional one.
Instead, there is the option of course to signpost. This puts the client in control of the situation, has no data protection concerns, is quick for the referring agency (and therefore cheaper), and doesn’t involve the receiving agency (and therefore costs them anything) until the client actually knocks on their door. Additionally there are no on-going costs for a referral system.
There will of course be times that an advisor feels that someone really needs to be referred rather than signposted – then they could always pick up the phone to the other agency as a quick and simple method.
Is the Advice Sector therefore “over-engineering” a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist?
What is the actual cost of a Referral System? Add up the development cost, the software cost, the training cost, the cost of all the meetings and staff time, the IT cost, the cost of the person who is implementing it etc. Work out the number of years life it has and then divide that by the number of referrals (being realistic) to get a cost per referral. Anyone done that calculation?
The ASTF is all about sustainability. Will a referral system make an advice agency more sustainable? Will it increase efficiency, does it reduce cost? If the answer is no, then I suggest there needs to be some very strong arguments for such systems which over-ride the fact that they increase cost.