Coming soon – I&A services online discussion groups

Age UK’s Quality & Transformation team are looking to organise a set of I&A services discussion groups. Find out all the details including how to get involved.

In the September edition of Inform & Advise, we offered all I&A managers and advisers the opportunity to discuss a range of topics in small groups. Many thanks to those who have expressed an interest in joining one or more of the proposed groups so far. We will assess numbers at the end of September and organise dates in October and November 2021. If you missed the piece in Inform and Advise and would like to know more or get involved, full details can be found below.

The aim is to pilot the discussion groups to see how valuable they are to local I&A staff and volunteers. If the discussion groups go well and demand for them continues, we will look at running them periodically throughout 2022.

The proposed discussion group topics are:

  • Reopening services safely after the pandemic
  • Remote supervision and support for I&A Teams
  • Overcoming the challenges of establishing an external Peer to Peer File Review Arrangement
  • Volunteering after the pandemic
  • Managing demand in your I&A services
  • Lessons learned from dealing with emergencies during the pandemic

The discussion groups will be facilitated by members of the Quality & Transformation team. They are not intended to be training sessions. Their purpose is to create a space for I&A service managers to share their experiences with other local partners. As I&A staff have all had to face the same or very similar challenges in adapting to a radically changed working environment and many are exploring how to work with clients going forward, this is a good opportunity to share views and ideas on what your work will look like in the future.

If you or members of your team are interested in attending any of the discussion groups please contact janice.davis@ageuk.org.uk.

Information & Advice Quality Programme – common areas identified for improvement

Age UK’s Quality & Transformation Team have identified some common areas for improvement across the advice sector. Find the most recent trends below.

Age UK’s Quality & Transformation Team regularly review areas of compliance with the I&A Quality benchmarks, so that we can share learning across the network. We have found that the most common areas identified for improvement are similar to those identified across the independent advice sector as a whole and are important elements of quality assurance. Read on to view the most recent trends.

Most common areas of non-compliance for Quality of Advice

  • Lack of sufficient relevant information gathered to give correct advice
  • Insufficient advice recorded or incomplete advice given e.g. no means-tested benefits check when disability benefits awarded
  • Limited use of Factsheets and Information Guides to back up advice given
What can be done to avoid these?

Training in case-recording and/or the key Age UK topic areas of benefits and community care can help ensure your clients are getting the correct advice – further details can be found on the loop here.

Most common areas of non-compliance for Service Management

  1. Data Protection / Client confidentiality e.g. lack of consent or secure storage of client data
  2. Not recording sufficient client details for information enquiries (leading to under- reporting of work, clients needing to repeat their story on returning)
  3. Lack of Technical Supervision of advisors (usually of the Manager), including regular file checking to ensure accurate advice is given
  4. Lack of planning for a sustainable service
What can be done to avoid these?
  1. Ensure you have evidence of the clients’ consent to process their data, including to store it, share it with third parties, and share it with Age UK for quality audit. Ensure you record and date consent on the client record.

Please Note: legitimate interests as a basis for processing the data should not be used for special category data (i.e. personal sensitive data e.g. health, politics, ethnicity, religion). The ICO sets a higher bar for the way this data is handled, as it could create a higher risk of, for instance, unlawful discrimination. Consent is the best way to treat this type of data, as it is most transparent and simple.

The GDPR Toolkit on the loop can be found here.

  1. Ensure all staff providing I&A are aware of your procedures for recording information enquiries. This helps ensure the client does not have to keep repeating their “story”, and ensures you are not under-recording your work and reach. Enquiries should not routinely be recorded as “Anonymous” – only if consent is not given, or for very simple enquiries.
  2. Ensure you have procedures for both regularly checking the accuracy of advice and that your case management procedures are being followed, as well as the more in depth file reviews (IFRs) carried out less frequently. Ensure these include the advice carried out by the Supervisor or Manager). This is even more important when staff are working remotely or from home.
  3. Ensure the current year 12 month plan and budget is regularly reviewed. A short outline plan for the following 2 years is needed – it does not need to be in detail but should include an outline plan for a sustainable service.

New promotional leaflet – Age UK Information & Advice: A lifeline for older people

A new leaflet has been produced to promote the collective provision of information and advice across the Age UK Network.

A new leaflet has been produced which aims to raise the profile of Age UK’s information and advice provision – our collective provision through the national service and local partners’ services. The main purpose of the leaflet is for Age UK’s Influencing Team, and the Fundraising Team, to send to politicians, civil servants, and corporate contacts, in order to make them more aware of the kinds of support we offer older people, and the scale of what we do. 

You can view the leaflet here.

We hope that the leaflet will help us secure more support for Age UK I&A provision, and more funding for it, especially through funded national programmes, which form such an important source of income for our combined local and national I&A provision. 

We did look at making a version that local partners could adapt for their own use, but it would require too many editable elements to make it work. However, partners may find the text useful in drawing up their own materials to promote their I&A provision. 

To feed back about the leaflet, contact john.edwards@ageuk.org.uk.

Later Life Goals Evaluation Webinar

The Later Life Goals project is set to restart after a 6-month pause due to Covid-19. This upcoming webinar is a chance to reflect on what we’ve learned so far.

Join us from 10.00 – 11.30 on Wednesday 16 September to hear more about the difference that Later Life Goals project can make to the lives of older people it’s supporting with information and advice. After a six-month pause due to Covid-19, we’re gearing up to restart the Later Life Goals project for its final year on 1 October, so it’s a good time to reflect on what we’ve learnt so far.

During the webinar, our external evaluators, SocialQual, will take us through the findings of their small qualitative evaluation, looking at the difference the work has made to the lives of nine older people at two of the thirteen sites that Later Life Goals runs in. Fingers crossed, we’ll even have the chance to see and hear a little from the older people themselves through some short videos! SocialQual will also talk us through the thoughts and experiences of the advisors they interviewed.

We’ll then take a brief look at our interim quantitative findings on whether the project seems to make a difference to people’s feelings of loneliness and wellbeing. This was a key thing for us to test with Later Life Goals and, of course, loneliness is now a bigger issue than ever given the pandemic and the effect it’s had on our lives.

Finally, we’ll bring things together to look ahead to the final year of the project and beyond.

Join our webinar through Microsoft Teams by clicking this linkThe webinar runs from 10.00 – 11.30 on Wednesday 16 September

You don’t need the Teams app installed as you can join through a browser (Chrome or Microsoft Edge are best). Remember to turn your microphone and camera off once you join please.

We hope to see lots of you there and there will be plenty of time for your questions.

Guidance on completing online welfare benefit applications for clients

Age UK has produced some guidance to support local Age UK advisers when applying online for welfare benefits for their clients.

The Covid-19 crisis has led to an increase in local Age UKs looking to use online application processes rather than paper or pdf welfare benefit application forms. The DWP has been slow to develop online application processes, especially for older peoples’ benefits (the Pension Credit process is still a test version and was introduced as a response to the Covid-19 crisis), and there is no consistency across the processes developed by each separate department within the DWP.

To support local Age UK advisers with using these processes, especially when doing so remotely from their clients (ie over the phone or a video call, rather than face-to-face), Age UK has produced some guidance, which can be found below:

You can also find the guidance on The Loop and the ‘COVID-19 I&A Hub’.

There are number of risks involved with using online application processes, as opposed to supporting a client to complete an application form, and particularly when doing so remotely. The guidance has been developed in conjunction with the provider of our group professional indemnity cover and they expect all local Age UKs to adhere to this guidance.

Guidance on providing face-to-face I&A from your office during the Covid crisis

Age UK has produced some guidance on things to consider when reintroducing some element of face-to-face I&A delivery from a local Age UK office.

As the country begins to come out of lockdown, a number of Age UKs have looked at how they can reopen their offices and begin to provide something like their ‘normal’ service offering. Naturally, this has included consideration of once again providing I&A services from local Age UK offices.

Age UK has produced some guidance on things to consider when deciding how or if you can reintroduce some element of face-to-face I&A delivery from a local Age UK office:

The guidance has been produced in collaboration with a number of local Age UK offices and should be read in conjunction with Age UK’s general guidance on restarting services and the latest guidance from your local public health body (especially given the differing levels of local lockdowns that are becoming more common).

The guidance can also be found in the ‘COVID-19 Resources’ on the I&A pages of The Loop and on the ‘COVID-19 I&A Hub’ on WordPress.

Integration of local I&A lines with the national Advice Line

To help make I&A delivery across the network more seamless, the I&A Team have been working on a programme of Integration. Find out all about it here.

A key element of our I&A Strategy is to make our delivery more seamless, and to reduce the need for older people (and those enquiring on their behalf) to repeat themselves when we refer them from national to local services and vice versa.  To this end, we have been working on a programme of Integration, through which the national Advice Line and local Age UK I&A services can work better together to deliver a more accessible and seamless service to people phoning Age UK for I&A. 

There are two elements to the integration programme:

Diverting – local to national. 

This means that local partners set up their I&A phone line to divert to the national Advice Line when they are closed or not available to take calls.  A less automatic version of this is to put the Advice Line number on the local AUKs’ I&A line ansafone message.  Most local partners are set up to divert to the Advice Line.  As a result, older people are more able to access I&A by phone, with the Advice Line being open 11 hours a day, every day of the week.

Callbacks – national to local. 

This means that when the Advice Line gets an enquiry where local support is needed, they can pass a secure message (with name, contact details and nature of enquiry) to the local AUK asking for them to make a callback to the enquirer. (Live transfers are also possible, if the local Age UK is available immediately).

Both elements of integration were working well, with around 90 brand partners up until a couple of years ago, but then the adoption of a new CRM system nationally meant that the callback element no longer worked and had to be rebuilt.  That rebuild has finally been completed, and we are now able to roll out the full integration programme again. 

With both elements working, it means that the Advice Line can effectively triage callers diverted from local Age UK I&A lines, giving information and signposting to most, but booking callbacks for the local I&A service to make for those callers who need it.

How the new system works

The secure messages to enable callbacks are delivered through the new Brand Partner Portal system, which partners are being introduced to and which will increasingly be the method by which partners and national Age UK of share information with each other, especially about services. 

Once they have checked that the relevant local Age UK is integrated and can accept callback requests, Advice Line staff can record on the CRM system that a callback is needed, and this triggers an email to the local Age UK I&A service, asking them to make the callback within 2-5 working days. A local I&A worker can then log on to the Portal to see the details of the case, including contact details, make the callback, and record on the Portal that this action has been taken.

How your I&A service can integrate with the national Advice Line

We are working with local partners depending on the level of support needed to set them up. We have worked first with those who were previously integrated before the CRM change and where there have been no major changes in staffing and systems.  Around 18 local partners are now live on the system, and we are confident that it works well.

The next group of partners we are working with are those who were integrated but where there has since been a new I&A Manager.  Development Advisers are currently in the process of contacting the relevant I&A Managers to check they are still keen to go ahead, and to gather necessary information. The aim is to integrate these partners by mid or end of September.

From September we will work with partners who were previously integrated but may need a bit more support, given significant changes in their service delivery, and consider with them if and how integration can be best used to support their service.  Finally, we will contact the remaining Age UKs to discuss if and how they can be integrated, with the aim of integrating all partners who wish to be integrated by December.

If you have not yet heard from us about when you might be integrated, please contact integrationcustenquiries@ageuk.org.uk to register your interest.

Is integration for everyone?

Yes any partner can be integrated, but not all local partners will feel that now is the right time to proceed with this.  Changes to local working practices brought about by the pandemic may have an impact on a local Age UK’s capacity to support/engage with integration.  If you feel the time is not right for your Age UK to be integrated, the Admin Team can work with you to decide when is the best time.

What support will national Age UK provide in setting this up?

The Admin Team at the national Advice Line are the lead contact for local partners in setting up integration, and any enquiries or issues should be directed to them at integrationcustenquiries@ageuk.org.uk.  The Admin team consists of Allison Brown (Team Leader), Janet Connors, Trina Bailey-Wood and Nikki Evans. The Admin team have already successfully reintegrated 18 Local Age UKs.  They will be supported by the IADAs in rolling it out further.

For more I&A news, information and resources, head to the I&A Hub on WordPress.

I&A enquiry code reports – a date for your diaries

Thank you to the 104 partners who sent in your enquiry code and benefits figures earlier this year. We know things are still busy but we’re hoping that your I&A teams will be able to make time again to send in your next set of enquiry code and benefits figures.

A huge thank you to those of you whose I&A teams were able to send in your enquiry code and benefits figures for the last quarter. 104 of you managed to find time amongst all the upheaval to do this and we’re really grateful that you could. We know things are still busy for you and you’re having to work very differently, but we’re hoping that your I&A teams will be able to make time again to send in your next set of enquiry code and benefits figures.

Please can you email your reports, covering Q1, to AdviceUnit@ageuk.org.uk by 5pm on Friday 17 July. It’s really important for us to get a picture of the types of enquiries you’ve dealt with during these difficult past months and to show everyone the amazing work that you’ve done under such unprecedented pressures.

We’ll be emailing a reminder directly to I&A Managers at the end of June and remember that the templates and guidance you need to run the reports are available on the loop, both for Charitylog users and non-Charitylog users.

New for this year, of course, are the separate set of Coronavirus enquiry codes for Charitylog users, so, if you can, please also send us the Excel report for these (on a separate spreadsheet) when you send us your common enquiry codes. There’s guidance online for you on how to do.

Thank you!

Helping older people get the right information and advice

Thank you to everyone who completed our survey back in April to tell us about changes to your I&A service in the light of Covid-19. Some of this information is now out of date, so we have contacted our primary I&A service contact for your organisation to ask for their help in updating their response.

Back in April, we asked your organisations to complete our short online survey to tell us about changes to your I&A service in the light of Covid-19. The information you shared has been invaluable to our national Advice Line colleagues – enabling them to signpost enquiries about local services appropriately to you. Thank you to everyone who submitted a survey.

Three months on and our Advice Line colleagues are finding some of this information is now out of date. We’ve therefore contacted our primary I&A service contact for your organisation, asking if they could take 5 minutes to update us on how your I&A service is currently operating.

If your I&A team is unable to complete the survey directly, please can you arrange for someone to complete it on their behalf here.

You can come back to your response at any time to advise of any further changes to your I&A service. You just need to follow the same link, using the same device and web browser.

Services Survey

Please don’t forget to review and keep up to date your wider Services Survey response to ensure we signpost people appropriately to ALL your services. To access your existing survey response and update on the changed status of any service, open this link from the same browser and device as used previously.

Once completed, we can also turn your Services Survey responses into a content block for your website – saving you time and effort in updating this too. Email partner.content@ageuk.org.uk to request the code and simple instructions to add the information to your website.

If you have any questions regarding either of these surveys, please contact covid-19enquiryline@ageuk.org.uk.

Coming Soon: Inform and Advise Bulletin

Don’t miss this week’s Inform and Advise bulletin!

Look out for the upcoming Inform and Advise bulletin this week. Packed full of news, guidance and practical resources, it’s an essential read for all I&A frontline staff. The next edition includes:

  • Attendance Allowance – how you can use video conferencing to support a client to make a claim
  • Attendance Allowance self-help guidance for the general public
  • Information from the DWP on Attendance Allowance
  • TASO briefings and Interesting email enquiry
  • Information Guides update
  • 3 face-to-face training courses postponed
  • Working from home and supporting home worker
  • Age Co update
  • Rightsnet’s COVID-19 tools for advice sector practitioners
  • Reminder about the Turn2Us website

To sign up for updates from Age UK, including Inform & Advise and our daily Coronavirus Hub updates, please click here.