Union operating model – Update on Social Isolation pilot project – data and insights

Please see email from NELC:

As you will be aware, a small union project team have been working with Futuregov to develop new approaches to gathering, storing, and sharing, using, and presenting data and insights to inform intelligent decision making. The learning from this activity will be used in the wider activity which is underway to develop a new operating model for the Union. 

We needed to test some aspects of a future model by practicing them in a realistic way, on a real issue. The key things we are testing are around getting deeper, more useful insights by combining qualitative and quantitative research methods, as well as collaborating with the VCSE sector to gather the data and understand what we find. The intent of the discovery is to test these aspects while contributing something valuable to a high priority problem.  

The problem selected by the partners across the CCG, NELC and the VCSE sector and VCSE representatives was social isolation. This was already a Union and VCSE priority, and the hope is that whatever we learn in this project will be used to support the work of colleagues addressing the issue, which has become even more prevalent during COVID.  We held a Show and Tell last month and the slide set can be accessed here https://intranet.nelincs.gov.uk/data-and-insights-show-and-tell/  
Since the Show and Tell, the project support team has been interrogating lots of data and using conversations, stories and experiences to better understand the subject of social isolation. During our initial conversations with services, we found that there are some demographic groups who present as isolated or lonely including those with disabilities/long term conditions, carers, those living alone, bereaved, care leavers and single parents.  We also found that there were some repeated references to causes and triggers – some of which were short term, but others which were life experiences which had affected emotional or physical wellbeing. It also started to become apparent that many of the individuals most at risk of social isolation and loneliness fell into more than one of these demographics or trigger points. We discovered some anecdotal barriers to help and support and some key learnings for our next steps. These included digital access, confidence, awareness of what’s available and previous negative experiences with services.  

We spent some time with Futuregov to understand more about their approaches to design research and to overlay this with the Union Engagement Strategy and the engagement and community research activity of our local VCSE sector. We have used this learning, and that from our services about social isolation, to build a research and discussion guide, which our VCSE colleagues are now using with service users who have presented as isolated or lonely. The discussion guide is there to help services explore people’s experiences, feelings, support, barriers and what they think may help them.  

Alongside this, some of our analysts and data specialists are pulling together existing data about at-risk groups and risk factors. They have interrogated data from previous surveys where people identified as isolated or lonely and are using tools like Power BI and mapping to help us to create a clearer picture of those most at risk of social isolation. They are exploring how we may share the information we gather in this project with partners, and how we will be able to work with partners better in the future to use their data to be able to enhance our understanding of our communities and the issues we face.   

Our next steps are to bring all these findings back together, to theme the conversations with residents – and look at those alongside the numbers. By the end of next week, we aim to have a clear set of problem statements which we believe are the areas for further work, should we choose to move forward with this work. The team will present the statements and an overview of the findings to assistant directors in October.  

Please contact claire.thompson@nelincs.gov.uk or gary.dunn@nelincs.gov.uk  for further information or if you would like to get involved in the work. The next show and tell will be on Thursday 8th October at midday. A diary invite will follow.

This message has been sent to extended leadership team and those who have been involved or shown an interest in the project to date, please feel free to share wider.

Best Wishes


Claire Thompson, Community Insights and Marketing Manager, Communications, Print and Marketing, North East Lincolnshire Council

Municipal Offices, Town Hall Square, Grimsby, DN31 1HU 07427582323 | claire.thompson@nelincs.gov.uk | www.nelincs.gov.uk