This year we completed our first piece of work with the national charity, Mind, taking a specific focus on their information and practical advice phone service, Infoline. As a leader in UK mental health support, Mind’s team were keen to understand how the service offer was understood, what current usage looked like and what gaps might be filled through further development.
As with similar services, since the start of the pandemic, demand for Infoline has rocketed and their effective, yet small team could feel a shift in the ‘ask’ from both the public and professionals. No longer were people approaching Mind primarily for practical information and guidance, but the need for emotional support and a listening ear were becoming a regular part of interactions.
The Infoline team wanted to learn more about four key themes…
Infoline was designed for people aged over 18, however, changes in the organisation’s strategy had extended this reach to those under 18, was Infoline ready to meet these needs?
An increase in the volume and complexity of calls had extended call lengths significantly, how was this impacting on team time and morale?
Calls from professionals were increasing – individuals managing high levels of distress amongst those they’re supporting. Many were using the Mind Infoline as a source of professional advice. Whilst well supported, this wasn’t the original intention of the service so how fit for purpose was its current design to meet this need?
Across the country there are many other phone and digital support services available. As a charity committed to the best use of funds, Mind wanted to understand where Infoline fitted in – where was the duplication and where were the gaps?
What we did
As an organisation Capacity is all about understanding the problem, getting under the bonnet on what is working and what isn’t – doing this first and foremost from the point of view of those with lived experience. Only by starting with a strong understanding of how a problem or gap is experienced by everyday people can we look at new ways of working and build ‘a new normal’ for would-be users.
Over several months we spoke to over 350 people – those using support, Mind staff and external professionals, hearing voices from across the country and from a wider range of age and ethnic groups. Through surveys, 121 interviews and focus groups we explored the current picture of demand at a local and national level. We complemented this with a detailed market analysis of similar remote mental health support services, talking to many other mental health providers and strategic partners, checking our findings, and joining up our thinking.
Through these conversations, we found that people…
Wanted more clarity around Infoline’s purpose: how could it support people, is it a one-off service or repeat, how does it fit into the wider support picture across national and local Mind organisations?
Wanted different types of support, more than just information and advice. As might be expected, there were significant differences in ‘the type’ of support people wanted depending on age.
Wanted support across a range of platforms from a range of organisations: joining together remote support services from Mind and other services was seen as an opportunity, creating a suite of tools that may or may not be delivered by Mind alone.
What’s next for Mind?
Since the completion of the project, the team at Mind have presented the findings and Capacity’s recommendations to internal stakeholders, gaining approvals, and then transferring this into a set of key actions endorsed by the Board. Based on our findings, the team decided to develop a more intentional approach to support a wider audience through the expansion of emotional support through a suite of remote tools, including phone support.
Within 3 months of the project completion the call handler team was expanded, additional skills were brought into the team and enhanced training was provided to existing handlers, starting the process of repositioning the service to include a ‘listening’ offer. This approach not only improved the external service offer but furthered the commitment of the organisation to both develop the skills of and support to their own teams.
What’s next for Capacity?
This project has closely supported our aim to ‘make public services people services’. Whether they’re delivered by charities, Councils or the NHS, the support we offer must be powered by experience, designed with and by those who want or need it. The learning from this project, (our approach, what we heard and how we worked with Mind as a client) will play not only into future projects but into our core Capacity Fundamentals programme. This type of ‘day one’ thinking doesn’t just consider any problem in isolation but asks how it’s feeling for those people living within it, the environment around it and the conditions we need to change to do things differently; whether that’s the diverse experiences we need to understand, the partners we need to involve, the infrastructure we need to develop or the wider attitudes towards challenges like mental health that we all need to work together to nurture.