Jade Hegarty, Head of Research,Texthelp

Creating local Government digital services that work for everyone.

With the Local Government Digital Service Standard gaining traction, digital transformation of public services is fast becoming best practice. Do you have a service that works for everyone?




The Local Government Digital Services Standard, launched in April 2016, sets out a common approach for local authorities to deliver good quality, user centered, value for money digital services. 

It incorporates collaborative working in an agile way both internally within local councils, and with suppliers, to get value for money, top quality services.

It can be difficult to provide an online service that’s not only user friendly, but also caters to the needs of various end users, regardless of their digital skills  - and with around 12.6m of the adult UK population lacking basic digital skills, online access continues to be a challenge. 

Online, digital services provide quick and easy access to information and services, saving time and money for both the provider and the end user.

Growth in the number of people in Britain using the internet to access government services has been substantial. By 2013 almost two-thirds (65%) of the population had accessed government information and service delivery applications through the internet, rising from 39% in 2005. If this number is to continue to grow, it is vital that these services are as accessible and user friendly as possible. 

The potential benefits of digital are widespread, delivering efficiency and savings across the board. The Tinder Foundation reported in 2015 that by accessing government services and banking transactions online, individuals could save an average of 30 minutes per transaction. They also found that a third (34%) of UK citizens learning Basic Digital Skills made fewer visits to a doctor after learning about online health resources such as NHS Choices. If this resulted in these citizens reducing their annual number of visits to the GP by one, based on a cost to the NHS of £45 per GP visit, NHS savings would amount to £121 million a year by 2025. 

As a provider of digital accessibility solutions, we know how vital it is to put the end user’s needs first, to ensure that users have the best possible digital experience.

Within the UK, we have a number of user groups to consider, including: 
  • over 450,000 with learning disabilities, including dyslexia which affects 10% of the population
  • the older population - 71% of 65-74 year olds use the internet but this falls to  around 37% of people over age 75 years
  • those with cognitive disabilities - and cognitive decline, such as dementia, a growing problem expected to affect 1 million UK citizens by 2025
  • individuals with low literacy - around 16% of adults in England are described as ‘functioning illiterate’ according to the National Literacy Trust. 

As we design our digital services we must design with these, and other, citizens in mind to ensure that services and information platforms are equally accessible for all. 

During the past 18 months, as an organisation, we have switched from being a product led organisation, to one that looks at the needs of our customers and end users. This new approach has enabled us to really understand what users require to maximise their online experience, whether it be searching for information, or filling out a form. 

All too often, companies develop products and push them out to the buyer, without any acknowledgment of the user’s needs on the other side of it - how good their digital skills are, whether they have a disability or impairment, for example. It is a digital supplier’s duty to ensure that a product or service is inclusive to all.

With the Local Government Digital Service Standard gaining traction, digital transformation of public services is fast becoming best practice.

It’s vital that buyers and suppliers alike are following these digital guidelines to future-proof businesses and services, so that the entire UK population is confident using online services. 
 
UK Government’s 2014 Digital Inclusion Strategy aims to have as many citizens as possible digitally capable by 2020. As a digital supplier we want to support this objective as much as possible and will continue to engage with end users to improve our services. 

Are your services transitioning online? Here's our guide to make your digital services more accessible

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