Centralising social services in Geel


In Geel social services were previously delivered by two organisations; The Centre for Social Welfare and the City Hall. These departments would often work in isolation from one another, causing confusion for citizens. Budget constraints have also affected how departments in Geel provide services, resulting in a clear need for them to provide ‘more for less’.

By taking a service design approach Geel and design agency Nahman have centralised all their social services into one building. This is now called ‘The Social House’ and makes service delivery more efficient as well as removing many of the issues previously faced by citizens.

The Process

The Project team started the design process by running several co-creation workshops with staff and current service users. These initial workshops definined the core services that Geel delivered. The project team felt that it was important for staff to come together to understand the capacity and capability of their organisation before going to the service users for their feedback and insight.

Group and individual interviews with service users and social workers then took place to understand the challenges around accessing services. To support this ethnographic research an online questionnaire was sent to 185 citizens and 127 staff to capture additional experiences and qualatitive data. This focused on user and staff’s experience of existing services and highlighted barriers users were facing to access and delivery of services in Geel.

The next step was to map the customer journey through the new Social House service. Using service design tools such as customer journey mapping, the
team were able to fully understand the experience of a visit to Social House from the users perspective.

From this research it became clear that accessing services in Geel was often a complicated process. For example, visitors would not know what reception to wait in or who to approach. Directions and signage were poor and staff would often not know who the best person to contact is or what to tell the person on arrival.

The Impact

As a result of these insights all social services have been centralised and are now delivered at Social House. The services that are now available in the Social House include; financial support, help for the elderly and disabled, social and judicial assistance, assistance to find affordable housing and customised care.

A new digital ticketing system has been introduced for citizens arriving at The Social House. Now, upon arrival they are directed to the digital ticket booth next to reception, this simple touch screen platform provides clear guidance for the user so they understand exactly where they need to go and expected wait times. It also contacts the relevant staff member to informs them the user has arrived.

Directions and signage throughout Social House have been improved. A consistent visual language has been applied to all waiting rooms, along the floor and on the user’s ticket that provide directions to support more effective way-finding. These new touchpoints and redesigned user journey have ensured that waiting and turnaround times have been significantly improved.

Additionally, the way staff deal with enquires has also changed. New processes have been introduced that ensures staff members are not interrupted when dealing with a client, providing citizens with a more personal service.

By taking a service design approach it has ensured that services in Geel are delivered in the most effective way possible – Improving the experience for service users and staff. 

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