Monmouthshire County Council has become the first local authority in the UK to move forward with an initiative aimed at finding solutions to loneliness and limited public transport in rural parts of the county.
The initiatives will be developed with the funding and support from the GovTech Catalyst: a UK Government scheme, run by the Government Digital Service, to help technology firms develop innovative fixes to public sector challenges. Since January, five projects have been developing concepts to tackle rural isolation. Two of these have now been selected to develop their solutions into viable products or services which could benefit communities in Monmouthshire and if successful could be scaled up in other parts of the UK.
Box Clever Digital and the Behavioural Insights Team will each receive up to £500,000 of funding (including VAT) from the GovTech Catalyst fund to develop their concepts.
Monmouthshire is a semi-rural county with diverse and beautiful surroundings, yet it is the diversity of the landscape which presents many challenges. Loneliness has a significant impact on people’s health and well-being while a lack of transport also limits the ability of people to access training and employment.
Box Clever Digital has proposed a solution called ‘Thrive’ which is a digital platform that aims to boost skills and increase connections between people in their local community to prevent loneliness reducing referrals into health and social care services. Thrive also uses technology to unlock the potential of under-utilised transport provision including ride-sharing.
The second project being delivered by the Behavioural Insights Team, sometimes referred to as the nudge unit, has proposed a solution called ‘Connector’ to increase our understanding of loneliness at a local level and develop targeted approaches that will make it easier for people to get involved with and access community activities that can increase well-being and reduce loneliness.
The team’s approach is powered by an understanding of behavioural science, and will aim to tackle the underlying mental and physical barriers to participation irrespective of people’s digital capability.
Cabinet Office Minister for Implementation, Simon Hart MP said:
“I’m delighted to announce that Monmouthshire’s GovTech challenge on tackling rural loneliness has progressed to the second phase of its development. Through the GovTech Catalyst we're helping to drive innovation whilst developing better services for the public and saving taxpayers money.”
Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development, Councillor Sara Jones said:
“I would like to congratulate Box Clever Digital and the Behavioural Insights Team as they move into the next phase of the Govtech Catalyst. These two innovative projects were selected among a high calibre of projects which all presented fantastic solutions to the challenge of rural isolation here in Monmouthshire. I’m excited to see how both projects progress in the next phase.”
Clare Delargy, BIT’s Head of Social Capital, said:
“We are delighted to continue working with our partners in Monmouthshire to build our service, Connector. BIT sees huge potential in combining our experience with behavioural science and data to encourage people to attend all of the excellent community activities already running all over the county.
We know that increasing awareness of events alone is not enough to overcome psychological barriers to attending them, so our approach also addresses the social fears which may hinder participation, particularly for those who are lonely or isolated.”
Dan Scobie, Chief Technology Officer at Box Clever Digital said:
“We’re delighted to be working with Monmouthshire County Council on such an important project; using technology innovation to tackle loneliness and transport issues across the county.
Box Clever Digital has a great history of innovating in the social care, legal, and transport industries, and we’re pleased to be able to continue to bring innovative approaches to tackling important issues in society.”
Both projects will run for twelve months from September 2019. Together these have the potential to provide the foundations for improved connectivity and well-being in Monmouthshire’s rural communities.