Podcast Episode: CrossReach: using Attend Anywhere to provide counselling support
Category: Digital inclusion
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
TA - Tanya Anderson
Near Me in social services is a project Iriss has been leading in partnership with the NHS Near Me team and the Scottish government technology enabled care programme over the autumn winter of 2020/21. The project is producing new evidence around the priorities, enablers and challenges of using video consulting in social services. Iriss has supported five services to participate in a rapid quality improvement cycle to start using Near Me; provided light touch improvement support to organisations that are setting up Near Me independently within their work; and has developed a learning network. The learning network aims to build on and continue the support to these organisations using Near Me while increasing the scope of support to others. Each learning network meeting includes speakers on related topics. In this episode Tanya Anderson, GIRFEC Development Officer at CrossReach tells the story of the organisation’s journey of using Attend Anywhere or Near Me as it’s also known, to reach out to clients in remote areas of Scotland who could not access face to face support, be at their counselling and therapy services.
TA Thanks to the team for inviting us along, I attended the first session in December and found it really interesting. We said we’d start with just a quick overview of how we got into this digital journey as I’ve called it, this isn’t anything new to us at CrossReach, myself and Jackie Walker, who at the time was the manager of the Bluebell Perinatal … that’s our perinatal service in Glasgow, knocked on the door of digital health institute because we were in contact with maternal mental health who were telling us about the gap of perinatal support for perinatal counselling in the highlands and islands and so it was like, well we’re not going to get into an RBS van and drive round beeping our horn, and we can’t afford to buy an office up there but with this digital online aid we were doing skype 5 years ago, surely we can reach out to people via online and we would call it online counselling then. We were almost, myself almost full time in working with external experts, Scottish Centre for Telehealth and care, Glasgow School of Art. I worked very closely with the business innovation team in the University of Edinburgh who gave us masters, graduates to do some research for us and jumping forward, we were saying, well our biggest barrier at the moment is our broadband because when we connected in our office in Glasgow, even in 2018/19, we looked like we were under water sometimes.
We were ready for lockdown in March, luckily, by November 2019 I was attending the digital health conference in Glasgow and they were presenting Near Me, they had rebranded NHS Attend Anywhere to Near Me. We’d been members of NHS Attend Anywhere platform since 2017, I think we were … between 2 of us, the first third sector to be invited to give it a try but we hadn’t really been giving it a try because of issues of broadband and we thought, we’re only going to be giving our counselling in our offices so we need to have our office to have the broadband. We never thought to ask our counsellors if their broadband connection was any good at home. We certainly never thought to ask our administrators if their broadband was any good at home to monitor the system. So, again in March when lockdown came, it was … well, we have got this platform, let’s create a tool, if anyone’s been on to or know of how, Near Me, we still call it Attend Anywhere cos we don’t want to really associate that closely with a GP practice, you can have as many waiting areas as you want so some of the counsellors, especially all working from home, they said, can we have our own waiting area? Well, we would have had 150 different waiting areas on our platform if we’d had done that so we said, the best way is to keep it how we list our services on our website in our branding material and that is our terminology and each of them have their own members of counselling.
The need for one-to-one training, a lot of online training like we’re doing now, conversation, you can have 100 people but the whole aspect … I take the word training out of it actually and I call it an introduction, I’m their initial test as if they’re my client and then we swap round and I’m their client. It was all to do with making them feel at ease because in a various thing, just looking to Aaron’s presentation about that lack of confidence or lack of even facilities of IT, broadband, devices, a lot of our counsellors, same with a lot of our staff, they took the job to come face to face, we’re a face to face direct client organisation, even our back office teamwork as a team face to face, like we’ve all done so to suddenly tell a counsellor you can only see your client via a video, you can’t see them face to face, some of them apologised and said, I’ll wait till we can do face to face again. So, again when it came to the training, we wanted to absolutely make the counsellors feel at ease, so instead of turning it into a digital presentation, we turned it into a … this is your office, this is how you enter, we want them to help … as we say, they’re the team, to feel comfortable. We always have an administrator logged on to help you, you can’t see them but they’re there just like you’d have said hello to them when you walk into the office to do a face to face. We wanted to make the team, our business support team and the counsellors feel at ease, so they make their clients feel at ease. You didn’t want to turn it on and the counsellor looked a bit nervous, a bit uncertain, when the client could feel uncertain, some of our counsellors who work with children, especially young people, you know aged 12 and upwards, say, I’m the nervous one, my client’s not going to be nervous at all: they’re going to make me feel at ease.
So, we had a bit of a laugh about that and which tablet or smartphone the client was going to be using because the counsellors of course are using a laptop and of course to address and recognise common IT issues, so we’ll come on to that at the end. So, what the training covered, we created a manual. And I call it a manual because we asked the counsellors to have a read through it before I met them face to face and then keep it, like I kept on saying to them, a manual guide. When you forget you can quickly go back and skim through it. So, of course the main thing to check is hardware, I’m speaking actually to a counsellor this afternoon who’s still having problems via Microsoft Windows and the Chrome and which to use and he says he’s got this one but it’s still not working so these issues, hardware issues never go away, things break down over time, other things we checked, just showed is again, how to sign in, we can go through these quite quickly, Attend Anywhere, if any of you have looked at it, has a resource button, at the top. It is ginormous, my first job when I was writing this presentation, and I’ve been reading this resource page for 4 years and it has changed but there is 251 pages on it and I thought, I can’t give 251 pages to all of our counsellors so we took out the bits that they need and if they have any problems, they still come back to me, how to enter a waiting area, again, the waiting area is for the clients so that is the only part of Attend Anywhere we’ve given to our counsellors. If you know it again, there is a section called Meeting Rooms and that’s for internal meetings, so that was just for our admin.
The training was slightly different for both how to meet a client, again these are for and I’ve used Tom Allan Centre, which is our generic adult counselling page, as I say to the clients, this isn’t someone knocking on your door, just one person, this is like going into your surgery, where there could be 5 people sitting in the waiting area that you walk past before you go to your office then as I say to them, log on 15 minutes in advance, like you would when you’re coming to an office, go and make yourself comfortable, click on and log into your account and wait for your client to arrive because they could arrive 15 minutes early. I’ve had some very interesting chats about some clients sometimes arriving at an office an hour early because they find it comfortable and there’s a cup of tea for them but obviously with online they can get a cup of tea but they don’t need to click on the live link and see themselves on the screen until maybe 5 minutes beforehand and we see 180 clients a week now since December, it was brilliant statistics that I got just the other day and there’s no reports of someone coming in too early, there’s some reports that someone has come in a day early, but that can easily be addressed because even though the counsellor’s not logged on, we have got a business support just checking who’s coming in and out.
The largest number we tend to have as callers at the one time is maybe 5 but again the counsellor has to absolutely check that they recognise the name of their client and that is the caller name because Lucy and it would have a surname, so let’s say Lucy Anderson, is already sitting in the live screen and we don’t want the wrong counsellor coming face to face. So, it’s just little things we have to remind them. We’ve provided a series of live demos if anyone wants to have a look at the video’s it’s very easy to find on YouTube, if you follow that link, there’s the other videos that are public to share and it just again gives the counsellors, have been finding it really useful, verbally taking them through and it’s me doing it but I got examples by following some brilliant GPs who had already done it so that was great and then obviously gave our case studies from CrossReach. Information for clients, we and this is again, listening to Aaron, this is when we’re training our counsellors, who are often very nervous, who often don’t have the digital tools but we then work with them and we’ve had to send laptops all around Scotland at some, you know last year, we can’t do that for our clients, we haven’t got a teaching tool, they’re not going to meet me face to face for 30 minutes for me to take them through it so again, this is what we’re addressing when they’re having issues and how we can help them but we have created a postcard that can be given to children who we’re providing online counselling for and we’re looking at doing the same thing to hand out and post or provide on an email to clients, again, step by step instructions. The counsellor knows what the client has to do so they could always take the client through this by telephone before they actually see them face to face and one thing Attend Anywhere does allow you to do now, as a third sector, which it didn’t do when we first became members was actually quite tailor it to you.
When I say to counsellors, one of your clients might think, why has it got NHS at the top, I thought I was seeing my CrossReach counsellor, I didn’t want my GP to know about this. But what we reassure our clients is we had to go through quite a lengthy application process to become a member of NHS Attend Anywhere so we can verify with our clients, this is secure, and similar to having your own account on a social media page for example, this is our account and not only is it a CrossReach account, this example here is it’s got Tom Allan, it’s a Tom Allan account, so no one else in CrossReach apart from the Tom Allan team can see your name and when you leave the call there’s no record of it. So, again we were able to put, Welcome to CrossReach, Welcome to Tom Allan, your counsellor will be with you shortly on the voicemail and I think a lot of people haven’t realised how much you can tailor it.
So, where are we now, well myself trained over 150 counsellors and our administration team to become users so, there’s 4 different categories you can click for a user but we went for Service Administrator, who basically can change the opening hours, the waiting area opening areas, as I say to them it’s just like when would you unlock the door of Tom Allan and lock it at night? That is the same we do for Attend Anywhere, and you need to be in the office for that length of time, just to make sure nothing’s happened. And again, we say, if you’re saying you’re closing at 5, make sure there’s someone logged in until 5 in case accidentally one of our clients clicks on the link at 4:49 and is in their private waiting area and no one can tell them that they’ve come in at the wrong time so, that is how our administrators work and our counsellors are the service providers, that’s the category they are saved, registered as Attend Anywhere, and they are there simply to click on their client and see them face to face, they can’t make changes to the over all set up and structure. 180 clients a week, it’s fabulous, we have occasional calls of problems but again, the BC support team, and I’ve spoken to Rob and Andy, they’re brilliant, they respond really quickly and just like any IT problem, it can be addressed. 90% of appointments taking place with no disruption. Lastly, we also now face a new training requirement, we’re intending to use Attend Anywhere as our video consultation platform for the foreseeable future. We had looked at other options in the past, we were intending to provide, what we’re calling, distance counselling, as I said, years ago, this is going to be our future, we are going to give clients the option of distance or face to face. It doesn’t matter where they live or where our office is based, so we will continually need to train. We have a turn over of volunteer counsellors, we have a turn over of administrators.
Our personal development team in CrossReach wasn’t trained for that so who is going to provide that? I’m continually doing it at the moment. As you see it takes up to 2 hours by the time you set someone up, dealt with some issues, done the training, so, that was 300 working hours for example for the 150 new users we’ve had and IT issues, they come to me with problems, I have no knowledge, I use the word device now, and I’m an expert on smartphones, and iPhones and I can’t remember what the Microsoft is called, I’m not an expert but I am gaining knowledge daily and of course the BC support team are really helpful but that is not something that was in our CrossReach IT teams, they had all the other issues of the CrossReach staff to deal with. So, again, that is something we’ll be looking, on going but thank you for listening, the summary of how CrossReach use Attend Anywhere, this is, you see I keep saying Attend Anywhere but in our training manual we do start with that brilliant Near Me video and they’ve got that new website NearMe.com or .co.uk which is really, really helpful but if anyone ever wants to come and chat, I’m very happy to share the whole training package with you, it’s not confidential, it doesn’t have any client names so, very happy to do that.
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