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South Tyneside Council

Case Studies /


Web App Development

South Tyneside Council & NHS Digital engaged Nebula Labs to act as an innovation partner who could help demonstrate how digital communication could improve communication between social care service clients and care workers, through an innovative Progressive Web Application.


The Brief

Having conducted extensive research to comprehend the challenges that people with learning disabilities and / or autism experience during communications and conversations with Social Workers, South Tyneside Council engaged Nebula Labs to act as an innovation partner who could help them demonstrate how digital communication could improve  communication. The project was funded and delivered as part of the Local Government Association's (LGA) Social Care Digital Innovation Programme - which aims to help local authorities initiate digital innovation in social care.

Our Solution

Nebula Labs devised a Progressive Web Application (PWA) solution entitled 'Natter Notes' - a 2 way communication platform to act as a ‘wraparound’ companion to Social Worker/client meetings. The frontend interface was built using HTML, Javascript and CSS technologies. This enable the platform to be fully supported across an array of desktop, mobile and tablet devices. The backend web service was written in the Python language using the extensible Django framework and utilised RESTful methodologies. Along with this, a lightweight administrative dashboard was created to allow technical support staff to effectively maintain the platform.

There was two user account modes created - 'people with learning disabilities' ('Service User') and their 'Social Workers'. Both account types access the same user interface The core frontend functionality revolved around a scrollable timeline of clickable 'events' - such as a Care Review meeting - where content could be added.

A social worker can initiate a new event/meeting page and provide the service user with relevant information prior to said meeting. They will be able to choose a medium (text, video, audio, pictures) to communicate with service user (whichever suits the user best). After the meeting, the Social Worker is able record a quick video recap (or utilise another medium) of what was discussed and what is happening next, which the client will be able to view at any time.

From the perspective of the service user, they have the ability to receive reminders about upcoming meetings, as well as notifications about meeting summaries upon their conclusion. Twilio was utilised to enabled service users to receive notifications about meetings as SMS messages, whereas the Django backend service was used to send notifications in the form of email messages. 

Service Users also have the ability to view a simple profile about the Social Worker they are engaging with. Crucially, they are able to initiate and directly engage with the Social Worker's content uploads on the platform. For example, they are able to leave feedback on content (such as video recaps) by selecting options on a 'smiley face' scale. From this, the Social Workers should be able to take feedback to work on before initiating the next ‘event page on timeline’.

Ensuring that the Natter Notes platform was available to people with a variety of different accessibility needs was an essential part of the project. From the outset of development, we adhered to the WAI-ARIA, a set of attributes that define ways to make Web content and Web applications (especially those developed with JavaScript) more accessible to people with disabilities.

To further reinforce the regulatory compliance, we ensure that the platform met Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 to AAA standards. This was in part achieved by employing a Teal background throughout the frontend interface, for it was found to allow all white and black media elements to be clearly visible, thus enabling optimised contrast accessibility.

The core ethos of this innovation project was that both parties engaged in a collaborative manner. This included the utilisation of a 'co-production' approach. With the assistance of a local charity, a select group of service users - 'Personalisation Champions' were brought onboard in  tandem with social workers to the project to provide inputs on the detailed functionality of Natter Notes and to reach a mutual agreement with Nebula on the preferred layouts, designs, languages, etc. 

Furthermore, Nebula engaged with an agile development approach underpinned by sprint methodology was utilised as the solution was created. In other words, progressive iterations of the platform were produced each time - with new features being added during every 2 week period. Review sessions with the Personalisation Champions and social worker were held at the end of each of the sprints. Here, the work produced was tested and reviewed to ensure that the functionality was as optimal as possible for its users.

"Natternotes has a significant impact for people with learning disabilities, enabling
them to lead more engaged and rewarding lives, helping them participate more fully
in decisions that shape their life. This will result in better life outcomes and a reduced
engagement with health and social care services."

Caroline Harper - Corporate Lead ICT and Digital at South Tyneside Council
  • Caroline Harper
  • Corporate Lead ICT and Digital at South Tyneside Council
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