Publication - Research and analysis

contractSCOTLAND: Review of the service extension pilot

Published: 3 Mar 2016

The contactSCOTLAND review was undertaken to understand uptake and usage of the extended pilot service and gather information on stakeholders’ views and experiences of the contactSCOTLAND service.

contractSCOTLAND: Review of the service extension pilot
5. What works well and what could be improved about contactSCOTLAND?

5. What works well and what could be improved about contactSCOTLAND?

One important purpose of the survey was to understand views on what worked well and what could be improved about the contactSCOTLAND service in order to help inform service improvements. This covered both the current service delivery model and how it could be developed in the future. Each of the surveys[12] therefore asked what people liked best about contactSCOTLAND, what they liked least, and what, if any, improvements they would like to see. Each survey also asked for any further comments on the contactSCOTLAND service and these have been included in the discussion below.

Key points:

  • contactSCOTLAND was regarded positively for increasing access to services, and increasing independence. It was well regarded as a supplementary service.
  • The quality and reliability of the technology was the least well liked aspect and seen as an area for improvement.
  • Suggested improvements included expanding the operating hours and scope of the service; ensuring high standards and choice of interpreters and more awareness raising and guidance for the service.

What do people like best about contactSCOTLAND?

Overall, the main positive feedback from all surveys was that contactSCOTLAND improves access for Deaf BSL users to public services.

Eighteen comments were received from Deaf BSL users about what they like best about contactSCOTLAND. The main themes that these comments covered were:

  • Generally positive comments on the service (3) e.g. 'effective', 'quick and smooth'
  • Being able to use BSL to contact public services (9)
  • Improved access to services (4)
  • Increased independence (2)
  • Helpful interpreters (1)
  • There were also five comments at the end of the survey on finding the service easy to use and beneficial in day to day life (5),

Seventeen interpreters provided information on what they like best about contactSCOTLAND. The key feedback was that it improves Deaf people's access to public services, and the associated benefits of increased independence, empowerment and choice. An example was provided that by enabling easier access to GP appointments the service helps people to manage their health better. It provides a supplementary service to face-to-face interpreting. There were also additional comments at the end of the survey restating the positive feedback on the service and the benefits that it offers for users.

Three comments were received from Deaf organisations offering general support for the concept of contactSCOTLAND and the increased access to interpreters. Public service respondents also provided positive feedback particularly relating to the organisational benefits for interaction with customers and the potential for further roll out and use of the service. It was also suggested that it would be beneficial, and would improve access to justice and efficiency if it were available to solicitors when their client is entitled to legal aid.

What do people like least about contactSCOTLAND?

Twenty three comments were received from Deaf BSL users regarding what they like least about the service. The most commonly referred to issues (eight comments) related to the quality of the technology including blurry pictures and pictures which keep freezing and disrupting the signing. Other comments referred to finding the service hard to use (two comments), and two comments raising issues with interpreters. One person also commented that they would like to be able to contact other services such as banks and utility companies. In the additional comments at the end concerns were raised over how the service was implemented, the quality of interpreting and technology and potential loss of face to face interpreting (3). There were also ten comments from people who said there was nothing that they didn't like about the service.

There were five comments from Deaf organisations all of which referred to various aspects of the quality and reliability of the technology, including the speed of the connection, the picture quality and the lighting. One respondent also thought that the service was for local authorities and the NHS whereas it can be used to contact any public service.

Fourteen interpreters responded to the question about what they like least about contactSCOTLAND. In a few cases people said they didn't feel that there were any negative aspects to the service, in part because it is and should be used as a supplementary service to face to-face interpreting. It was noted that the service is not suitable for all interactions and may potentially be under-utilised for the cost of the service. Other issues that were commented on were the operating hours with two people suggesting that it would be good to have 24 hour access, particularly in order to contact NHS 24. There were also suggestions that there was a need for increased awareness and understanding of what the service offers (for all users, including interpreters). One respondent raised a concern that the current providers were not registered as an interpreting agency with the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters.

Some technical issues were by raised public services regarding accessing the contactSCOTLAND service:

  • One case related to a specific issue of system compatibility experienced by one local authority that had not yet been fully resolved impeding wider usage of the service.
  • Two mentions were also made of difficulties with the customer's internet connection.
  • One organisation also commented that they found the website difficult to navigate and it was not obvious that you had to click on the contactSCOTLAND logo to connect.
  • An issue was raised around not receiving a message about being a queue if an interpreter wasn't immediately available, leaving the caller unsure as to whether to stay on the line or not.

Improvements to the contactSCOTLAND service

Twenty-three comments were received from Deaf BSL users in terms of possible improvements to the scope and delivery of the service. Some of these comments contained more than one suggestion. The main themes that suggested improvements related to were:

  • Quality of the technology (10 comments)
    These comments referred to the speed of the connection and the network infrastructure, and the quality and clarity of the images onscreen.
  • Improvements to the interpreting service (4 comments)
    These comments covered having a minimum qualification level for interpreters, providing specific training for interpreters on online interpreting and having a gender choice of interpreters.
  • Awareness raising and training for users (six comments)
    Suggested awareness raising and training included BSL video demonstrations of how to use the service, and information sessions and training on how to use the service for the Deaf community.
  • Service extensions (Three comments)
    Two users also suggested that widening the range of services accessible through contactSCOTLAND would be an improvement. Suggested services were HMRC and Childline (in addition to banks and utility services suggested in response to an earlier question). It was also suggested the service could be extended to Deaf children in mainstream schools.

At the face-to-face meetings one person said they would like the service to be a 24/7 service. In line with survey respondents suggestions, several people would like to see the video quality improved. Some people also commented on the information about contactSCOTLAND and would like to see more in BSL or in plainer English, while others would like to see more information in BSL rather than English as they do not understand English.

Fifteen interpreters offered comments on what improvements they would like to see. These mainly referred to service extensions: primarily to offer a 24 hour service and to cover emergency calls but other suggestions were to roll out across the UK and to enable the service to be used to contact private sector companies. There were also several comments relating to staffing which covered enabling callers to see who the interpreters were before connecting; increasing the number of interpreters to avoid long waits; and ensuring appropriate registration and regulation. There were also suggestions again for more awareness raising (something that was reiterated in the additional comments at the end of the survey) and guidance to support people to find out how the service works and get used to this way of working with an interpreter.

On a related technology point, it was suggested that it would be helpful to have BSL guidance available within the app to help people use it. It was also suggested that users should not have to register for the service. There were also some additional comments on how the service operates including the need for transparency in how the next phase of the service is tendered and ensuring that the calls that are being made fall within the service remit.

There were also five comments on service improvements from Deaf organisations. These suggestions were: improving the speed of the connection and quality of the picture; improving the reliability of the platform; making the system more user friendly and accessible; and improving the quality of interpreters. There were five additional comments from Deaf organisations that included positive feedback, a need for increased publicity and support, and a suggestion that it should form part of the national planning process associated with the BSL (Scotland) Act.

In addition to the information gathered through the stakeholder consultation, the contactSCOTLAND website also offers the opportunity to provide feedback. This has provided some further suggestions for service improvements. In the case of opening earlier to allow people to phone for doctor's appointments when the surgery opens the change has already been made. Further suggestions were that the service should be extended to third sector organisations and organisations carrying out work funded by public bodies.


Email: Alix Rosenberg