Improving how people find our services

Taking that first step is daunting. We need to make it easier.

Rosalyn Hewitt
Aug 22, 2019 · 5 min read

We’ve been working on improving how people find services on our website so we can make it easier for people to get help.

We know that 1 in 6 people experience issues with drugs, alcohol or other mental health problems but only a small number of these people are in touch with services. Most people don’t know where to go to get help, or who to ask.

For those who do access help, taking the first step is daunting and the following four weeks are a crucial time period for recovery. It’s important that we get the initial contact with our services right. This might start with someone looking for help on our website, so it’s important that we make sure people are able to access clear and accurate information presented in a reassuring tone.

We want to start offering reassurance before people take that important first step. This means making sure people understand the type of help and support that is available, how they can access that help and what happens when they first visit one of our services.

We started with some testing of our current website to find out how easy it was for people to find one of services. This included observing how people searched and asking how much people understood. Did they understand the search results and types of help available and importantly, what people would do after looking for help on our website? Would they have enough information to feel confident about visiting a service and getting help?

For people looking for a service on our current website, it wasn’t clear which one they could use or what they could do if there wasn’t an Addaction service near them. In England, the drug and alcohol service you can use depends on which local authority area you live in. This is due to how services are commissioned and is something most people won’t know about, and we shouldn’t expect them to know this before they can get help. There isn’t an accurate directory of drug and alcohol services in the UK and this means that we are only able to show people their closest Addaction service. This can be confusing and one of our key findings was that people didn’t understand the search results they were getting.

Some of the people we spoke to told us that they had made the decision to visit a service only to get there and be told they couldn’t use that particular service due to where they lived. This isn’t a good enough experience for people to have made the important first step to accessing help.

We know that many people don’t know about the types of help available or what happens when they first visit one of our services. We tested the information we currently give to people about the types of help available and we found that it wasn’t clear. We weren’t writing about our services and how we can help in a way that people could understand and that offered reassurance.

As an organisation, we’ve been doing some important work on listing all our services and the different ways we help people. We need to be clear about what help we offer and how we talk about different types of support. We want to people to be able to have a choice about the help they get, so we need to give them the information they need to be able to choose.

Our new service finder makes it clearer to people what Addaction services they can visit depending on where they live, and what they can do if there isn’t an Addaction service in their area.

We have used language that people use, rather than language that professionals use. We want the way we talk about our services and support available to be as human and friendly online as offline.

Our discovery on people’s experience of their first four weeks in treatment told us that not knowing what happens at their first appointment is ‘nerve-wracking’. People can be worried about being told they have to stop drinking or taking drugs completely right away.These concerns can lead to people putting of getting help or not getting help at all. We have changed how we write about our services so it gives more reassurance to people about what happens when they come to us for help. It now reflects what happens in our services, where goals are set together between an individual and their key worker.

Our new advice on what to expect from your first visit to a drug and alcohol service.

We still have lots more to make it easy for people looking for help. For our first step we have only included drug and alcohol services where people can refer themselves to a service. We will be adding more services as we go — including services that only professionals can refer people to and services for people with different needs eg our mental health services. We will also be adding services or support which people can access without having had an assessment.

To get this right, it’s really important that we have accurate structured data that we can present to people in the most meaningful way to help them access the right support for them.

The ideal scenario would be that someone could come to our website and be able to find the right help for them whether they live in an area with an Addaction service or not. This would require national directories of drug and alcohol services which were accurate and included information about eligibility, access routes and types of services.

Drug and alcohol services are complex and taking that first step to getting help is daunting. We need to make sure that we do the behind the scenes work to make it as easy as possible for people looking for help. This means presenting information which allows people to be informed and reassured about accessing the help they need.

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