Councils have a legal duty to provide information and advice about care and support services in their local area, what is available, how these services work locally and how people can access them. In 2020 we conducted a ‘mystery shopping’ exercise to find out how far Worcestershire County Council’s (WCC) website is answering common questions that older people or their friends and relatives, may have about a service or situation. We found that although there was useful, relevant information on the County Council’s website it was not always easy to find.

The County Council is currently developing a new website. In January 2023 we looked at the new site so that we could provide feedback and enable changes to be made to improve the site from a user’s perspective. As well as looking at information for older people we also looked at situations involving people living with a physical disability, people experiencing mental ill health and people misusing drugs.

Suggestions to improve usability and equality of access have been identified in the recommendations and through the points for consideration relating to the Scenarios within the Report.

Mystery Shopping Reports 2023

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FINAL Report of Mystery Shopping Exercise on WCC Website March 2023

SUMMARY Report of Mystery Shopping Exercise on WCC Website March 2023

What happened next?

Our work has been welcomed. We received the following initial response from Worcestershire County Council (WCC)

WCC Response to Mystery Shopping Report April 23

In February 2024 we received an update which demonstrated how improvements to the website have been made, building on the recommendations in our Report. The accessibility and navigation of the site has been improved, training for staff has been introduced which specifically references our work, and some of the content of the website improved. This is still a work in progress but it is a great start, and real evidence of the impact our work has made.

WCC – update on actions February 2024

We also received a spreadsheet detailing the response to each of our recommendations. If you would like to see this please get in touch.

Main Findings

Some of our shoppers found the information they needed quickly and easily, information is more comprehensive than previously, and pages are better linked together. There are better links to other sources of information and advice and more information about paying for services.

However, some shoppers encountered difficulties with finding the information they needed. We made the following observations about the website; we think addressing these will improve the site for everyone.

  • Language and Style – some of the language used in the Adult Social Care (ASC) section assumed a knowledge of services. There were variations in writing style across the website
  • Search Function – this sometimes returned numerous, but mainly irrelevant results, which didn’t differentiate between information for adults and children.
  • Navigation – some of our shoppers found their way easily to the information they required, other struggled with navigation. The way that information was titled did not always help our shoppers to find the information needed
  • Sources of Information – links to local information sources should be provided before those to national sites
  • Care Act requirements – there are pages where we would have expected to find links to information about the Care Act but did not do so.
  • Contacting Adult Social Care – the telephone contact number for Adult Social Care was not easy to find, including on the WCC ‘Contact’ page. We did not always find information in relevant sections about the availability of advocacy, translation and interpreting services.
  • Accessibility – more work is needed to make the website fully accessible in particular to people who are blind or visually impaired

Mystery Shopping Reports 2020

Finding out about Adult Social Care Services from the Worcestershire County Council Website

Summary Report – Finding out about Adult Social Care Services from WCC website

Response from Worcestershire County Council – November 2021