The StartHere workshop at our conference in November 2002 was attended by three delegates mainly representing charities and one Community Health Council.

Val Farmer gave a presentation on the concept and purpose of StartHere, detailing the issues StartHere has considered in making the StartHere information product as accessible as possible.

Summary of the presentation:

StartHere is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to improve access to information and support. Its easy-to-use information system signposts people to the specialist organisations and services that can help them most. StartHere is a starting point for anyone needing to know where to turn for help on a range of housing, health, education and social issues.

The service is delivered through a variety of media including touchscreen kiosks, the internet, digital TV and other interactive media.

StartHere’s high quality, accurate content is citizen focused, providing an alternative, easy way to access information. It addresses social inclusion and is a perfect complement to central government, local authority, health and voluntary sector websites, helping to manage customers’ needs by effectively channelling them to appropriate support. There is synergy too in its potential to act as the springboard for the delivery of interactive services and transactions. What StartHere delivers is a truly joined up service – encompassing health and social care, statutory and voluntary sources of help.

Working in partnership with the Scottish Executive StartHere has produced a Scottish national version for their ‘Open Scotland’ portal and a localised version for Dumfries and Galloway to run on touchscreen kiosks at public access points. The London Borough of Newham are also running StartHere on their website (www.newham.gove.uk/starthere) and on digital TV.

StartHere are now looking for other partners in the community to facilitate its roll-out. What is on offer is a social initiative that is beneficial to the citizen and cost effective for local partners – a simple and effective solution that’s ready now.

Further information on StartHere and access to a demonstration of the system is available on our website:

Discussion Points

There was a discussion on how people access information and when and where, and who should fund the provision of this information.

Points made:

Availability: The group commented that the StartHere type of information should be made widely available, and suggested libraries, hospital waiting rooms, GP surgeries, Post Offices and other public service areas.

Funding: It was felt that funding for such information should probably come from central sources, as it crosses over all statutory and voluntary bodies.

Accessibility issues: Ethnic languages, and providing information for people with blindness, and other conditions is very important to all working in the health arena. It was felt that these issues often come second when funding is available.

Updating information: Keeping information up to date is a big issue, and it is very easy for leaflets and websites to go out of date – wherever the information comes from it is essential for there to be a systematic updating arrangement.

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