The Flying Start programme is a Welsh Government-funded care programme aimed at families with children under 4 years old who live in disadvantaged areas of Wales.
The programme offers a range of services that support both parents and children, the core services being:
- Health visiting services
- Midwifery services
- Childcare services
- Parenting support services
- Early language services
- Access to a social care team
Towards the end of 2021, we were approached by the Welsh Government who were aware of a Flying Start app developed by the Flying Start team in Carmarthenshire. They were interested in whether this could be developed further and used to support Flying Start families across Wales.
Because there was little known about the app, we ran a product discovery phase to:
- better understand the app
- understand the needs of the Flying Start families it was aimed at
- understand if an app was the best solution for supporting these families
We engaged with four councils across Wales that had varying demographics and asked them to help us learn about the services, the teams and to help us engage with Flying Start families. Carmarthenshire, Swansea, Denbighshire, and Anglesey agreed to be involved.
We wanted to conduct the following user research:
- Focus groups with Flying Start management/performance teams in each
- Focus groups with Flying Start frontline workers in each council
- Interviews with around five Flying Start families in each council
- A survey of Flying Start app users and non-users in Carmarthenshire
We had to put our work on hold after a request from the Welsh Government while early years commitments from the Programme for Government are being delivered. So, instead of collecting the needs and experiences of families from four different LAs across Wales, we only had scope to engage with families in Carmarthenshire. The majority of Carmarthenshire families we engaged with (92%) already had experience of the app, so we were unable to get the input from unbiased Flying Start families that would be crucial for more balanced user research.
In the end, we conducted the following user research:
- Focus groups with Flying Start management/performance teams in each Council
- Focus groups with Flying Start frontline workers in two of the four Councils (Carmarthenshire and Denbighshire)
- Interviews with five Flying Start families in Carmarthenshire
- A survey of 17 Flying Start app users and 2 non-users in Carmarthenshire
We were able to gather some useful insight from this research about the attitudes of Flying Start families towards the service they’ve received, and the needs of both families and the service teams.
The families had a lot of positive feedback about the service, and generally found it easy to use and valuable. Having the app has some clear benefits to families that would be lost with a different technology solution, although there were some suggested improvements to the usability of the app.
Most families we engaged with for this study were comfortable with technology, but not all. Some problems seem to occur when families first encounter the app. This should be addressed by revisiting the onboarding user journey as well as the app’s messaging functionality.
Flying Start staff in Carmarthenshire have found the app to be invaluable in better supporting families and reaching more of them. There are improvements that they want to make which could improve the app administration and management, as this requires a lot of team time and resource.
Other councils are interested in having a Flying Start app and felt that it would help to improve the quality and reach of the service. However, they are concerned about how it will be managed and would need support.
The discovery findings fed into a set of recommendations for Welsh Government and Flying Start teams. These recommendations suggested what Flying Start families need from a tech solution and what improvements could be made to make services more valuable to both families and teams.
It is our hope that we can resume this discovery work at some point to get the required insight from non-users across other councils. We could then understand their needs and explore whether a mobile app could help to support these.