North Yorkshire County Council

North Yorkshire County Council

Meal Delivery Through Alexa

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

NYCC (North Yorkshire County Council) have been working in collaboration with the local community and partners to develop a Meal Delivery scheme as part of a wider project to pilot ideas to use technology connect the community and reduce isolation. The Meal Delivery Service using a bespoke app has been built by NYCC on Amazon and stored on the Alexa Show device, and is being piloted in a North Yorkshire village. ‘Go Local’ allows socially isolated residents to order meals and essential food items using the voice recognition software of an Alexa, supplied by local businesses and delivered by community volunteers.

The purpose of this project is to support older and disabled people to stay living independently in their homes for longer and to support local businesses and build community capital. The Alexa product offers a wealth of opportunity of what we could do with technology to help people to stay connected locally in their own homes. Residents now currently use this technology to set reminders for medication; NYCC is looking into using the technology to ensure the wellbeing of the resident within the home being able to see them face to face; and the potential for a resident to be able to book transport through voice recognition

What are the key achievements?

Since the community have been working on initiatives relating to this project those reporting loneliness has reduced. The development of the app that has assisted vulnerable people being able to order from local businesses and build up relationships with those delivering food and essential items. The development of a community steering group to drive this project and related initiatives forward. To engage local people in civic participation supporting the pilot through volunteering. Engaging and developing strong relationships with busy local businesses to co-produce the necessary legal and financial infrastructure to support the pilot.

The ongoing evaluation of the project which evidences positive impact in the community from the original baseline survey. The project has led to a range of similar initiatives for example using the health and wellbeing digital community notice boards and volunteer led digital drop ins and intergenerational projects. There has been some further development work identified to look at the possibility of doing social care assessments using technology, making the services more accessible from a customer point of view and more efficient from a service provider and county council point of view

What are the key learning points?

The meal delivery scheme is up and running as of June, the deliveries have been successfully ordered by the resident through the app, made by the local business and delivered by the volunteer. Now this is up and running, we are planning to scale this up within the community and deploy to other areas where rurality plays a large factor in loneliness and social isolation. The management of the volunteers within the project requires capacity and consideration to engage volunteers. Learning has shown that by increasing the amount of residents on the pilot who are in need of the service improves retention. Adding tech into people’s lives whom don’t always use it within the community will move at a slower pace than if we were to do the testing internally so we need to consider this in the project plan. We need to build flexibility of how we use the Alexa to understand the language that people use. This requires a lot of testing so that we can support the development of artificial intelligence. The policy and legal requirements of the project have been resource intensive and at times disproportionate to the size of the project and a barrier for some stakeholders. Simplifying and streamlining these is a key learning point.

Additional Comments

Participant two on the project is in recovery from a stroke which has seriously affected her mobility. After week one of being on the project, meeting the volunteers deliverer/befriender and receiving her orders from the trusted local shops; she disclosed that being a part of this project has for the first time in a long time meant that she feels true part of the Sleights community again.