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Barnsley Council drives social care efficiency with Copilot

Microsoft generative AI tool Copilot is being used to streamline many of the admin tasks Barnsley Council social care workers need to do

Barnsley Council has deployed Copilot for Microsoft 365 at scale to integrate across the systems council workers use every day, including PowerPoint and Teams.

Staff across finance, human resources, legal and other divisions have used the Microsoft generative AI (GenAI) tool to streamline their workloads. It is also being used to support social care, where social care professionals can now use Copilot to free up time for the human interactions at the core of their work. According to one social care worker, Copilot has helped in writing up calls, tidying up notes and doing minutes after a meeting. The Copilot AI assistant works a bot like a personal secretary.

Copilot is being used to reorganise visit notes into accurate records, divided into categories. Barnsley Council said this saves social workers hours of analysis, so they can prioritise urgent interventions. The AI is able to summarise large files quickly, which Barnsley Council said helps in situations when social workers take on a new case. With new cases, Copilot is used to show key information and major risk factors.

Barnsley is also planning to use Copilot to make social care training materials, as well as for filtering through large data sets to ensure records are accurate and up to date.

According to Microsoft, Copilot gives the most useful results when it is focused through the right kinds of prompts and parameters, and it can take time to figure this process out. 

“I’ve told people it’s OK to try things out and make mistakes,” said Wendy Popplewell, executive director for core services at Barnsley Council. “They should treat it like any other approved tool. If something goes wrong, it’s OK, as long as they’re mindful of our policies and use the system appropriately.”

The council said it has taken great care to support and upskill its staff during the trial. This involved training 180 staff as Copilot champions, who are able to help colleagues make use of the technology. Popplewell has also run demos, workshops and weekly standups. Implementation partner CPS has additionally run training sessions and walkthroughs.

At least half the council workforce has now adopted the new technology, while word of mouth is playing an important role in boosting uptake. 

Barnsley Council’s AI plans are aligned with its long-term strategy, Barnsley 2030.

“We talk about the importance of being brave in Barnsley,” said Popplewell. “We’re using the latest technology to make this a place where you can come and do the job you always wanted to do.”

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