Next steps for AI technology to protect services for Derby residents

Published: 18 December 2023

Council chamber

The Council is harnessing emerging technology to safeguard services for citizens against a background of increasing demand and rising costs.

Derby City Council is harnessing emerging technology to safeguard services for citizens against a background of increasing demand and rising costs. We are exploring how Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology can be used to help us streamline simple processes and free up staff to better meet our customers' needs.  

We recognise that local authorities need to transform their services to continue to meet the needs of residents, and pioneering use of AI technology can help us achieve this aim. High inflation and interest rates mean costs are outstripping funding from central Government, and councils across the country face difficulties balancing budgets. A report on the next steps for using AI will go before the Council’s Executive Scrutiny Board and Cabinet this week.

As well as protecting services for residents, the proposed programme is expected to deliver £12.25m in savings, contributing towards the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan. This programme will be the foundation for us to innovate and become more efficient over the coming years as further opportunities emerge and AI technology develops.

We have looked closely at how this latest advance in technology could be used to improve our services and identified a number of areas that could benefit. The most significant is Adult Social Care, where there are opportunities to use AI in the background to carry out processes which would free up staff time to better meet care users’ needs.

This would enable staff to carry out more regular care assessments and reviews, ensuring people are receiving the appropriate care package for their current needs, as well as the appropriate financial support. Currently, this is a task that staff don’t always have the capacity to do, due to the rising demand for care.

Opportunities to implement AI solutions have also been identified within Children’s Services, customer contact and debt management.

We are committed to keeping personal contact at the heart of all our services, and are working with the Access, Equality and Inclusion Hub and a range of forums to make sure our services are available to everyone. We will use AI tools in a way that is fair, legal, and considerate to everyone. Human oversight will always be there to make sure AI systems are used correctly and to address any issues that may arise.

Councillor Baggy Shanker, leader of Derby City Council, said:

Derby City Council is a trailblazer in harnessing AI's capabilities to provide better, quicker and more personalised services.

It’s important to understand that AI won’t replace human contact. It’s a tool designed to free up our teams to devote their time to more complex work and provide residents with personalised support.

This is an exciting opportunity to use latest emerging technologies to help us ensure we are providing our citizens with the most effective and efficient services.

Derby City Council has been at the forefront of AI adoption, introducing the digital assistant Darcie - and Ali for Derby Homes - to our website and contact centre. Together, they have handled over 450,000 calls, resolving 43% of customer queries automatically, which is double the expected performance.

This has freed up our customer service team to provide more specialised support. Darcie and Ali are still learning and being improved, providing 24/7, real-time assistance to our citizens. We will continue to offer face-to-face, traditional telephone and other channels to meet the needs of all our customers, who can speak to a team member at any time during opening hours, if they prefer.

You can watch both meetings on the Derby City Council YouTube channel. The Executive Scrutiny Board will meet at 6pm today, and the Cabinet at 4pm on Wednesday 20 December.

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