Running an efficient and supportive constituency office is no easy feat. One of the most important aspects of a constituency office is the support provided to constituents through casework.
So, what is casework and how do you make sure your office provides the best possible support to constituents?
Casework in a constituency office takes a different meaning than casework in other fields. Casework in a constituency office is all about the constituent, from start to finish, the case is about supporting, solving and managing the relationship between the constituent and the departments responsible for the issue. All while ensuring that as their elected official, you will do everything you can to solve their issue.
Casework is personal, can be emotionally draining for the constituent, frustrating and can have a huge impact on the day-to-day life of that person. A great caseworker can form a trusting relationship while managing expectations and solving constituent problems by being a clear conduit of information between the government departments and the constituent. Applications, files and cases that may need additional clarity or communication are common and need extra support from an MP, MPP or city councillor to move forward.
For example, casework in a federal member of parliament’s constituency office would look at supporting constituents with Immigration, the Canada Revenue Agency, Service Canada, Passport Canada, federal benefits and some unique cases that fall within federal jurisdiction. As a member of the provincial parliament's constituency office, casework looks at supporting constituents with provincial services including licences, landlord and tenant issues, health care, disability programs and benefits. When looking at a city councillor’s casework, a case can look like street maintenance issues, permits, noise complaints and other things needing to be pushed beyond simply connecting with city departments.
All in all, casework in constituency offices focuses on one main priority - solving a problem for a constituent. It's rare for an issue to be solved in a day or through one call. Every case is unique, but one thing they all have in common is the attention to detail and time needed to complete it. In areas of immigration, a case can take as long as the application takes to process - meaning you could have a case with a constituent for 2 years (or longer). The caseworker is the conduit of information between the constituent and the department. Processes within immigration can be complex and reiterating or sharing that information with constituents in a practical and supportive way can be a challenge. As a caseworker, you are following multiple if not hundreds of cases in your riding. Following that relationship, communication and connecting with the constituent throughout this process is key to efficient and successful constituent relationship management. The constituent is relying on you to fix their issues. Building trust and successfully supporting that constituent means at all times, you can simply recall the communication and progress thus far on their file. Not so easy without a tool when you have a ton of cases.
As a caseworker, your tool for organizing, triaging, planning and sorting information is vital.
Finding a solution is not totally simple, as mentioned, casework in constituency offices is unique. So, finding a way to manage the lifecycle of the case with the constituent is usually found through a supportive CRM tool. Not every CRM tool will be the ideal solution for a constituency office though. Make sure to do your research, and find solutions that other offices are using, and that will fit your needs.
For example, CivicTrack Case management software with CRM capabilities was built with and for constituency offices – ensuring best practices, lifecycle tracking, and overall system usage is in line with exactly the needs of a caseworker.