Designing a discrete event simulation model to enable a helpline to provide good service levels across all channels.
The NSPCC works to end child abuse and enable children to be safe and supported. Its helpline, for adults and professionals with concerns about a child, handles live calls, call-backs, emails and direct messages; but the system that manages the helpline is not sophisticated enough to support planning for this variety of channels. The NSPCC would like a discrete event simulation model of the helpline’s processes, to enable them better to match staff levels to varying workload, improve service levels, and explore ‘what-if’ scenarios to deal with different resourcing patterns and changes in demand.
The volunteer(s) will need to spend some time understanding the current system, how the helpline works, and what data is available, before designing a model that can be used to start answering the questions. It will probably be appropriate to design a fairly simple model first, and (depending on time available) work with the NSPCC staff to adapt and develop it to ensure it can answer the most important questions.
The senior sponsor of the project is an experienced OR and data science professional, who will be able to provide direction but will not be able to spend much time on the project. The volunteer will be asked to work closely enough with the data professionals and operations staff at NSPCC to ensure shared ownership and skills transfer by the end of the project.
The volunteer should have some experience in discrete event simulation; or, if a team takes this on, at least one member should be experienced in DES and able to lead the model development. Ideally they will also have experience in participatory modelling, enabling not just the managers but the staff who provide the service to explore model insights and input into the analysis.
The Helpline is a crucial communications channel for the NSPCC to be there when children, young people and adults concerned about them are most in need. By enabling NSPCC to meet its service level targets, and to be resilient to variation in demand, this project will increase the flow of information and help prevent children falling through the cracks.