Blending online and face-to-face provision in community wellbeing services

Following often rapid shifts ‘online’ during the coronavirus lockdowns and subsequent returns to in-person activity, community-based wellbeing services across Wales are facing the challenge of how to ‘blend’ digital and face-to-face provision beyond the pandemic.

Our research, delivered in collaboration with Frame CIC, aimed to find out more from organisations and practitioners about this, to understand what is working well in blending online and offline approaches and to help us reflect on how decision-makers and funders could support this to ensure that future provision is as effective, accessible, and equitable as possible.


Our research confirmed that blended provision is now being delivered across Wales, at different scales and in a wide variety of different ways. Overall, this is happening to meet demand from communities or in pursuit of better outcomes for service users, though some organisations have also been motivated by resource constraints and the need to make efficiency savings.

Based on interviews with practitioners, the report goes into detail about the potential benefits and challenges of blended provision for service users and organisations. One key message is that where integration of online and face-to-face provision is carefully planned, there is potential for service users to experience mutually reinforcing benefits not offered by digital or in-person provision by themselves.

Our research found that blended approaches show most promise when they are intentionally designed and delivered as a means to add value to services and support strategic aims. Blended provision also works best when it is designed with service users and not on their behalf, informed by community or user feedback, with the ability to learn and adapt in line with new insights, knowledge and experience.

A key motivation for blending provision is often that different online and in person ‘channels’ work best for different groups at different times. To ensure both equality of access and equality of experience, digital and face-to-face channels require both careful integration and parity of investment. Stories and examples of how organisations have done this are included throughout the report.

At a roundtable discussion attended by practitioners, funders and a range of other interested stakeholders, participants reflected on the research findings and identified some potential next steps for supporting and strengthening effective approaches to blended provision in community-based wellbeing services across Wales:

  • Pause and reflect to make change based on good practice and develop strategy. For many organisations, blended approaches have developed in a quite reactive and improvised way. Now is the time to take stock of what’s working and what resource is required, as well as seeking to develop a longer-term strategic approach to blended provision.
  • Instigate partnership working and peer-to-peer learning. There is potential for organisations to work more effectively in collaboration with each other, sharing and drawing on specialist knowledge and expertise about different aspects of blended provision within their networks.
  • Co-produce blended provision with service users and wider stakeholders. Organisations should prioritise creating opportunities to actively involve service users and wider stakeholders in designing and planning blended provision, to help ensure services are responsive to people’s needs and preferences and reflect user-driven insights, not organisational assumptions.
  • Evaluate to build the evidence base. There is an urgent need to monitor and evaluate processes and outcomes, to move from anecdotal insights to evidence-based approaches, enabling promising approaches to scale to meet the rising demand for community-based wellbeing services and blended provision.

CLICK HERE to read the full report and findings.

We’d love to continue the conversation on this topic. Tell us about your experiences of blended services and what you think of our report – email