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About the site

FAQs about the site

What is the Tower Hamlets Community Catalogue?

The Tower Hamlets Community Catalogue is a website like Amazon or eBay for social care.  It is a place where people can find out about and purchase care and support services for adults in Tower Hamlets.  A generic term for this type of website is 'eMarketplace'.

How is this website different from the old Community Catalogue? Why the change?

The original Community Catalogue webpages were conceived of as an interim directory of services.  The new system is designed to be easier to navigate and to enable people to more quickly and easily find services.  Providers can set up their own listings, and are automatically reminded at regular intervals to check and update their listings.  Just like on eBay or Amazon, people can search for listings through a series of categories.  The search bar function returns more relevant listings as it is linked only to the eMarketplace.  Users of the system can create their own accounts, save favourites, and compare services.  They can purchase services, if appropriate, using their cash personal budgets or own funds.  They can contact providers through the site, and request a quote.  If the service they wish for is not available, there is the ability to request a quote from a particular category of provider. 

Our aim is to assist service users, families, carers and professionals to find and purchase services quickly, easily, and with the minimum of fuss.  Studies show that Councils which have invested heavily in web based services like this have seen improvements in customer satisfaction overall.

What kinds of services are listed?

Any service which is provided in the borough, and which is adult social care-related, e.g. swimming sessions specifically for people with learning disabilities, but not swimming sessions for the general public. There is also a link to the Idea Store Online Directory which provides information about non-social care specific services and organisations in Tower Hamlets.

We know that people want to know what services are available to them, and have done our best to provide links to other directories and useful services.  However, please note that general services, e.g. commercial services such as hairdressers or launderettes, are not listed here. 

How were the categories and listing properties chosen?

There are many ways to categorise services in an area as complex as social care.  The categories and properties were agreed through discussions with service users and professionals.  We looked for a balance between using language understood by the general public, whilst also using terms used by professionals who will also be searching for services.  Providers are encouraged to select 'properties' which relate to their service, for example the age group for which their service is aimed, geographical areas of the borough covered, languages offered etc.  The languages and ethnicities listed as options are those which, according to the most recent census, are most prevalent in the borough, and also those in which specialised services are offered.  With regards to accessibility of venues, we direct users to the DisabledGo website which specialises in providing up-to-date access information for disabled people in the UK.  We welcome your comments on how these categories and properties could be improved to make searching for services easier.

Who owns the website? Who created it?

The content of the website is owned by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.  The website was developed by System Associates, in partnership with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Are there plans for improving the general information and advice pages?

The Care Act introduces a new requirement on local authorities to provide advice and information. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets commissions a number of advice and information services currently.  We are working in partnership with local organisations, including providers of advice and information commissioned by us, to develop information and advice pages which will be linked to the eMarketplace and vice versa.  For example, a page listing care homes and extra care sheltered housing might have an adjacent link to advice on choosing and finding accommodation with care support.  We envision that these pages would assist people to search for support based on their needs.

Are there any restrictions on what organisations can state on their listings? Are there any checks to ensure the accuracy of what is written?

All companies are subject to the Advertising Codes, including the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Non-broadcastCode which can be found here: .  There are sanctions for companies which break these Codes.  If you see inappropriate content, you can use the 'report this item' link on each page to tell us about it.  See also the question below about quality.

How will people who can't access the internet find services?

People without access to the internet may use the terminals located in the borough's Idea Stores (libraries) or in other public venues where the internet can be accessed.  Many people with social care needs have families and/or carers who may assist them to access the internet.  People who are eligible for council-funded support will have access to a social worker or broker to assist them in viewing services.  The website is designed to be viewable from tablets / laptops / mobiles phones so that if appropriate brokers and social workers may bring the technology to service users in their homes or other convenient locations.

How can service users be assured about the quality of the services advertised on the eMarketplace?

Providers who are commissioned by the Council (i.e those who currently provide those services directly to the Council) are monitored regularly.  To place a listing on the Tower Hamlets Community Catalogue, non-commissioned providers will need to pass through a quality assurance scheme.  

How have service users been involved in the development of the Tower Hamlets Community Catalogue?

During the procurement of the Tower Hamlets Community Catalogue system, we conducted 'end user' sessions with people including those with disabilities, carers and the borough's Older Persons Reference Group.  Click here to view the feedback from these sessions.  Service users from the Local Voices project shared their views during the implementation process, including, for example, the construction of the categories page.

How accessible is this website for people with learning disabilities?

Some people with learning disabilities tend to prefer to view information on websites differently than people without learning disabilities.  For example, some individuals will tend to prefer pictures and icons, colour-coded sites and more straightforward language.  Other people tend not to prefer to view information presented in this way.  We will look to develop solutions to manage the range of viewing preferences.  Service users with eligible social care needs will have access to a social worker or broker to assist them in viewing services.

Will service users be able to leave star ratings and comments about the services? If so, how will this work?

Anyone who has an account will be able to leave star ratings and comments.  Your identity will be anonymous to the provider, but identifiable to the Council.  This is to provide the Council with a way of protecting providers from malicious reviews, whilst also allowing as broad a range of people as possible to leave reviews on the site.  Star ratings and reviews will be hidden from view for at least the first six months after the launch of the site.  This will allow time for people to rate services; it can be disconcerting to some people to view a service without any ratings. 

We will review whether or not to open up comments for public viewing on an ongoing basis.  One of the reasons to keep them hidden is that allowing comments to be made does require substantial resources to ensure they are moderated effectively.

Is there a place on the eMarketplace or elsewhere to list local events?

You can find a calendar with listings of community events and regular activities of interest to local people here.  You'll find events and activities put on by local community organisations like religious groups or Tenants and Residents Associations.  Being a part of a community is an important part of wellbeing and reducing isolation. 

How will the listings be kept up-to-date?

People who have put up listings will be sent an email approximately every six months to ensure that there listing is up-to-date.  Listings which have not been updated or checked will be 'hidden' from view.  Viewers of the site will also be able to report any out-of-date or incorrect listings through the 'report this item' link.  

What happens if I don't find any services after doing a search?

'Null results' mean that a search is done but no related services have been found.  We will record these null results and review them, in order to improve the website and to help us understand what services people would like to see being developed locally.  You may also request a quote from all providers in a particular category if you can't find a service which meets your needs. We will also provide links to the community catalogues in adjoining boroughs as you may be able to locate services in those boroughs that can meet your specific requirements.

How has accessibility of the website been taken into consideration?

The font size can be enlarged, and the screen contrast adjusted. 

The Google Translate feature will translate the text to any of the available languages. 

This website is speech enabled with Browsealoud. Browsealoud reads web pages aloud for people who find it difficult to read online.

Reading large amounts of text on screen can be difficult for those with literacy and visual impairments. The tool is also useful for site users who do not have English as their first language.

Make Browsaloud work on your computer by downloading a free plug-in from the Browsealoud website

As other ways of improving the experience of websites for people with disabiities become available we will look to incorporate these wherever possible.

I'm concerned that the site will be too difficult for many people to use.

Due to the nature of the site, there will likely always be a degree of complexity which will mean that some users will need support to use it to its fullest potential.  We expect that in the case of service users who are eligible for council-funded support, if necessary they will be supported to use the site by a social worker or broker.  Many other people will have relatives and/or friends who will be able to assist them.  People can ask staff at various locations in the borough, such as Idea Stores (libraries) to help them view the webpages.

Will there be a review of the website?

The Tower Hamlets Community Catalogue will be under continuous review, with suggestions for improvement implemented immediately if possible.  We will aim to conduct a comprehensive annual review, working with service users, carers, families and staff.

There are several online directories serving Tower Hamlets - why can't there be just one?

Many people have expressed a preference for one site on which they could search for various services.  Due to current technological limitations, this aspiration remains a goal for the future.   The purpose of the Tower Hamlets Community Catalogue is to enable service users to find adult social care-related services available in the borough, so that people can make informed choices about their care.  The eMarketplace uses icons to link visitors to various other directories such as the Idea Store Online Directory, which have listings of interest to the wider Tower Hamlets' community.  The NHS Choices 'find services' widget has been added to the site so that people can easily search for health and social care services nationally.

Are there any future plans for the Tower Hamlets Community Catalogue?

The Tower Hamlets Community Catalogue website is a complex system tailored specifically to the borough's needs.  It is a system with many more capabilities than those which are currently implemented.  We will be implementing some aspects in the near future, whilst we will explore the feasibility of others over time, particularly taking into account the new duties which came into force as part of the Care Act 2014. 

Short term plans include the ability of the site to link in with the council's social care content management system. 

In time, we would like to see cash personal budget holders being able to view their support plans and to manage their budgets, including purchases made outside the Tower Hamlets Community Catalogue, within the system.  It is possible that in the future people may use the system to pool their personal budgets. 

Other future aspirations include a feature which would allow service users to share requests for services with other users, who could indicate their interest to providers.  This could open up possibilities for service users to pool their budgets, and would offer providers a greater understanding of the demand for a particular service.  We envisage this feature additionally as a way to enable service users to meet up in 'communities of interest' or 'micro-local' meetings.  These meetings may not involve a cost, but would be primarily social gatherings reducing isolation. 

We hope that the advent of the Tower Hamlets Community Catalogue will lead to increased service user choice in the type of support offered to them by both local, regional, and national providers.