Kirklees Council hosted a ‘show and tell’ day in early December with 14 local authorities and housing associations coming together from across the country to hear about the new BetterOff solution; a technology transforming the way benefits are managed.
The day was a chance to talk to frontline staff and managers at Kirklees Council who led the implementation of the platform, understand the background and the multi-partnership approach, as well as see BetterOff in action at the Kirklees customer contact centre.
Driving innovation from within
Talks for the day were led by Steve Bird, welfare and exchequer services manager at Kirklees Council, Steve Langrick, head of online, channel strategy and development at Kirklees Council and Nick Whittingham chief executive at Kirklees Citizens Advice & Law Centre.
Presentations started with a review of the last two years and how the advice cuts have shaped the service Kirklees have today then moved on to explaining the different elements of the platform, the innovation and how each area was crucial to keeping the benefit and welfare service delivering at the highest possible standard.
Headlines from the session included:
- This financial year, Kirklees Council have made a cashable saving of £390,000 from its welfare advice budget.
- Ongoing work with DWP around adding Universal Credit forms – with embedded guidance – and planned integration with the DWP for online submission for all benefit claims;
- The development of an ‘advocate’ approach to BetterOff, which would cement cross organisational working, deliver significant case-management benefits and improve frontline working practices; and
- How BetterOff enables local partners such as the Citizens Advice to better allocate the support and advice where it is needed most as well as seeing self-service and claimant empowerment increase.
The sessions dug into the pre-analysis stage to identify the requirements needed for this significant frontline service transformation. This process identified three different claimant groups in terms of digital skills; 40 per cent of which were considered to be able to self-serve, 30 per cent who need some support and the remaining 30% that were considered complex or vulnerable cases who would still need face-to-face support from an advisor. The technology was built with this in mind.
Naturally the day focused on what the technology can do and how that helps all stakeholders; the benefit entitlement functionality, job searching capabilities, the online forms with embedded multi-media guidance, webchat and an innovative co-browsing capability, whereby digital customer service staff can help people complete forms in real-time.
The final talk of the day was surrounding the implementation process. BetterOff has an important role to play in the service Citizens Advice offer; all clients are different and therefore levels of supports needed vary.
The advantage that BetterOff brings is that it allows the Citizen Advice service to provide the support and advice where it is needed most.
Having 70 per cent of claimants being able to self-serve and seek guidance from the built-in features of BetterOff, frees up advisor time and resources for the more complex and vulnerable cases.
Indeed Kirklees Citizens Advice are finding that in cases where clients self-serve they are empowered and are therefore less likely to seek support in the future.
Current process ‘unsustainable’
Guy Giles, Managing Director of LookingLocal (owned and managed by Kirklees Council and developers of BetterOff) commented: “Overall the day provided a great opportunity for local authorities and housing associations to come together over a challenge that we are all too familiar with.
“This is a rare chance for other local authorities to take lead from one of their own. The current benefit and welfare process is unsustainable for most, coming together will create substantial savings in time and resource for all involved.”