This week, 14 local authorities and housing associations from across the country joined us at Huddersfield Town Hall to hear about the latest progress with BetterOff Kirklees. BetterOff is a new online platform that tackles the benefit and welfare process end-to-end; from assessing entitlement to benefits, guiding claimants through benefit applications and helping claimants into work.
Quick headlines of the day include:
- BetterOff Kirklees has only been in operation for three weeks and the council has already reported a gain of just under £400,000 into the local economy.
- This financial year, Kirklees Council have made a cashable saving of £390,000 from its advice budget.
- Interested LAs/HAs facing similar welfare reform issues, heard and then saw about BetterOff; the why, how and the now;
- The proposed addition of UC forms - with embedded guidance - within BetterOff and planned integration with DWP for online submission for all benefit claims;
- The plans around developing an ‘advocate’ approach to BetterOff, which would cement already positive cross organisational working and bring significant benefits to claimant and partners;
- BetterOff can also help advisors that are assisting vulnerable case as well as providing a strong self-service for claimants that are digitally enable.
- BetterOff enables local partners such as the Citizens Advice to allocate the support and advice to where it is needed most as well as seeing self-service and claimant empowerment increase.
Read more about BetterOff
See BetterOff Kirklees
Come to our next Show n Tell Day (Jan 14)
For a more detailed view, read on…
The ‘Show ‘n’ Tell’ day was a chance for LAs and HAs to talk to the people at Kirklees Council that led in the implementation of the platform, understand the background and the multi-partnership approach, as well as to have a demonstration of the technology and a chance to see BetterOff live in action at the Kirklees customer contact centre. The talks for the day were led by Steve Bird, Welfare and Exchequer Services Manager at Kirklees Council, Steve Langrick, Head of of Online, Channel Strategy and Development at Kirklees Council and Nick Whittingham Chief Executive at Kirklees Citizens Advice & Law Centre.
The Business Case:
The presentation started with an explanation into the business case that supported BetterOff, and the reasons Kirklees Council believed it was the opportune time to implement a digital platform for the welfare and benefits process.
This began with a review of the last two years and how the advice cuts have shaped the service Kirklees have today. In terms of savings Kirklees Council have reported that within this financial year it will have made a cashable saving of £390,000 from its advice budget. The platform is still within the soft launch phase but is already seeing substantial benefits to the service that advisors deliver. Within the first three weeks that the platform has been live, Kirklees have reported a gain to the local economy of just under £400,000 based on claimants getting the benefits that they are entitled to.
The Digital Approach:
After the “why”, conversation then moved onto the “what” and “how” of BetterOff, 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.
This started with the vision for BetterOff at Kirklees which stemmed from the the core principles the council had embedded:
1. Citizens do more for themselves and each other
2. Doing things only the council can do
3. Provide a safety net for the vulnerable with the aim to increase independence
Before BetterOff was developed, a significant piece of analysis was done to identify the requirements needed for the platform. Kirklees identified three different claimant levels; 40% of which are able to self-serve, 30% which need some support and the remaining 30% that are considered complex or vulnerable cases that will still need face-to-face support from an advisor.
The key elements of BetterOff were then highlighted- which you can read more about here, - and the need for critical developments with the DWP around the electronic submission of forms.
Working in sight of DWP
As well as digital submission, there are plans to work with the DWP to integrate Universal Credit (UC) forms within BetterOff. As with the other forms already available in BetterOff, these would offer guidance and support including web chat and the ability for advisors to co-browse with claimants.
Future Plans - Local Benefits
One of the real beneficial uses of BetterOff is the ability to store a claimant's information during the process of completing a form. In working terms this means that a qualified benefit advisor can work with the claimants on the parts of the form where their advice would be necessary, save the progress and then the claimant can either fill the rest of the form themselves or be assisted by a less specialised advisor. This key feature will ensure that qualified advisors time is being spent most efficiently.
The ability to save progress also means that even in vulnerable cases, an advisor can assist a claimant with a benefit form on BetterOff and store the information, saving time when it comes to reapplying for benefits. This is fundamental in assisting appeals. This feature teamed with the co-browse facility within BetterOff, underpins the Kirklees approach to digital service transformation.
After a bite to eat and a run through of the technology led by the LookingLocal team, the talks began to round up the Kirklees BetterOff story with a view of the “now” in terms of the implementation and training of advisors.
Modern Service Delivery
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% 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.
BetterOff Kirklees is now live in two Citizens Advice contact centres, one in Dewsbury and one in Huddersfield. Claimants are able to self serve on PC’s and can still access an advisor if needed. Telephone and face-to-face advice is also still available for those complex and vulnerable cases and will remain in place. This self-serve process has already freed up resources resulting in customers being helped more quickly and advice and guidance being channelled more effectively. Increased client satisfaction levels have been reported as a result.
Citizen Advice are finding that in cases where clients self-serve they are empowered and are therefore less likely to seek support in the future.
Public Sector Sharing
Overall the day provided a great opportunity for LA’s and HA’s to come together over a challenge that we are all too familiar with. There are plans to further improve the features and functionality within the Betteroff product working with our partners throughout the UK and we would love to hear your views and ideas on how this platform could work for your organisation.
Up coming events
We are planning on holding two more BetterOff Show and Tell day in Huddersfield on the 14th January 2016. If you are interested in coming along to one of the events please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get in touch.