Is there a solution to improving the Welfare to Work Programme?

BetterOff: A digital benefits and employment platform fit for the 21st century

This week the Work and Pensions Committee reported that the Government's Welfare To Work Programme was not helping a significant majority of participants back into long-term work and, whilst there were efficiencies and savings, there was a lot more to be done. It is clear that the participants on the programme are some of the hardest to move back into employment due to drug/alcohol dependencies, skills gaps and the length of their unemployment, but the fact that the benefit system and employment market are so disconnected has got to also play a part.
 
For many - probably most - understanding the benefit process and how the calculations are made is complex. Universal Credit will in time simplify much of this, making it easier for people to work more hours without losing their benefits, to take a short-term contracts and not have to stop claiming to then start all over again, as well as being able to claim back a significant percentage of childcare costs. But having the clear and accurate information as to how much benefit you can claim and how much a job pays *now*, is the only way many people can realistically make the decision as to whether to go back to work or not.
 
This week in West Yorkshire claimants are being introduced to a new benefit and employment platform which will soon be the default place for 70% of all claimants; all those bar the complex and vulnerable cases. It marks a number of 'firsts' in the UK; that claimants are being made to go digital-by-default, enabling people to clearly see how much better off they would be when looking at job vacancies and by bringing benefits and employment under the same digital roof.
 
The solution - simply called BetterOff - has two clear intentions:
  • To help people get the benefits they are entitled to; and
  • Enable people to clearly see the relationship between work and benefits, how much better off they would be in either case and help them make the step (back) into work.
 
It depends on which newspaper you read, where you live and whether you yourself have been unemployed for any significant length of time, but there are many people who want to work but who just can't see long-term whether they will be better off or not. It can be a vicious circle; getting employment and making childcare arrangements just to find that a few weeks later you have less money in your pocket. This just doesn’t work for family stability or putting food on the table.
 
BetterOff has been designed with frontline benefit staff and brings the process neatly into the 21st century. BetterOff is integrated with a reliable benefits calculator that leads claimants through their personal circumstances to give a clear indication of what they are entitled to and therefore a baseline from which to compare potential job opportunities and complete the relevant benefit forms.
 
Once the claimant has full sight of the benefits they are entitled to they can complete a range of resource intensive forms online, each injected with advisor’s ‘real-life’ guidance and knowledge to make them accessible to everyone (the advice comes in a variety of forms from text, to audio and video). This will hugely benefit those claimants that find themselves being sanctioned due to incorrectly filling out their job seekers forms.
 
They are also ready to start the job seeking journey and the BetterOff job journal ensures all relevant information is captured in line with the Claimant Commitment, and actively helps those claimants who have literacy issues by using pre-constructed sentences. A wide range of national and local job feeds have been integrated including popular search engine sites such as Monster and Universal Jobmatch, as well as from local sites to the area. The whole solution is underpinned by various forms of real-time help including webchat and form co-production.
 
BetterOff is without doubt seen as the right approach for those people who can become accustomed to the digital process (albeit some may still need minor guidance). It will lead to savings and efficiencies, a key one being the freeing up of frontline resource to help those people with the more complex cases, the very people the Welfare to Work Programme is designed to help, enabling them to work through all the barriers they are facing and hopefully increasing their chances of returning to work
 
If you would like more information on our work or the BetterOff platform, please contact us.