Stockport Council are the latest local authority to implement the online benefit and employment platform BetterOff.
Developed by Kirklees Council and its own digital team at LookingLocal, BetterOff is an online platform that brings together employment and benefits into one easy digital space. The system combines benefits eligibility, applications, appeals and comprehensive employment tools that help to ensure claimants are better off in work.
Within the first three years of BetterOff being live, Stockport Council predict they will make a cashable saving of £678,000 from its Annual Advice Budget. Analysis conducted by Kirklees Council during the design of BetterOff suggests that 70% of all claimants will be able to use the platform to apply for benefits online. The increase in online advice will result in current qualified benefit advisers being able to work more efficiently, giving the majority of their time to the most vulnerable and complex cases.
Training has taken place over the past few months among staff from Stockport Council and their Partners and feedback has been very encouraging. One staff member commented: “The website is excellent and will provide a brilliant resource to those in genuine need...this is an excellent tool to empower people.”
In order to ensure a high form completion rate, BetterOff is supported by web chat technology as well as the capability for ‘co-production’ on benefit forms between the claimant and online benefits advisers; think Google Docs meets Benefits Forms. Multi-media guidance is also available on each benefit form, from text to audio and video and reflects ‘real-life’ advice from frontline benefit staff.
BetterOff is part of Stockport’s move towards digital services and new technology. Stockport Council recognises that residents increasingly want to access information and make applications online and are committed to improving their online offer.
Councillor David Sedgwick, Executive Member for Reform and Governance at Stockport Council said: “For most customers it’s the quickest and easiest way to apply for Benefits in Stockport. You can complete the applications at your own pace and at a time and place that suits you and you are guided through the application process using hints and videos. It really is quicker and easier online.”
BetterOff is a fully responsive site that can be accessed on computers, smartphone and tablets. For claimants that do not have access to the internet the BetterOff website is accessible via the council's contact centre, Fred Perry House, as well as libraries across the area.