With £12 billion in welfare savings to be made it is important that local councils, housing providers, and other advisory bodies find smarter and less costly ways of advising the majority of claimants, whilst also helping them maximise their income, BetterOff has been built in light of this welfare and benefits challenge and is helping Local Authorities and Housing Associations create savings whilst still being able to offer claimants a high level of service.
With the Welfare Budget facing major reductions over the next three years Kirklees Council acknowledged that a well-designed digital platform that looked at the benefits and welfare process in detail from end-to-end from all user perspectives was needed.
With a welfare advice budget facing a 30% reduction in 2015/16, rising to 50% over the next three years, some radical thinking was required to ensure that Kirklees’ benefits system could still deliver and ensure that nobody slipped through the net.
Steve Bird, Head of Welfare & Exchequer Services
The first step was to assess the customers using these services and their relative needs. Analysis swiftly identified three broad groups of users. Claimants able and willing to self-serve (Level 1) and claimants who can self-serve with a degree of digital support (Level 2) made up 70% of the demand on benefit advisors at the council. Providing a solution for them unlocks capacity within the advice service and enables advisors to concentrate on Level 3 claimants – complex and vulnerable cases where a self-service digital platform would not be appropriate.
As of mid-October Kirklees Council in Huddersfield have been live with BetterOff. 70% of their claimants have switched to the digital platform to fill in applications and will be guided to the site for job support and welfare advice.
The platform will create at least £1.3million worth of savings within the first 3 years for Kirklees Council, who currently have around 25,000 people that annually use services like Kirklees Benefits Advice Service (KBAS) and Citizens Advice.
Critically, the solution has been designed in clear view of the DWP, and discussions around the integration with their systems are now progressing well. Electronic submission of forms directly into their internal processes is now being planned and discussions are already under way around working together on Universal Credit.
Meeting an increasing demand for high-quality advice is a growing challenge. Ensuring that people on benefits claim their full entitlement and are fully supported in their search for employment has clear economic and social benefits and reduces the financial burden on other public services.
Steve Bird, Welfare and Exchequer Services Manager at Kirklees Council