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Yesterday was our second BetterOff Show and Tell day in Huddersfield. Nine 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 benefits applications and helping claimants into work.

Quick headlines of the day

  • This financial year, Kirklees Council have made a cashable saving of over £390,000 from its advice budget.
  • Since the 15th October 2015, BetterOff Kirklees has had 2575 unique visitors, recorded monetary gains of over £1.2million and specialist advice requests have subsequently dropped by approximately 50%.
  • Interested LAs/HAs facing similar welfare reform issues, heard and then saw about BetterOff; the why, how and the now;
  • The intended inclusion of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction as a single claim form within BetterOff;
  • The proposed addition of UC forms - with embedded guidance - within BetterOff and planned integration with DWP for online submission of all benefits 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 has helped to free up specialist advisor time in the customer contact centres, meaning their time is spent more efficiently in helping those with more complex and vulnerable cases;
  • BetterOff works with local partners, for example, 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

Watch this video on BetterOff

We are intending on holding another BetterOff Show and Tell day this time in the South region. If you are interested in attending please email betteroff@lookinglocal.gov.uk

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. The talks for the day were led by Steve Bird, Head of Welfare and Exchequer Services 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.

Presentation 1

The Business Case

The presentation started with an explanation of 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 has reported that within this financial year it will have made a cashable saving of over £390,000 from its advice budget. The platform is still in the soft launch phase but is already seeing substantial benefits to the service that advisors deliver.

There was also a review of the most recent statistics since the launch date on the 15th October 2015 which included: Kirklees BetterOff has seen 2575 unique visitors, monetary gains of over £1.2million and specialist advice requests drop by 50%.

Presentation 2

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 core principles the council had embedded:

Citizens do more for themselves and each other Doing things only the council can do 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 benefits 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 benefits 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.

Presentation 3

After 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.

Live

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 is 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. Already discussions have begun surrounding the implementation of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction form as well as a number of passported benefits into the BetterOff platform. We would love to hear your views and ideas on how this platform could work for your organisation.

Upcoming events

We are planning on holding our next BetterOff Show and Tell event in the South in March 2016. If you are interested in coming along please email betteroff@lookinglocal.gov.uk and we will get in touch.

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