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Last week LookingLocal and Kirklees Council hosted their third BetterOff ‘Show and Tell’ day, which saw a range of local authorities and housing associations join Kirklees and Stockport Councils in London to discuss the new, ground-breaking welfare and employment platform.

Room setup

Our Show and Tell sessions are designed to be relaxed and informal so that delegates can really get under the skin of the BetterOff approach and solution, and have the freedom to ask questions; both big and small.

Below are a few of the key questions and answers from the day, which we wanted to share.

Are there plans to introduce new forms into BetterOff?

There is already development underway to integrate the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction forms into the platform, which we see leading to other ‘passported’ benefits forms such as Free School Meals and Blue Badges. The plan is to eventually have every council, benefit or housing related form integrated into BetterOff, as it will mean a clearer customer journey, will offer a completely joined-up experience and then every customer - no matter what they are applying for - will have access to the built-in guidance and assisted digital support systems that BetterOff provides.

How do the monetary gains compare before and after the implementation of BetterOff?

The ‘monetary gain’ is a measurement for Kirklees set by the local elected members, which has actually increased since BetterOff went live. We don’t yet have an exact interpretation of why this is, but a logical explanation could be that with the built-in benefits calculator (powered by entitledto) claimants now have a more comprehensive view of all the benefits they may be eligible for and, therefore, apply for all the right benefits for their situation.

Advisors are also able to help several customers at once, unlike the traditional process of one advisor sitting down with a claimant and helping them through a form start to finish. BetterOff advisors are now able to triage claimants to appropriate advice via the site and offer personalised help where and when appropriate. This means we are able to assist more people, which is potentially another factor in the increased monetary gains we have seen since launch.

entitledto calculation

With only two main contact centres how do you intend on serving clients that are situated further away?

This is the real beauty of BetterOff, it’s completely accessible anywhere that has Internet connection. Instead of using resources and having an advisor at outreach posts we can instead supply computer hubs or use existing ones, at far out locations that allow people to log into BetterOff and enjoy the wider benefits of the Internet. From there they will have access to a virtual advisor both through the web chat and co-browsing features.

Co-browsing works similar to Google Docs whereby the advisor can see the claimant working on the form in real-time and even edit the form themselves (with permission) when requested or necessary. The forms are also built with additional real-life guidance for each question, which comes in a number of forms including text, audio and video, plus the more vulnerable and complex cases can still request face-to-face home visits. Analysis prior to implementation showed that these home visits supported around 20% of all claims, so we predict this amount of cases will still need this extra resource and, therefore, have been able to budget appropriately.

A new development currently being scoped that will support partnership and mobile working is the ‘advocate use’ of BetterOff, which we see breaking down into three main areas/working practice improvements:

  • Trusted Partner Advocate Use: By enabling Advocate Use across the trusted network, each organisation involved in the delivery of benefits can each access client case records. This means any partner can pick up with the client and progress their claim, appeal or deliver appropriate advice. It also means that when staff are away sick or on holiday, they can digitally assign their cases to colleagues to progress;
  • Supporting Complex, Vulnerable & Non-Digital Clients: By introducing advocate use to BetterOff, partners will be able to create digital records in the same system for those clients who will still need direct support. By ensuring all claimants use the system either directly or via mediation, we will be better able to assess the impact of BetterOff on a range of metrics;
  • Nominated Advocate: Once records have been created for less digitally able clients there will be the ability to nominate an advocate to manage or access BetterOff on the client’s behalf (with their permission) e.g. a family member, or trusted neighbour.

Have you worked alongside the job centre in the implementation of BetterOff?

Significant analysis was undertaken prior to any development, critically including spending time at our Job Centres with front-line advisors. The list of job searching activities featured in the ‘job journal’ part of the system has been supplied by jobcentre advisors. Advisors also helped with the implementation of the job journals pre-constructed sentences, to ensure claimants use the correct wording and record all relevant information regarding their job seeking progress. This functionality also helps people with literacy issues and people who don’t have English as their first language. Both these elements are critical in ensuring that users can avoid where possible, the chance of being sanctioned.

A really clever added piece of functionality in the BetterOff solution is users can share their Job Search Journal with jobcentre advisors either via a one-off pin that the user can generate and send to their advisor, or by logging on during their face-to-face meeting using a choice of convenient devices.

Mobile jobsearch

How are you planning on extending the employment tools within BetterOff?

A feature that is on the development plans for BetterOff is an embedded CV creator. As with the pre-constructed sentences in the jobs journal that helps people with literacy difficulties to avoid sanctions, the CV builder would also include similar guidance and logic. Also - depending on the resource available to different local authorities - the co-browsing feature could be used by advisors at job centres meaning they could see someone’s CV remotely without them having to come into the centre and give them help and advice online.

As well as development directly to helping people (back) to work, there are also plans within the future phases of BetterOff to include budgeting tools to help people to improve the management of their income, which is particularly pertinent in light of Universal Credit. This development comes directly off the back of a financial inclusion workshop that took place back in November 2015 between Kirklees Council, LookingLocal, The Money Advice Service and several other interested local authorities and housing associations. The group recognised that there is a significant crossover of people on the cusp of debt and who are struggling financially, with those that claim benefits. This brings to light issues around the need to support people with debt advice, budgeting tools and the crossover with BetterOff in terms of people who could benefit from digital access to financial inclusion information and tools.

Overall the day provided a great opportunity for LAs and HAs to come together over a challenge that we are all too familiar with. As you can see from some of the answers above, there are plans to further improve the features and functionality within the BetterOff product working with our partners throughout the UK.

We would love to hear your views and ideas on how this platform could work for your organisation if you have any queries or would like to see a demonstration of the product please email betteroff@lookinglocal.gov.uk

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