Kirklees Council has designed and developed its own online housing benefit and council tax reduction (HB/CTR) solution.
The new HB/CTR solution went live this month and has replaced Kirklees Council’s existing online forms. Internal analysis conducted by the Council and LookingLocal (owned and managed by Kirklees Council), suggested that designing and developing the new solution would generate savings and improve customer experience.
Analysis of Kirklees Council’s previous online HB/CTR form found that for many customers it was confusing for those that simply wish to apply and the end-of-form experience required manual steps and additional printing costs; clients were abandoning applications before final submission due to unclear instructions. This led to poor customer service, as well as additional adviser resource to ensure clients correctly submitted their forms.
As of March 2017, all of Kirklees Council’s HB/CTR customers are using the council’s newly designed form which is part of the BetterOff Kirklees platform and therefore brings all benefit application processes into a single and consistent user experience.
BetterOff Kirklees is currently generating Kirklees Council an annual cashable saving of £500,000 by enabling claimants with virtual advice and guidance in the completion of a broad range of benefit forms. Further savings will follow now the new HB/CTR capability are fully integrated within BetterOff Kirklees and not stand-alone.
The new HB/CTR process also includes a dynamic evidence list and upload facility. Upon reaching the end of the application form the user is presented with a list of evidence they should supply, which is tailored to the information they have given in the form. Importantly they are only asked for evidence specific to their circumstances – with this checklist being easily retrieved later on at the customer’s convenience. Applicants can use the upload facility to supply evidence in support of their claim which is submitted to the back-office system and automatically attached to the customer’s existing case file, ready for assessing by benefits officers.
To ensure all data from the new forms passes seamlessly into Kirklees’ back office system (Northgate) the Council has continued to partner with specialist integration and content capture company, Govtech Solutions.
Steve Bird, Head Welfare and Customer Exchequer Services, at Kirklees Council commented: “As a Council we are working towards a vision in which the majority of our clients are able to help themselves. Like every other council in the UK, we are having to deliver our services with reduced funding, which has driven us to develop this new capability with the associated cashable savings to the bottom line. However, we have managed to do this whilst increasing customer confidence and independence, with a transformed ability to self-serve.”
Kirklees Council has made various elements of this solution available for all local authorities to buy via the Digital Marketplace.
Steve Langrick, Head of Online, Channel Strategy and Development at Kirklees Council said: “As a Council, we often find that supplier systems limit our opportunity to do new and different things and therefore, hinder our ability to extract maximum efficiency savings whilst improving services to customers. This is why we take it upon ourselves to invest resources into developing improved solutions that do just that. We are aware that other local authorities face similar challenges and therefore want to offer our counterparts across the country the ability to re-use what we’ve done, in the knowledge that it’s been designed by fellow colleagues within the sector.”
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