Forward thinking housing providers and local government users of our award winning Benefit and Budgeting Calculator joined our first ever steering group in January to tell us how we can make our award winning calculator even better.
Attendees came together to:
- Build peer to peer relationships
- Shape our development roadmap
- Share best practice and success stories
- Hear what changes we’re making to how we work on the calculator
- Hear how others have quickly embedded the calculator into their day to day operations
- Define the balance between the development of new features and improved functionality
Zoe Charlesworth, Policy in Practice’s Head of Policy and the steering group’s host, said “This new group is vital for Policy in Practice. We’re asking our growing base of clients to help us set the future direction of the calculator and tell us how well, or otherwise, it meets their needs. We expect the feedback will help us in our commitment to make the benefits system simpler for people to understand.”
Clients share their stories
Guinness and Curo gave hugely insightful and well received presentations. Both provided informative case studies of how the calculator is used within their respective organisations and how it is helping them to support customers.
Short, sharp refresher sessions embed usage
The strategy employed by Nadine Burns to introduce the calculator across The Guinness Group involved short, regular training sessions to share best practice and embed usage, without taking too much time away from other work. This approach was part of Guinness’ activity to embed and reinforce the use of the calculator across three teams and 185 users nationwide.
Nadine was keen to improve the quality of Guinness’ interactions with its customers and looked to the calculator to help frontline advisors to share cases across teams. This means that wherever the customer makes contact with the organisation, they only have to give details of their case once. Since adopting our Benefit and Budgeting Calculator in August 2017, Guinness has won tens of thousands of pounds in backdated benefit payments for their tenants.
If you are interested in how the calculator is used by the Guinness Partnership, please email [email protected] for the full case study.
Making every advisor focus on income maximisation means wider usage
Curo’s Emma Owens has been working with Universal Credit claimants since 2013. Curo chose our Benefit and Budgeting Calculator because of the level of detail offered and Emma is keen to expand the calculator’s use across more teams.
Emma explained that customer usage of the self-service feature has been good and that customers particularly engage with the graphs and visuals that show income and expenditure. Frontline feedback shows that the customer experience has improved since the introduction of the calculator.
Emma revealed that the most vulnerable 20% of customers took up the majority of advisors’ time. Curo’s self-service calculator ensured that the less vulnerable were able to get access to advice quicker. More experienced staff can then help those with more complex needs and free up staff time for complex issues such as tribunals.
Emma emphasised the importance of making all staff responsible for income maximisation as this means that income and expenditure details are entered by the department that first supports the customer. These details are then easily accessible by all other departments so other staff can quickly provide holistic support.
Calculator use at first point of contact improves customer experience
Steering group participants from the Richmond Housing Partnership, Vivid, Royal Borough of Greenwich, and Tower Hamlets Council also shared how they use the calculator in their organisations. Some of the key messages were;
- Richmond Housing Partnership uses the calculator during phone conversations and at contact centres, thereby helping customers and protecting visiting resources
- The calculators are used to inform whether council referrals for properties are sustainable and in the best interest of the customer. This is particularly useful at the moment as a change in address can lead to a change in household income under Universal Credit.
- Tower Hamlets Council use the calculator to provide an holistic view of local welfare support, enabling staff to determine DHPs and offer other welfare assistance. The calculator illustrated when a customer could afford a private rented tenancy in situations where they are unlikely to receive a social rented property.
- The calculator was used to determine when a move to Universal Credit is advisable or not. Embedding the calculator in the organisation’s housing systems, as well as in tenant portals, enabled ease of access.
We were delighted to receive warm feedback for the support, training and partnership set-up provided by Policy in Practice lead, Shivi Chandna. Attendees also gave some very useful suggestions to ensure changes and developments were communicated better with users which we are taking further.
Challenges aired and solutions discussed
The steering group gave us a good opportunity to understand the key challenges our clients face and how the calculator can help them meet these challenges. In a wide-ranging discussion we covered internal organisational issues as well as challenges of welfare benefit change. Challenges identified included:
- Preparing for managed migration
- Dealing with Brexit related complexities
- Integration with Citizens Advice Universal Support
- Managing the inherent intricacies of the benefits system
- Solving digital inclusion issues, especially as more people migrate over
- Dealing with increasingly challenging cases and taking more cases to tribunal
- The impact of the benefit cap on more people as three children families move onto UC
Attendees identified three development priorities
In addition to meeting priorities set by forthcoming welfare benefit changes, the group prioritised the development of additional features in the forthcoming months. Following a practical discussion the top three development priorities are:
1. Show the UC award for the coming month
Steering group attendees prioritised development of functionality that would show the next month’s UC award as a separate page. It’s hoped that this functionality would breakdown the UC award in the next month, taking account of changing income. The advisor could then print out this information for the customer, helping them to budget.
2. Show eligibility for benefit versus actual benefit received
The group also suggested a new feature to show the possible benefit that a person may be eligible for compared to the benefit they actually received. This would enable customers to easily see the impact of benefit take up and allow frontline advisors to help customers to maximise their income.
3. Create a pre-tenancy form
The group also prioritised the development of a pre-tenancy module that would include triage to Universal Credit Support and signposting to other support. Such a module would include additional options around understanding the affordability and sustainability of a tenancy.
These three development priorities now feature in our development roadmap for the second quarter of 2019, together with other development priorities of the group.
And finally, the conversation continued in the pub
After such a constructive and useful session the group and Policy in Practice team members retired to the Morpeth Arms to enjoy some networking, nibbles and drinks. This was a great chance to carry on conversations and share experiences in a less formal way. By chance, we happened upon a Drink Tank event hosted by Bright Blue which gave our steering group the opportunity to debate with James Cleverly MP, who joined us for a drink.
Dan Whitston, Policy in Practice’s Senior Developer said, “The first steering group was characterised by a very lively and engaged conversation with excellent energy. We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who came for a productive and memorable afternoon.”
Reserve your place at our next steering group
Our next steering group takes place on Wednesday 19 June at our Millbank Tower office in Westminster. Find out more and reserve your place here.