Folkestone and Hythe’s award-winning welfare team has been working throughout the pandemic to identify their residents who need tailored support. Their holistic approach to tackling financial hardship saw them nominated for four awards at this year’s IRRV awards, winning in the training and staff development category.
Folkestone and Hythe District Council’s good news story of 2021
Our biggest news story of the year has to be being finalists in four categories for the IRRV (Institute or Revenues, Rating and Valuation) performance awards.
- Revenues team of the year
- Benefits and welfare reform team of the year
- Excellence in social inclusion
- Excellence in training and staff development
We won in the training and staff development category.
Welfare crosses all these areas and the work we do is supported by our Policy in Practice products. The LIFT platform helps us identify people in debt arrears. It highlights customers who are in receipt of a council tax reduction and also in financial crisis, at risk or struggling, so we can look to help them.
Due to the holistic approach we take with all our customers who look for our help we are excelling in social inclusion and working more and more with external partners.
Off the back of these successes we now train people on welfare, how to run a data led campaign using LIFT, and how to use the Better Off Calculator.
Jane Worrell, Revenues and Benefits Senior Specialist, Folkestone and Hythe
Learn more about Folkestone and Hythe’s good news story
Our biggest challenge has been identifying people who need our help and support and tailoring our resources to reach out to them.
Getting people to engage with us is always a challenge as many people are likely to owe us money and think that is why we are calling them. Our residents are often pleasantly surprised when we call to offer help.
Although things are starting to return to a more normal way of life, this year the impact on people’s finances and their wellbeing has been evident.
We offer a more holistic approach in supporting people with whatever is going on in their life.
The LIFT platform helps us to target people in greatest need with the limited resources we have. Once we’ve identified them we usually reach out to offer financial support but we have also used the insights from LIFT just to make contact with people who may be struggling to understand the benefit system and what other help is available to them. Without LIFT we would be working on lists from our processing system which would be long and they don’t show indicators of need.
For example, at the start of the pandemic we identified self-employed people as struggling and were able to target them for further support.
Benefits are complex and we use the Better Off Calculator to assess what other benefits our customers may be eligible for to maximise their income.
This year we have expanded the LIFT platform and the calculator to our housing team so they too can look to support the vulnerable customers. It allows the housing team to target people in rent arrears and to identify those with council tax arrears so we can make contact about the whole debt. The Benefit and Budget Calculator is being used increasingly to help people make affordable arrangements in our corporate debt team.
We measure success by the impact we are having on people’s lives and their well-being. We have case studies and testimonials where the work of the welfare team has made a difference in people’s lives.
Our aim is to help people achieve financial stability which can be helped by giving financial support for their council tax and rent if applicable.
LIFT allows us to find those people who need our help.
We have targeted those people in multiple debts (council tax, rent and housing benefit overpayments), people who may be eligible for a discretionary housing payment, people new to the benefit system, and those identified as in crisis or at risk.
We look at the impact our interventions have had on their finances through the LIFT tracker function and we have seen good results from the campaigns we have done so far this year. Being able to offer the calculator to our customers and use it to consider different scenarios helps us to have those difficult conversations about income and outgoings.
Our first data-led campaign yielded a 44% uptake in Pension Credit, worth £676,000, after just ten days. More recently, we identified people who were receiving Universal Credit but not Council Tax Reduction. Starting with the most vulnerable people, this group has now been successfully awarded support of over £1.1 million to help with payments towards council tax.
Using LIFT, we have already identified 299 cases in fuel, water and food poverty and in crisis, at risk or struggling. We are able to tailor support depending on each individual circumstances and people are pleasantly surprised that we are calling to help.