In January 2021 we held our latest LIFT platform steering group. We were joined by our local authority clients who are leading the way to unlock insights from their administrative data. Policy in Practice holds regular steering groups with our customers to connect our clients with each other, and to listen and ask for feedback about our product roadmap. Having welcomed over 10 new LIFT clients in the last year alone we were delighted to have a bumper turnout for this meeting.
We split the LIFT platform steering group across two main sessions: client’s sharing their experiences and learning from one another from the past year and then looking forward to our planned future developments.
After round the table introductions Deven Ghelani, founder and Director of Policy in Practice, kicked off by recapping the challenges that 2020 brought. With caseloads changing drastically and the growing importance of Universal Credit data, Deven set the scene for the LIFT platform steering group by emphasising the importance of data analytics to identify and tackle vulnerability, and why early intervention is needed now more than ever before.
Caseloads have changed dramatically since Covid-19
James Rawlins, Client Services Manager at Policy in Practice, explored the challenges our clients faced in 2020 in more depth. He acknowledged the importance of evolving caseloads and how some areas have seen decreases whilst others have seen increases. This instability in caseloads has created a huge workload for benefits teams across the country. As well as changes in Universal Credit claims, there has also been an increase in people not in work and an increase in household arrears.
That said, the changes experienced in 2020 brought some relatively good news. The £20 increase in Universal Credit has helped reduce the number of households in crisis or shortfall and the extra £150 on Council Tax Reduction could have reduced arrears in the short term.
How our clients adapted to the challenges of 2020
Nick Harvey, Training Officer at Folkestone and Hythe, told the LIFT platform steering group how the extra workload COVID-19 has allowed them to build up their welfare team, using insights from their LIFT platform to evidence demand.
On the topic of Council Tax alone, Folkestone and Hythe saw a huge strain on their resources. Council Tax Reduction claims went from 8,500 to 10,500, coming to approximately 500 new cases per month for the first four months of lockdown. On top of this, the benefits team had to organise the £150 reduction on all working-age Council Tax Reduction cases which involved complex software changes. They also had to provide a new system for hardship payments for those unable to claim Council Tax Support.
Sally Sanders, Financial Assessment Officer at Enfield Council had similar experiences but on a larger scale. Enfield Council saw Council Tax Reduction claims go from 35,000 to 37,000. They experienced a huge strain on their resources and underwent some internal structural changes to spread the resources across the team to reach the level of demand. The Benefit Cap also proved to be a hidden challenge with 3,800 households affected by the Benefit Cap, 3,000 of whom are on Universal Credit and therefore a potential time-bomb for Enfield.
Clients have used LIFT to design proactive DHP award and Pension Credit take-up campaigns
Many of our clients used their LIFT platform to identify households who were potentially eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment. They did this by using the sophisticated filters that allowed them to interrogate their data to find financially vulnerable households, for example those with children in rented accommodation with essential costs higher than their income.
For one of the DHP campaigns we helped our clients to run, an engagement rate of 58% of the total cohort was achieved, 33% of whom were eligible for a DHP award. Overall, an award rate of 15% of the total cohort was achieved. Significantly 79% of applications made were successful.
That said, we were interested to find out the reasons why people didn’t engage with the campaign and among these were:
- People were coping with their situation
- People had a recent change in circumstances which meant they didn’t need the money anymore
- People had previously been unsuccessful in claiming in the past
Households didn’t expect councils to do this form of proactive work and were very grateful for the proactive call with the offer of help.
Other clients used LIFT to conduct a Pension Credit take-up campaign. Due to the time pressure driven by the closing date for TV license applications, clients focused their internal resources on making outbound phone calls to contact households potentially eligible for Pension Credit who weren’t already claiming. Clients were able to engage with 50% of the total cohort; 28% of the total cohort asked for help claiming, and 13% of all those who claimed secured an award. The value of each award is high, an average of £9,590 per year, this significantly helped those pensioners involved, and demonstrated a significant social and economic impact.
Enfield Council’s Universal Credit caseload grew by a third in 2020
Sally Sanders at Enfield Council, explained how they went from 8,000 Universal Credit claimants to over 12,000 in a very short period. At the time, they didn’t have automation, so they manually updated 3,000 records a week, undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges they faced over the last year.
The Benefit Cap also scored highly on the most challenging policy change of the past year. Shahida Begum from Tower Hamlets, explained how their outreach team saw a number of residents facing hardship from the Benefit Cap. Her colleague Charlotte spoke about how rising unemployment and the end of the grace period with the cap further added to these challenges.
Folkestone and Hythe Council automated their data refresh to get insights faster
Since July 2020, thanks to support from Innovate UK, Policy in Practice introduced the ability for our clients to automate the transfer of administrative data from their systems to their LIFT platform and get faster insights to tackle poverty. Since then a number of LIFT clients are now automating data refreshes to help boost their recovery from Covid-19.
More frequent data refreshes give councils the ability to act faster significantly improving the success of intervention activity. They can identify people who need help in a more timely way, and proactively contact those who are in financial crisis, at risk or in crisis much quicker.
Nick Harvey, from Folkestone and Hythe Council shared his experiences going live with automation and praised their move from a 3-month data refresh to one that is monthly, saying it was a painless process.
The graphic below illustrates the journey we are on to condense the time it takes from data to actionable insights. We have moved from a six week manual extraction to just six days, thanks to funding from Innovate UK, and we have ambitions to speed this up even further.
Known challenges our clients face in 2021
The forthcoming end to the eviction ban was described by Enfield’s Sally Sanders as a ‘perfect storm waiting to happen’ especially with the following financial year’s DHP allocation being an unknown entity at present. It is by no means the only challenge ahead, as 80% of our clients say that the end of the furlough and Self Employed Income Support Schemes will be the most challenging policy area in 2021.
We focused on three new developments to the LIFT platform
Finally, we looked at some of our latest developments on the LIFT platform and gathered invaluable information about what our clients want to see more of in the future. Here are just some of the exciting enhancements we made to LIFT, for free, in 2020.
1. New: Redesigned home page for LIFT
We redesigned the LIFT homepage to make it easier for clients to find the right information quickly. On the newly streamlined LIFT homepage there is now an introductory pane together with the three most popular dashboards, LIFT Summary, Street View and Outcome Tracker. Other dashboards are also available from the new Additional Insight panel on the right-hand side.
2. Improved: Get new insights from your Covid-19 Analysis dashboard
We improved the Covid-19 Analysis dashboard to highlight target groups that are highly impacted by the pandemic. These groups are families, private renters and young people. The insights on families will help LIFT clients to understand the demand for the Winter Grant scheme. Clients can also see families in different types of poverty.
3. Benchmark your council using the Indices of Multiple Deprivation dashboard
Accessible from the Additional Insights panel is our new Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) dashboard. Use it to benchmark all the indices of deprivation which are, income, health, employment, access to services, environment and education with your neighbouring local authorities. Use this dashboard to develop strategies around these key indices down to the ward level and benchmark yourself against other councils.
How to get involved with our next LIFT platform steering group
We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in our LIFT platform steering group; hearing our client’s experiences and opinions on our products is vital to us and we really value these sessions.
- The next LIFT platform steering group will be held on Thursday 24 June and registration details will be sent to our LIFT platform clients in due course.
- If you are not yet a LIFT platform client and would like to know more about how the tool helps local authorities to identify financial vulnerability, target support and track change using their data please call 0330 088 9242 or email firstname.lastname@example.org