Radical benefits service reaches out to vulnerable communities

20 May 2008 10:53 AM Local authorities serving over 9.3 million people have taken steps to radically transform housing benefit and council tax services for citizens in the country’s most vulnerable communities.


In partnership with Northgate Information Solutions, a leading provider of innovative services to the public sector and utilities markets, councils across the UK are introducing the eBenefits service to reach out to those who may be missing out on their entitlement, and radically simplify and speed up the process of housing and council tax benefit assessment.


Using mobile technology, visiting officers are able to help citizens through the assessment process face-to-face, to collate and verify the documents supporting the claim, and provide an indicative benefits calculation on the spot.


People across the country are benefiting from greater accuracy in decision making and faster times for claim-handling and assessment. eBenefits also frees up specialists to focus on those cases where help is needed most and offers greater opportunities to work collaboratively, including with CABs and registered social landlords to assess cases requiring closer attention.


- Non-specialist advisers can be quickly guided on-screen through a citizen’s claim for council tax and housing benefits to reach a decision based in law;

- Advisers are presented with only the relevant questions they need to determine a citizen’s eligibility and entitlement;

- Advisers can tell what evidence is needed to support the claim and create a comprehensive decisions audit trail showing how the decision has been made;

- Self-service systems can allow citizens to make full applications online and send over all the evidence that is required to assess their claims;

- Mobile systems, linked up to the back-office, allow benefits services to reach out to the community and to target those most in need.


Examples of local authorities radically improving their services include:


South Hams District Council, which has cut new claims processing time from 27 days to 9 days, achieved 100% satisfaction ratings and eliminated complex paper forms. Using mobile technology, visiting officers are able to help citizens through the assessment process face-to-face, to collate and verify the documents supporting the claim, and provide an indicative benefits calculation on the spot.


Torfaen County Borough Council, which has halved claims processing time from 27 days to 13.5 days, and saved £12,500 per year since implementation by cutting the cost of paper and postage. Council officers are better able to reach out to vulnerable communities and target those most in need by use of mobile and SMS, delivering a proactive, citizen-centred service.


North Kesteven District Council, which has streamlined its claims process and improved citizen satisfaction levels by halving interview times and processing new claims in a single day, over 27 days faster than before. The council’s benefits service has practically eliminated information errors from its claims files and the removal of paper forms makes new instances of missing data highly improbable.


Joe Bradley, Managing Director of Local Government & Social Housing for Northgate Public Services, said today: “The benefits system is often seen as needlessly complex and a stressful experience for those who need to access their entitlement. eBenefits is designed to place the citizen at the heart of the service and lessen the administrative burden for those making a claim. In revolutionising the way that benefits are accessed, it offers innovative opportunities to develop shared benefits services across the public and not-for-profit sectors. We are proud of our relationships with local authorities serving over one in seven UK citizens, and strive to deliver continuously improving services and contribute to stronger, more sustainable neighbourhoods throughout the country.”


For further information:
Fellows’ Associates


Kathy Sutton 020 7849 3403; 07966 890401;

ksutton@fellowsassociates.com


Kuntal Biswas 020 7849 3347; 07930 566291; kbiswas@fellowsassociates.com




Notes to Editors



1. Northgate Information Solutions is a leading provider of innovative services to the public sector and utilities markets. Northgate’s task is to enhance public value through the intelligent use of people and technology, and to share in the economic and social benefits that this brings.


2. In the UK, the company works with four out of five local authorities and every police force. Northgate supports public service transformation through sustainable performance partnerships. Its technology is used in the administration of more than £12 billion of revenues and benefits; in electoral administration systems covering 18 million people; to support the national system for reporting police performance; and in the management of over three million local authority and housing association properties worldwide. Founded in 1969, the company has over 6,500 employees.


3. eBenefits was launched in June 2006. It was originally one of the 22 Local e-Gov National Projects sponsored by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (now Communities and Local Government). It now provides a national benefits service that serves some of the country’s most hard to reach areas. eBenefits uses rules-based technology developed in partnership with RuleBurst Ltd.