One year after launch seems like a good time to take a look at the achievements of our BetterOff Stockport website.
Why did we introduce BetterOff?
Impending budget cuts, including a £500,000 reduction to the Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) services, were the catalyst for exploring new solutions to continue providing much needed services.
With an average annual Benefits and welfare caseload of 47,000, we were dealing with 260 face-to-face appointments and over 600 telephone inquiries a week.
By channel shifting residents who are digitally confident and able to access Council Services themselves to an online service, our advisers would be able to focus on helping those customers who are vulnerable and have complex circumstances.
We knew that the majority of our residents have the ability to self-serve if given the tools to do so, however we identified a real gap in our online Benefits and welfare advice and guidance provision.
The right tool for the job
BetterOff was designed and developed by our partners LookingLocal at Kirklees Council and is offered to other local authorities as a collaborative software development project. We added Stockport information and personalised the experience to Stockport as well as suggesting a number of improvements and developments that have now been applied to all other Authorities using the platform.
We began to trial the BetterOff website in ‘Beta’ form in March 2016, allowing time to make sure the content was right, not rushing any part of the project and getting constant feedback from staff and customers. Adopting an Agile approach helped to ensure everything was correct before going live to a wider audience in July 2016.
This also gave us the time to develop a comprehensive BetterOff training programme which was delivered to staff in many different Services and Partners across the borough. The training included demonstrations and practical exercises with over 120 attendees over a two month period.
We scheduled three different phases of Comms: at launch last summer, in the late autumn 2016 and again in spring 2017. A combination of digital media and offline channels such as posters and business cards has been used to signpost residents, staff, partners and community groups to the BetterOff website.
How does BetterOff help residents to self-serve?
BetterOff aims to triage the majority of claimants to online advice, by providing virtual guidance within the content and various benefit and appeals processes. The written guidance throughout the platform was constructed with the help of specialist benefit advisers and has helped to support claimants with either minimal or zero support.
BetterOff guides users every step of the way with:
- Benefit entitlement calculator
- Online forms supported with content and video guidance
- Virtual advice through web chat
- Job search listing feeds jobs from hundreds of databases
- CV writing and job applications advice
- Detailed guidance on Interview techniques, questions and preparation
- Journal records job search activity to support work-search eligibility
- Pre-constructed journal entries help users accurately record activity
- Journal and forms can be shared remotely for help and support
Benefits and savings
Figures to the end of June show that there have been a total of 50,068 visits to the website and 4,081 accounts have been created.
There have been almost 11,000 website sessions and 34,000 unique page views, averaging 3.01 pages per session. Around one-third of page-views are for the job search pages. One in ten page-views is for forms.
2071 ‘EntitledTo’ assessments have been completed generating over £12 million of monetary gains for claimants. The built-in entitlement calculator has also ensured that claimants are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to, which ensures they are in the best position to look after themselves, their family and where possible, find sustainable employment. From July 2016 to May 2017, the average customer claim calculated by each Stockport BetterOff user increased by 75%.
Staff and customers at Fred Perry House have also welcomed the new self-serve options. Queues have significantly reduced and customers are instantly triaged to the service they need, making the customer contact centre a much more relaxed and positive environment.
BetterOff allows front line workers to access information they need when working with a family. Instant access to the benefit calculator and information and advice about jobs and volunteering opportunities speeds up the support front line workers can provide to families and helps them to find sustainable employment.
A platform for Assisted Digital
BetterOff provides a platform for Assisted Digital in the localities. Users of Fred Perry House, libraries and Community internet access hubs, who may not yet have the skills or confidence to self-serve receive support using the site and encouragement to move to self-serve.
We recently hosted a ‘Show and Tell’ event organised by the Kirklees BetterOff developers ‘LookingLocal’. Five Local Authorities attended and discussions took place about the way BetterOff is being used and the benefits it is realising.
From the presentations throughout the day, we learnt of new potential enhancements to BetterOff, such as a customer ‘Road Map’ which would provide a more enhanced customer profile and the facility for improved Job and Apprenticeship alerts.
There were also useful pointers and ideas from the other Local Authorities who attended, included partnership working with Foodbank providers to promote BetterOff and the positives of embedding BetterOff within core Council website accounts.