An app developed by Kirklees Council allowing self service to benefits, set to save an annual £400,000, is to be deployed at two other councils.
BetterOff was developed by Looking Local, which is owned and managed by Kirklees Council, and can be “redeployed” with different branding at other organisations, said Jane Hancer, Partnerships Director at Looking Local. She could not yet divulge which councils are to roll out the solution.
BetterOff directs users to the appropriate benefit form and offers a job vacancy feed, interview advice, information and guidance on childcare and transport. It also provides a calculator that compares income from a job to potential benefits that could be claimed, a “piece of the pie that is missing” across the board, according to Hancer.
“It’s breaking down the barriers between benefits and employment to show that people can be better off in work. The benefits calculator, provided by company Entitledto, takes into consideration all circumstances, for example, if you have dependents, to give most accurate idea of what benefits you’ll get”, Hancer said.
All claimantsable to self-serve and those who need a degree of support will be automatically directed to BetterOff. Users who still need a helping hand can speak to a benefits advisor via webchat who will be able to answer questions and access benefits form and fill out fields with the claimant online. “Think webchat plus Google Docs for benefit forms” says a recent Looking Local blog post.
Kirklees faces cuts to its welfare information advice of nearly £1.75 million a year – a 30% reduction rising to 50% over the next three years. “The financial element was paramount”, says the blog post. “Some radical thinking was required to ensure that Kirklees’ benefits system could still deliver and ensure that nobody slipped through the net”.
BetterOff aims to help the council meet cuts to its welfare information advice budget by freeing up advisers to deal with more complex claims.
Earlier this month, Kirklees invited senior revenues, benefits and advice managers from more than 30 local authorities to meet in Birmingham to view a demonstration of the tool and contribute ideas to its further development.
Kirklees will deploy the solution in September, following a pilot over the summer.