LookingLocal: BetterOff platform enables benefits self-service for Stockport residents

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/ service

Facing budget cuts, Stockport Council had to find a way to deliver routine services online, saving time & money which can be better deployed meeting the more complex needs of citizens.

Benefits assessments & applications bring high volumes of queries to our Contact Centre, so we worked with partners LookingLocal & Kirklees Council to implement their ‘BetterOff’’ online platform in Stockport.

BetterOff combines benefits assessments & applications with support for users in re-entering work. It guides users through the process: from assessing entitlements, processing claims & appeals, to ultimately providing the tools users need to re-enter work.

It evaluates claimants based on the information they provide & prompts them to apply for the appropriate benefits, while advising how much better off they’d be in work. It supplies the forms (with advisor-written guidance) to help users to fill out hard & unusual questions. The result is a self-serve process that claimants can progress at their own pace & on their own terms.

LookingLocal worked in close partnership with Stockport Council to ensure smooth implementation & has continued to maintain a close working relationship to the mutual benefit of the two organisations.

Why do you think it should win this award?

BetterOff is the first platform of its kind to combine benefits assessments & support in finding employment, using technology & digital connectivity to benefit individuals & local authorities as a whole.

It isn’t just a tool to aid benefits assessments. Its innovation comes from the fundamental shift it represents in how the council delivers services & in empowering the public to self-serve.

Since introducing BetterOff, online form completion has become the default way for Stockport residents to progress their benefits claims. This frees up advisors to spend their time working hardest for those vulnerable & complex cases who need extra support.

BetterOff looks & feels like a Stockport service. The agile nature of Stockport & LookingLocal’s development process & partnership means that the platform can be adapted to individual challenges & the technology behind it customised. LookingLocal worked in partnership with Stockport’s Welfare Adviser to edit the advice to reflect local needs & to incorporate their own knowledge to the development of the product. LookingLocal also act as a conduit for sharing knowledge & good practice (eg the successful promotion campaign in Stockport) with their other Local Authority partners.

What are the key achievements?

Stockport’s partnership with LookingLocal & the introduction of BetterOff has cut costs, improved the quality of service, brought money into the local economy, helped people get the benefits they’re entitled to & to find work & reduced contact centre demand.

Within the first year of going live, the council saved over £214,000. This figure is derived from the time saved by advisors & contact centre staff no longer having to spend long periods filling out benefits assessments for customers. This climbed to £500,000 in Year 2.

Since launch there have been over 50,000 visits to the BetterOff Stockport website, over 4,000 accounts created & over £12 million monetary gains assessed. Customers have also benefited by receiving all the help they’re entitled to. The amount of benefits awarded to individuals has increased by an average of 250%. This, combined with the numbers of people re-entering work, brings money into the local economy.

By reducing the time our face to face and telephone advisors spend on benefits applications, we have more resource available for more complex cases. Waiting times for a home visit have been reduced from 10 to 2 weeks & waiting times for an office appointment have fallen to 1- 2 weeks.