Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

Digital Advice

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/ service

Stockport has transformed its reception to provide a modern digital space where people are helped to access council services. The reception desk has been replaced by self -check in points which automatically inform officers when their visitor arrives. Others are guided to a high street style area of tablets and PC’s where staff use a Restorative techniques to enable and support customers to self-serve. Alongside the Councils transactional forms the Council provides “Better- off Stockport”, developed by Kirklees Council and Looking Local, to give Stockport residents a single point to access information about benefits and finding work. Features include:
• An integrated calculator linked to local and national benefit application forms
• Back-to-work support and advice including a job journal, job search engine and the calculator to show how much better-off claimants would be in work
• Accepted by Job Centre Plus as evidence for the Universal Credit Claimant Commitment
• Applications and appeals are completed digitally with integrated guidance written by benefit advisors – built in prompts help to ensure forms are properly completed.
• Web chat, video and co-browsing enabling real-time support
• Mobile friendly

Why do you think it should win this award?

Creating a primarily self-serve reception is a big step reception which Stockport has taken and proved to work. Bold transformation of the way customers interact with the council has saved money and improved services in the short term but importantly has created a framework and approach for future benefits and efficiencies. By taking the best of the self service options available and blending them with the Councils own web offer coupled with the support offered through Restorative Practice Stockport has created a solution that meets the needs of both the customer and the organisation. People haven’t been forced to engage digitally but by creating the right environment they have chosen to do so. Learning from Stockport’s approach could be beneficial for others who are considering similar changes.

What are the key achievements?

No more queues at reception
An efficient and professional approach for visitors to the council
Officers are informed as soon as visitors arrive
Restorative practice supports customers immediate needs and builds future skills for wider benefits.
Around 60% of contacts with the council are now digital contacts
Better Off software gives officer, support workers and customer’s easy access to advice about benefit, budgeting and appeals without needing to wait for an appointment.
Support workers feel this immediate access to information has significantly improved the service they can offer.
By enabling those who are able to self-serve waiting times for a home visit for vulnerable residents have reduced from 10 weeks to 4 weeks.
Waiting times for an office appointment have fallen to between 1 -2 weeks.
The DWP have welcomed the job search features of the system and accept them as evidence towards the Claimant Commitment which will help to reduce sanctions.
By echoing a high street digital stores the refurbish reception is non threatening and familiar to customers.