For millions of people across the UK, Universal Credit is a lifeline and became even more vital during the coronavirus pandemic. So finding ways to help local authorities support those on Universal Credit, by streamlining the process to claim Council Tax support and make timely and accurate awards while saving money and staff time, was crucial.
Universal Credit is administered by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and replaces six legacy benefits including income support, jobseekers allowance, child tax credits and Housing Benefit. By early 2018 all local authority areas were included in the migration process. DWP shares data with local authorities through Universal Credit (UC) data share, which provides income details for those on UC to assist with the administration of Council Tax support.
We’ve been working with Anglia Revenues Partnership - a group of five councils who provide revenues and benefits services across Breckland, East Cambridgeshire, Fenland, East Suffolk and West Suffolk – supporting their Universal Credit Data Share automation journey since November 2019.
The revenues partnership is the largest in England and has the third largest revenues and benefits caseload in the country. By early 2019 they were starting to see an increase in the volumes of Universal Credit Data Share (UCDS) records received from the DWP.
Since then the number of UCDS records being sent to the partnership has risen at an unprecedented rate, with an overall increase from 33,725 in 2017 to 226,488 in 2021, partly due to the pandemic.
The Anglia Revenues Partnership approached us for support to automate as many records as possible to reduce manual processing time and to make the claim and payment process as fast as possible for claimants.
Rachael Mann, Director of Resources and Property at West Suffolk Council and a member of ARP’s Operational Improvement Board, said:
“The impressive success with automation in this area has meant significant improvements within revenues and benefits.
More importantly, it has ensured our residents, some of whom are the most vulnerable in our communities, have quickly received the financial support they need.
This project has put our customers at the heart of our service delivery alongside contributing to our efficiency targets.
We are continuing our journey with the partnership to look at other enhancements that will improve customer experiences at the same time as supporting efficiencies for ARP.”
Approaching automation as a partnership
We understand that any process associated with benefit payments has a real and direct impact on people’s lives. That’s why our work with the partnership was underpinned by continual testing, refinement and improvement.
We began by focusing on quick wins, concentrating on auto-completing unmatched records and matched records. We ensured that team leaders were able to manage the automation easily by setting up and testing system rules themselves.
We then moved to tackle the large volumes of data that were generated by customers recording a change of circumstances, developing scripts to exclude certain complex cases which helped us successfully automate 47% of those requests.
Since April 2020, the tolerance rule enabled the Anglia Revenues Partnership to exclude any records that had a change of less than £65 a month.
This meant more records could be set to auto- complete and reduced the number of customer reassessments by 33%. The impact was fewer changes to direct debits which helped thousands of residents feel more in control of their monthly budgeting during such a financially uncertain time.
Post pandemic the tolerance threshold has now been raised to £100, reducing the number of customer reassessments by 50%.
“Before the automation project began, the partnership was facing a two-week processing backlog. There is currently no backlog at all.”
Automation also reduced the need for manual processing, saving the equivalent of nearly 5 full time members of staff at a cost of more than £200,000 per annum.
Capita has always worked closely with the partnership to regularly review the automation processes and procedures. As a result, we’ve been able to make incremental improvements, such as reducing the need for citizens to provide additional evidence for their claims, which has provided a better standard of service and reduced processing times.
Results to date include:
- staff savings equivalent to almost 5 full time equivalents at a time when other authorities have recruited to cope with the increasing processing demand
- Anglia Revenues Partnership maintaining the number of records that need to be manually processed to 2017 levels, despite a 6.5-fold increase in data
- 95% automation for changes in circumstance records and 90% automation across all records
- 90% of Anglia Revenues Partnership citizens being issued with a decision from ARP on the same day it receives data from DWP
- no processing backlog
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