The successful delivery of a Council Benefits service is largely dependent on the people, the processes and the technology behind administering the service. If all three of these areas are monitored and looked after well, then ideally you should have a seamless delivery of service and your Benefits Team productivity should be on point.
Where things can start to go wrong is when changes to policy, legislation or working practices are made and then poorly communicated or rolled out. Your Benefits staff are only human, operating under very challenging circumstances, with customers often having very unique and complex requirements based on their individual situation.
As well as meeting statutory deadlines the assessment and award of benefits in areas like; housing, council tax reductions and discretionary hardship payments, can require delivery of a very personalised service, so how can you help simplify things?
Make life easier with instant access to relevant documentation
Our first top tip to help your Benefits team is a simple but often ignored piece of advice – make it easy for your team to find the information they need to get the job done. Consolidate all the information they need and keep it in one place, preferably online, for easy access and so that relevant documents, links and alerts can be easily updated, communicated and shared.
Keep people posted on targets and share the quick fixes
Most Benefits teams operate against set targets for example each team member may have to process a certain number of claims per week or deal with a certain number of changes in circumstances which impact benefits received. In order to successfully meet these targets a good Team Leader should be ensuring these targets are not only communicated effectively to everyone, but if things start slipping you need to have a quick and easy way to let people know and have a proposed fix for it.
Keep on top of changes
When guidelines and policies are updated that impact the administration of the Benefits service, you need to let staff know as soon as possible. It can be quite a time-consuming process having to monitor this yourself keeping on top of any DWP or HMRC announcements or policy updates as well as internal mandates. Make sure that not only is someone tasked with taking this responsibility on but they can then signpost where this information can be found to ensure good continuity of service, despite the changes which have been rolled out.
Don’t let resourcing issues get in the way of delivering a great service
Limit the impact of reduction or turnover of staff on your departments ability to deliver its core services by taking actions to safeguard against this. Simple measures like having all the procedural data you need to get the job done in one place, should significantly cut down on the time it takes new starters or staff seconded from other departments to get up and running and reduce their reliance on others for accessing the information.
Remember users sometimes do know best
If you are investing in new technology or tools to help boost your Benefits Team productivity, they are much more likely to buy into it, if they have a say in how it can best work for them. For example at Destin Solutions we provide online procedural manuals for local authorities so they can capture everything they need about delivering a service in one place. Where it has worked best is where Benefits staff have had input into the layout and structure of the manual to ensure it is intuitive and adapted to suit their unique and localised needs.
The main point to take away here is that you can empower your staff to be more proactive in how they administer Benefits, by making it easier for them to access the information they need to get the job done. Communicate clearly what it is you want them to deliver, if they are not meeting that, let them know and put the systems in place to help them improve and meet those targets.