Tewkesbury Borough Council used behavioural insights to improve its revenue and benefits service. The project reduced end to end times by approximately 70 per cent, resulting in the identification of more than £150,000 of savings.
The revenue and benefits service at Tewkesbury Borough Council needed to improve service alignment and increase financial inclusion. Specifically, it needed to reduce end-to-end times for processing benefit claims and changes in circumstances and reduce the levels of hand off, duplication and other waste within processes.
ICE Creates was commissioned to utilize applied behavioural insights and systems and design thinking to review and develop how the revenues and benefits team delivered the service.
Using insight gathering methods that included interviews, citizen and staff workshops and ethnographic observations of the service being delivered, we identified numerous instances of failure demand (demand caused by a failure to do the right thing for a customer) and wasted time and effort across the system. For example, we identified that the application forms being used were difficult to complete and were causing missing information that required additional contact points before an application could be processed. We also identified duplication and unnecessary steps in the change of circumstances process, with customers having limited contact with experts and the existing evidence burden too high to process a change at the first point of contact.
The insight was applied to change the application and change of circumstances process, including the addition of nudges within the application form to improve ease of completion and changing how calls were handled and forwarded.
Across the project we identified £150,000 of cashable savings and non-cashable additional capacity of £100,000. End to end times for new claims was reduced by 70 per cent and end-to-end times for change of circumstances was reduced by 60 per cent. Further, accounts being administered at the point of contact increased by 75 per cent.
How is the new approach being sustained?
Throughout the process ICE transferred skills into the local authority by working alongside their team to co-design feasible and viable evidence driven solutions. Insight findings were also presented to elected members and the compelling evidence resulted in a change of policy, with the council policy changed to permit verbal declarations of circumstances, ensuring sustainability of the new approach as it became business as usual.
A number of key lessons were learnt during this project:
1) behavioural insights can inform small and simple changes that result in significant time and cost savings
2) the use of behavioural insight informed nudges can simplify application processes and reduce the number of contact points required between a service and a customer
3) Co-designing solutions ensures they are feasible and viable
4) changing existing policies is as important as skills transfer in order to transform, not just change service provision.
Assistant Chief Executive Tewkesbury Borough Council (former, recently moved to West Sussex County Council)
Dr Adam Moore
Head of applied behavioural insights, ICE Creates