he successful Universal Credit digital log book pilot has highlighted a novel approach to addressing welfare reform and social inclusion – below provides an overview of how it did this.
Birmingham City Council was chosen to run one of the 12 UK Government’s Universal Credit Pilot Schemes which aims to test elements of the UK’s Welfare Reform Strategy. The Universal Credit pilot scheme aims to change the way welfare benefits are accessed and distributed in line with a digital-by-default approach which requires all welfare services to be transacted online. Birmingham’s Digital Log Book was developed as a tool to help new housing tenants to become familiar with managing and sustaining their tenancies using a personalised digital portal.
The Digital Log Book is a web based enterprise portal empowering people to interact with online local authority/government services, in-line with the UK Governments Digital Service – digital by default – where all Government services are to be delivered on-line. The Digital Log Book provides citizens with an easy to use interface enabling them to access services from any browser.
The Customer Journey
The project enabled Birmingham City Council to analyse and review the social housing tenant’s customer journey and introduce changes to it’s social housing services to make them more digitally accessible.This involved analysing and reviewing the whole customer journey from the moment that they applied for housing to 12 weeks into their tenancy. As a result of this, Birmingham developed a “Gateways of Influence” model which identified not only all the elements involved within the social housing tenants journey but also identified nudging techniques to change people’s behavior to using digital.
The Digital Log Book
The Digital Log Book has been piloted with new housing applicants for council housing in the city, to address digital inclusion, social inclusion, financial inclusion, employment and health and well-being by changing people’s behavior to help develop more sustainable tenancies.
The log book enables the tenant to manage their finances through online budgeting tools and calculators, enables access to online training materials to increase their digital skills which helps those in receipt of job seekers benefits or low income to increase their employment prospects. It also sign-posts tenants to other information and agencies that can help them in all aspects of their life.
The log book also enables them to report any issues to the council, access their rent statements and book leisure facilities and set up direct debits and pay for services.
- Enables greater self-management, responsibility and co-design of services by citizens
- Increases the efficiency and quality of service provision as well as offering support mechanisms for tenants
- Enables a safe and secure online environment to encourage and increase citizen participation and engagement in delivery of local services
- Improves the ICT skills of social housing tenants
- Creates an engaging, informative and educational environment for digitally excluded people, quickly demonstrating the benefits of operating and transacting online
- The digital log book can be used by the local authority to send messages using social networking tools such as twitter directly to the social housing tenant as well as containing documents and video content.
- The digital log book can be integrated using an API with other systems if required.
The Digital Log Book was designed to be simple to use so that users could securely and confidently manage their own information and share this with trusted third parties such as their landlord, GP and family.
Nearly 4,000 digital log books are now being used by new housing tenants the City is looking to roll it out to its existing social housing tenants (64,000 properties).
There have been considerable savings in relation to people being able to access information digitally and by being able to self-serve. For example, tenant handbooks given out to new tenants cost £20 per individual, by providing this information within the digital log book we have already saved approximately £80,000, other savings include moving from telephone to self-service include completion of online forms and this equates so far £119,000.
The digital log book is also being used by other local authorities and housing associations and it can easily be rolled out to other cities.
An additional module for 18-24 year olds has recently been incorporated within the log book called Pay Ahead Stay Ahead which teaches young people about financial management.
- Initial user testing helped to determine the design and how people would react to and interact with the Digital Log Book. On-going feedback from social housing tenants through regular workshops is shaping its future developments.
- Site analytics track usage and interaction to help build a picture of how the digital log book is being used and to get a better understanding of what activities work well and where further development is needed.
- 20% of participants did not have an email address which they required in order to sign up to the digital log book so time had to be spent with tenants helping them to do this. On a positive note 60% of tenants signed up for the digital log book with no support, the other 20% of tenants either required additional support due to other health conditions or were not allowed access to the digital log book due to restrictions place upon them legally from the courts (not allowed access to internet).
The pilot project will end December 2013 but Birmingham City Council is looking to build it into mainstream services using a shared revenue model and to potentially create jobs within the Birmingham area as part of its expansion.
BUDGET AND PARTNERS
The pilot was funded by the UK government’s department of work and pensions to the value of £400,000.
- Citizens (Housing Tenants)
- Birmingham City Council
- Home Log Book Solutions Limited
- Members of the Birmingham Social Housing Partnership (BSHP)
- Job Centre Plus (DWP employment outreach)
- Birmingham’s Welfare Reform Strategy Group which provides access to wider stakeholder group to assist social welfare clients
For further details contact :
Innovation Manager, Digital Birmingham,
Birmingham City Council
1 Lancaster Circus
PO Box 16136, Birmingham B2 2WD
+44 121 675 1170