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Radical technology is revolutionising benefits services

Local authorities serving 2.5 million people are now benefiting from the introduction of radical ‘rules-based’ technology to assess council tax and housing benefits, Northgate Information Solutions, the leading provider of community justice solutions, announced today.

Already used by the Australian and UK governments, rules-based technology is providing local authorities with benefits systems second to none, delivering:

- an expert system that simplifies the process of benefits assessment;

- greater efficiency and reduced delays in assessing accurate entitlement;

- an additional resource to assist in benefits take up work;

- greater opportunities to use multi-agency solutions, including working with CABs and registered social landlords to improve benefits take up;

- accessible self-service solutions for citizens to claim their entitlement and enquire into the progress of their claim.

The innovative services provided by Northgate assist frontline staff working in one-stop shops, housing departments, social housing and other parts of the voluntary sector to make their way through the benefits maze.

They give benefit managers more freedom to manage and specialist advisers more time to focus on those cases where help is needed most. The assessment services radically simplify the citizen’s route to benefits. They increase the accuracy of decision making and speed up the time in which claims are handled and assessed, providing both efficient and effective benefits business delivery systems.

- Non-specialist advisers can be quickly guided on-screen through a citizen’s claim for council tax and housing benefits to reach a decision based in law;

- Advisers are presented with only the relevant questions they need to determine a citizen’s eligibility and entitlement;

- Advisers can tell what evidence is needed to support the claim and create a comprehensive decisions audit trail showing how the decision has been made in law;

- Self-service systems allow citizens to make full applications and send in the evidence that is required to assess a claim;

- Mobile systems, linked up to the back-office, allow benefits services to reach out to the community and to target those most in need.

Examples of the radical improvements that local authority partnerships are making to service delivery include:

- Southampton City Council

Working in partnership with local registered social landlords – Hyde, Swaythling Housing Society and Western Challenge Housing Group, a well respected advice agency – Southampton Advice and Representation Centre, Unisys and Northgate, the council provides a service to the more vulnerable members of the community. Each of the partners is able to use the rules based system in their own local housing office or advice centre.

- Amber Valley District Council

Amber Valley District Council’s ‘Getting it Right First time’ aims to use leading edge technology to radically overhaul the service delivered to benefit customers. The council, working in conjunction with advice agencies, registered social landlords and Northgate aim to ensure that every new claimant will benefit from an assisted interview to speed up the process and eliminate delays.

Powered by Northgate’s rules-based technology, ‘Assert’, and developed during a pilot scheme as part of the ODPM-funded National eBenefits Project, a new eBenefits system will go live at Rotherham Borough Council later this year. eBenefits is expected to deliver efficiency savings of around £250,000 per annum for the council, and will be used to offer wider welfare benefits advice and support to citizens. Northgate will be looking to take the system to other authorities looking to improve their performance in benefits.

David Meaden, Managing Director Public Services, Northgate Information Solutions, said today:

“Accessing benefits can be a difficult and stressful process for citizens. We are committed to revolutionising the way benefits are delivered in this country. Our work is designed to provide services which are built around individual citizen need and are thus more effective, whilst ensuring that time-consuming bureaucracy, complex forms and repeated requests for evidence are a thing of the past.

“Every day, councils are using rules-based technology to revolutionise the way benefits are delivered. But this is only the first step in delivering a benefits system second to none. There is no reason why rules-based technology should not become the norm for every benefit for every claimant in the land.

“Northgate has worked successfully with Rotherham Borough Council and its partners in developing the new eBenefits system, and we are excited by the prospect of developing joined-up systems which improve benefits delivery. In the long run, if the government is concerned not only to provide better services but also greater efficiency, this is the smart option for all benefits.”


For more information:

Fellows’ Associates:
Kathy Sutton 020 7849 3403 / 07966 890401
Naomi Stevenson 020 7849 3508 / 07966 890403