With rising food and energy prices, as well as economic uncertainty, people are left worried about their financial outlook during the cost-of-living crisis, but it is often confusing, knowing where to seek support.
In my view, it is vital that local authorities provide communications and contact processes that clearly guide residents who need advice or feel like they may be eligible for further support or reductions in council services.
In Autumn 2021, Carmarthenshire County Council launched ‘Claim What’s Yours’ – a process to allow residents access financial aid they may otherwise not know they are entitled to. We had a key message to our community: “we acknowledge the strain it takes on you when you need support but aren’t sure where to go – we are here to help you”.
Since its launch, Claim What’s Yours has guided 800 people to support they were unaware of being entitled to, including free childcare, rent assistance and reductions in Council Tax. I thought it would be helpful to reflect on how we achieved this outcome, how it operates and any insights I can share.
Building the service
The objective of the ‘Claim What’s Yours’ project was to provide support and advice to anyone who required it, ensuring that people get the right help at the right time.
In 2020, Carmarthenshire County Council went live with its redesigned and updated Self-Service Portal Hwb, which was built on the govService platform provided by Granicus. The solution provides citizens with better access to services. An “Hwb Advisers Team” in Customer Services and ICT worked together to build an online process to create the ‘Claim What’s Yours’ service, which is backed by a dedicated team of Hwb Advisers who are fully up to speed on the range of financial benefits available.
The Hwb advisers adapt to the changing needs of our residents as new financial benefits become available. Currently, we have a team of 5 Hwb advisors based at our 3 main Hwbs within our 3 main towns – Ammanford, Carmarthen, and Llanelli.
Accessing the service
Referrals to the Hwb advisors can be made in several ways. They can be picked up by front-line staff, other internal departments or through partner organisations. Customers can also self-refer with a dedicated referral form designed for anyone to use. The wide range of options means we can offer this service to as many people as possible.
We have also developed a dedicated ‘Claim What’s Yours’ page on our website where we are continually adding new partners to the page as the project grows. Within each tab is a link that the customer can click on to follow up should they wish to do so, and the ‘Help from the Advisor’ link if they feel they want assistance. These tabs have also been grouped into categories for the customer to identify and once selected, the number of tabs is reduced to include only the relevant ones for them.
Delivering the service
We’ve worked towards creating a transparent process for residents. Once the ‘Help from an Advisor’ referral form is completed, the case is raised and allocated to one of the 5 Hwb advisors.
The Hwb advisor will contact the customer for a detailed discussion, via the preferred method of choice selected by the customer. This can be over the phone, face-to-face, or by email.
The project team has also developed a detailed form via the Case Viewer function in our platform that guides the officer and captures all the information. This form then produces a detailed list of all the areas that the customer may need help with, providing a visible workflow.
The Hwb advisor will work their way through this list with the customer, taking ownership of any service that is delivered by the authority and making referrals to external partners. Each case is looked at on its own merit and there is no time limit to the case. Some people can be helped quickly and all they need is to be routed in the right direction, while others are more complex and have multiple needs, requiring more support and help.
Each case is supported and followed up on a regular basis until our assistance is no longer required; the case is then closed.
As we move forward in 2023, we are looking to expand the ‘Claim What’s Yours’ project by increasing the number of Hwb advisors and expanding our areas of support.