Housing Benefits Customer Journey Mapping
We have consulted with a number of customers to better understand their experience of our Housing Benefit Home Visit and Overpayment Recovery Services.
The process used is called Customer Journey Mapping. It relies upon customers being willing to express their opinions freely and we are grateful for the valuable feedback provided by those who volunteered to take part.
The information given to us was converted into two 'Customer Journey Maps' to represent how our service was being experienced by customers.
With a better understanding of the customers point of view, it has been decided that there are improvements we can and should make to the way we provide our services.
Below are the changes we have made or are considering making as a result of this exercise.
|You Said||We Did|
|Our Housing Benefit entitlement letters are very difficult to understand.||We listened to your comments about our entitlement letters which we acknowledge are complex because we have to comply with Benefit Regulations. However, we are developing an accompanying notice which will highlight the information you have identified as being the most important to you. If you receive this notice we would value your views as to how useful it is.|
|Our letters telling you that there had been an overpayment were unclear.||We have simplified the letters so that they are less confusing and include essential information you need to understand about the overpayment.|
|You said that you were unclear about your right to appeal against an overpayment.||Every overpayment letter now refers to the right to appeal and is accompanied by a leaflet explaining this further.|
|We were causing you distress and financial hardship by immediately taking money back from your benefit to pay back an overpayment.||We have changed our procedures and, following an overpayment, all customers are now given a months notice of the intention to make deductions. This allows time to query the overpayment and/or to budget for the reduction in benefit.|
|You would like our Customer Service Centre staff to be able to handle more of your business without having to pass it for someone else to deal with.||A member of staff from the Housing Benefit team is currently working in the Customer Service Centre to assess which benefit queries are suitable for completion in full by Customer Service Centre staff. We have started training staff with the technical skills they will need to change the way they work.|
|You would like the option to text us certain types of information.||We have identified a suitable service which will allow texting of information. Testing will start in the near future.|
|We were causing you problems when you had an income that goes up and down. This was leading to lots of changes in your benefit making it difficult to budget.||
Housing Benefit staff have been advised that they have the discretion to average a persons income over any reasonable period, i.e. take an average over 6 months, twice per year. This should make it easier to budget. Please let us know if your income fluctuates in the future.
|When you were visited at your home and there had been no changes to your circumstances, you were left not knowing whether your benefit would change, you were not always told at the visit.||If there is no change to your benefit, the Visiting Officer will tell you this at the visit and we will confirm this in writing. If there is to be a change, particularly if there has been an overpayment, the Visiting Officer will let you know at the visit. In both instances, this will reduce the uncertainty.|
|You said that when we suspended your claim following a visit, the delay re-assessing your claim and telling you about any overpayment caused you financial difficulty.||We have changed our procedures so that these cases are dealt with as a priority at all stages of the process. This has already noticeably reduced the time a case is suspended.|
|The Visit notification letter was too formal and off putting.||We have revised the letter to make it more friendly and less intimidating.|
|You did not realise that the telephone number in the Visit notification letter was a direct line to the visiting staff and this had put you off using it.||The letter now clearly states that the telephone contact number is a direct line to the visiting team.|
|The document list sent with the Visit letter was not tailored to your circumstances and that you had wasted time and been stressed searching for information that was then apparently not needed.||The format of the document list has been changed to make it clearer exactly what information is needed and the Visiting Officer will check all the documents and explain to you why they are needed.|
|You felt that sometimes, for particular reasons, you wanted the Visiting Officer to take your actual documents backs to the office, rather than photograph them.||Visiting Officers have been advised that, although the usual preferred method is to photograph documents, these procedures are flexible and can be altered to suit individual customer's circumstances.|
|It would be helpful to know when the Visiting Officer was on his way to your house.||We are now telephoning people we visit in the evening to tell them that the Visiting Officer is on the way and we will shortly be texting or telephoning people we visit during the day.|
|You felt that the Housing Benefit system was unsympathetic to those working but on a low income and not enough was being done to help you.||We are identifying all the services and benefits being provided by Southend Borough Council to those on a low income with the intention of making the information more easily available and identifying any gaps.|
|You felt that our staff were not always aware that their decisions had a real impact on your life.||We have met with Housing Benefit staff to talk through the Customer Journey Maps produced from this exercise to help them understand your point of view more clearly. We are also reviewing our procedures to allow staff to assess benefit claims based on individual circumstances whilst keeping within Benefits Regulations.|
Last updated: 18th June 2010