When Universal Credit was introduced in the London Borough of Hounslow as an online only digital service last month, IT was there to make the transition as smooth as possible for its many social housing users.
Most people living in the borough who need to make a new application for financial support or tax relief will now make a claim for Universal Credit, which must be done online using the Universal Credit website. To help, the Borough's new Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support online services have been designed in response to feedback from residents.
Residents have said they want to be able to interact digitally with the council without the need for lengthy telephone calls and waiting times, writing letters, or visiting the Civic Centre. In the new system, all that's possible, say the IT team - as residents will be given their own online code which will be published on their next council tax bill or reminder.
The code will give them secure access to see the status of their council tax account and any benefit claim in the same way they might if they bank online. This will also enable residents to easily notify the council of any changes in their circumstances. All personal details and access to accounts are secure with up-to-date technology, it adds.
If for any reason a resident has no access to the internet at home, there is free access to computers at the Civic Centre in Lampton Road, Hounslow and at all of the boroughs’ 11 libraries.
These new online services have been implemented and delivered by Liberata, which runs the Council Tax and Housing Benefit services on behalf of Hounslow Council, and these changes form part of the council’s wider digital modernisation programme, say the partners.
Councillor Theo Dennison, Cabinet Member for Finance and Citizen Engagement, Hounslow Council, said: “We’ve been very encouraged by the positive response of residents to the on-line Council Tax services that launched in November 2015 with over 3,500 residents having used the service to date.
"We’re confident the addition of these new online services will be equally well received. Digital channels offer an efficient way for residents to interact with the council. Furthermore, the time and money saved through enabling citizen self-service means we can use these savings to support other vital front-line services such as support for vulnerable adults and children and those in need of care.”
Charlie Bruin, Liberata UK Chief Executive Officer. added, “We’re delighted to have worked with Hounslow Council to digitally modernise its Revenues and Benefits services.
"This is a great example of how technology can be extended to convert existing business processes to enhance the service experience to residents, whilst also allowing those services to be delivered more cost effectively.”
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