Most people claiming Carer’s Allowance go online instead of asking for a form to be posted to them. That’s because we’ve made a digital service that really is simpler, clearer and faster than putting pen to paper.
Over a third of our digital claims are being completed on tablets and mobile phones – our service works on any device so people can apply for Carer’s Allowance when it’s convenient for them.
So far, so good, but brilliant digital is a walk towards the horizon, not a climb to a mountaintop. We’re constantly researching and testing with real users, taking what we learn to change and improve the service.
We also know that no matter how good the digital service is, some people will continue to need help and support to use it.
Supporting our customers
The standard of customer service at the Preston-based Carer’s Allowance Unit is recognized as exceptional, and that’s a great starting point for supporting those who would otherwise find a digital service difficult.
There’s never been a ‘claim by phone’ option but the Carer’s Allowance Unit has always provided great telephone support to its customers for new claims, changes of circumstance and general advice about the benefit. We’ll continue to do this as the first part of our assisted digital service. Many people just need the answer to a simple question or guidance on how to describe their personal circumstances. Others may need more, so we're researching to find out if there are user needs that we haven't yet seen evidence of, rather than a one size fits all service.
Finding out which kind of help people need
When a customer calls and asks for a paper claim form, we always suggest using the digital service. If the caller says they don’t want to, or can’t go online to claim, we ask a few more questions to find out if they could do it with some help. From there we can provide advice on where to get web access or face-to-face support. This means that we’re not turning anyone away from the digital service.
For ‘real-world’ support, we’re piloting using DWP’s huge network of Jobcentre Plus offices as drop-in locations for both internet access and personal support. To strengthen this option further, we’re establishing a network of Carer’s Allowance experts in the Jobcentres. Like the digital service we’ll need to learn and iterate to get this right.
Owning the whole service
I’m responsible for the entire Carer’s Allowance Service. For me, this means that the digital components are key to me maintaining our high standards and, of course, making the unit more efficient.
We’ve embraced the digital service as part of the core Carer’s Allowance business – it isn’t just a separate function that plugs into the unit. We’ve been able to do this because the team that writes the code, designs the interactions and does the research works right here in the same building, as part of the same business. Like we say very proudly in the footer of the digital service “Carer’s Allowance – made in Preston”.
Because the digital service is ‘ours’, the contact-centre staff – again, all working here, in the same office in Preston – are confident about telling users that it’s the best way to make a claim. They’re also able to influence changes and improvements. This all helps make the service more useful and usable for customers and helps staff work more efficiently.
The Carer’s Allowance digital service is ours, we’re proud of what we’re continuing to build, passionate about promoting it and committed to making sure everyone can use it.