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Focusing on user needs to transform new services

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Digital Service, User research

We’ve been transforming the current paper-based Budgeting Loan Application process. It currently takes, on average, 22 days to apply and receive the payment. In designing the new service, we’ve challenged ourselves about the questions we need to ask our users.

Working with our policy colleagues and operational experts, here is how we tackled some of those challenges.

Maxine Paintain, Delivery Manager
Maxine Paintain, Delivery Manager

Working with policy and focusing on users

From the very early Discovery days we were really keen to engage with our key policy colleagues and share what we were trying to achieve, to encourage alignment in our thinking.

As we began our journey into early user research to establish our users’ needs, we invited our policy colleagues to come along with us. The feedback was great. They commented on “how open customers are” and “what a great way of working this was.”

We were able to identify really early the areas where we could build new improvements. For example, we asked the question ‘why do we need to know about Trade Disputes?’ This is a key question to inform a user’s eligibility for a Budgeting Loan. However, as a result of gathering and understanding our user needs, we challenged the policy over the need to ask for this information. We clarified that due to legislation we do need to gather it, but we have simplified the question and changed where this question sits in our digital prototype, moving it to the ‘Before you start’ section. This helps identify customers who are not eligible for the Loan before they start the application. In most cases we expect that users will avoid applying when they know they aren’t actually eligible.

Prototype of the online Budgeting Loans service
Prototype of the online Budgeting Loans service

Simplifying the content

One of the big issues we keep asking ourselves as a government department is ‘why do we need to ask our users questions we already know the answer to?’ Some information, like name, address, National Insurance number and date of birth is needed for security questions. But what about bank account details? We already know this information as we pay benefit into bank accounts. We challenged this and have now removed it from our prototype - result!

We’ve also reduced the number of questions asked by grouping them together. The paper form currently asks for details of all children or young persons that child benefit is being paid for – again we already have that information recorded. So we have reduced this to two questions – 'Do you get Child Benefit?' and 'How many of those children live with you?' – another result.

Child Benefit section of the prototype following user research insight
Child Benefit section of the prototype following user research insight

Working collaboratively with our stakeholders has encouraged many of them to actually meet users and see firsthand exactly what we are trying to achieve.

Developing a quicker, simper service for users has been our key aim throughout the alpha stage.

We all need to be braver and bolder about challenging current policy for our services and be the team who looks at things differently.

As we move forward into private beta, we will be doing a lot more collaborating with our policy colleagues and loads more challenging.

We get a large number of questions in the comments section from people who want to know when their budgeting loan will be paid. 

Unfortunately, we can’t answer queries about individual budgeting loans via this blog post. 

If you’ve applied for a budgeting loan and want an update on its status, please call the Social Fund enquiry line on 0345 603 6967 for more information.

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  1. Comment by Billy posted on

    Were there any user research findings as to whether users might want the loan paying into a different bank account than the one their benefits were paid into?

    • Replies to Billy>

      Comment by Maxine Paintain posted on

      Billy, thanks for your question.

      Our research has not highlighted any user need for having a budgeting loan paid into a different bank account to the one users normally have their benefits paid into.

      We do know that the majority of Budgeting Loan applications are repeat ones, therefore we have found a high level of awareness from users who understand where their loan will be paid.

      We also understand from Operations colleagues that they rarely get requests to change users' account details now, when using the current paper-based application process.

      Current content also details that if a loan is payable, it will be paid into the same account as a user’s benefit.

  2. Comment by Simon Hurst posted on

    A really good blog. I've seen the work the team have been doing and it's really impressive. Taking something that was significantly more painful that it needed to be and then doing the hard work to make it simple for people.

    Well done!

    • Replies to Simon Hurst>

      Comment by Maxine Paintain posted on

      Thanks Simon 🙂

  3. Comment by sharon posted on

    much easier really good.

  4. Comment by Nicola posted on

    Thank you for your hard work, its nice to know there's a real person helping

  5. Comment by Lydia posted on

    So simple and easy to apply thank you so much for improving things.

  6. Comment by gary stones posted on

    was very easy and simple to apply for this time rather than paper form thank you

  7. Comment by Leanne posted on

    Really helpful thanks

  8. Comment by Cheryl posted on

    Quick and easy processes,thanks

  9. Comment by Sarah Rouxel posted on

    I've just applied online for a loan and I am a total technophobe, it really was very easy and so much better now that the questions have been revised! Last time I had a loan was many years ago and I had to write every item I needed and cost of that item, this time I just had to tick the category that applied to me. Have to say that this is a change I am impressed with!