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.
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.
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.
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.