The Revenues and Benefits department handles around 16,500 housing benefit and council tax reduction scheme claims, while also managing 85,000 live council tax accounts. Since 1998, the council has processed in excess of 120,000 documents a year, administered through a legacy Document Management System (DMS). Towards the end of 2011 the council established that the system in place was no longer fit for purpose and could not keep up with the growing financial and service demands.
With the number of documents being processed through the Revenues and Benefits department continually rising, the Council required a system that could improve business processes more efficiently and accurately. In particular, to keep in line with changing regulatory standards, and to help deliver broader savings of 25 per cent whilst improving service delivery, the Council took the decision to review its back office and administrative functions. This enabled the Council to identify which areas could provide efficiency savings and improve functionality, both from a productivity and a financial perspective.
On further review, the legacy DMS system was holding up the allocation of citizen claims, with it often taking up to half a day for tasks to be assigned to the right people due to a complicated sign-off process.
“The department processes in excess of 120,000 documents a year through various channels, and it became apparent that the system we had in place wasn’t keeping up with the increase in demand. We knew we needed to get a more holistic view of the revenue and benefits business to enable us to support the changing needs of our citizens. Civica’s EDM and Workflow solution was able to increase our systems functionality and support our organisation’s cost savings drive.”
Julie Turner, Executive Head of Business Services, Sutton (Interim)
From December 2011 Sutton Council began the transition to Civica’s Electronic
Document Management (EDM) & Workflow solution, which provides local authorities with better access to organise, control and distribute increasing volumes of information securely across different systems, and in line with compliancy rulings. Civica worked closely with Sutton Council to develop a transparent partnership to ensure clear delivery against objectives and full flexibility.
All staff at Sutton Council received dedicated training delivered in-house to ensure they were fully trained prior to the live date. The greater flexibility in configuring security settings within the new systems has also meant that staff in other teams can be allowed controlled access to the system, which will allow for service improvements and more joined up ways of working.
The move is part of a broader strategy to review how documents and records are managed across the Council in the drive to become more paperless.
Through the new system, the way that citizens manage their claims has been transformed. They can now scan documents at their local library or from home and email their correspondence direct to the department, rather than having to go to the council or send the relevant documents in the post. Looking ahead, citizens expect to be able to access their claims online in the same way that they would when shopping online for their groceries and this has been enabled by Civica’s technology.
Through a more streamlined administrative process, citizens now receive a faster response to claims and can track the status through a web portal. This development brings the council closer to enabling citizens to access all records through the web portal.
As well as benefitting the local citizens, the technology has also had an impact on the working practices of the department, through the delivery of a flexible and agile working environment for staff. The system contains fully functional workflow which means that as soon as a document comes in to the Scanning Team it is sorted by the scanning officer; batched together and then automatically assigned to the right person to action a particular job via email. This streamlined process has helped improve processing times, reduced errors due to lost documents or inaccurate information and has improved consistency across all areas. Through the automated system, managers can also access staff performance reports to monitor and support workplace productivity further.
The added security settings will enable limited access to be given to other departments and will allow for a more integrated approach across the council.
Housing Advice Team for example, can now check to see if a resident is wrongly on the housing list, which reduces the risk of fraudulent claims being made.
Through reduced maintenance costs and improved administration and back office processes, the Council has already made financial savings of around £160k in the first year. Over a five year period, the council estimates that the total return on investment will be £280k. Looking ahead, the department is keen to develop the technology further to link more closely with central government through projects such as Atlas and E-Capture. It is also looking at how the technology can enable more employees to work remotely from any location.
“We have an excellent partnership with Civica and wanted to build on this to extend the functionality of our IT system to improve transparency across the department, productivity levels and ensure that claims are processed more effectively. To date we have seen this and much, much more and ultimately our employees can work smarter without compromising service levels.”
Julie Turner, Executive Head of Business Services (interim)