Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Ian Dunn, Revenues and Benefits Service Manager, speaks about Govtech’s UCDS. “UCDS has had a significant impact on workload and productivity.”

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council is centred upon the 6 West Midlands towns of Tipton, West Bromwich, Rowley Regis, Smethwick, Wednesbury and Oldbury, Sandwell’s Housing and Council Tax Benefit caseload peaked at around 43,000 cases in 2010-11.

It declined incrementally until Nov 2018 and, following transition to “Full Service” Universal Credit, this accelerated.

In April 2019, Sandwell asked Govtech for assistance in reducing the workload associated with processing daily files of HB Stop and LCTR Change Notifications. Govtech’s Universal Credit Digital Service (UCDS) has had a significant impact on workload and productivity.

“By April 2019, combined HB/LCTR caseload was 24,700. By October, it was 22,333.

HB and LCTR administration subsidy grants in 2019-20 were cut by £177,000 and over the last 5 years 20 experienced members of staff retired and were not replaced. We expect those trends to continue.

The council gets 82% of its income from Council Tax and Business Rates. It’s essential that we maintain our performance and service standards. These aid collection by ensuring that Council Tax bills are accurate and up to date.”

Rising LCTR entitlement changes, originating from DWP via ATLAS, consume lots of Assessor time and constantly amending Council Tax bills complicates collection.
The situation was unsustainable. Our funding, resources and experience levels were declining but LCTR workload was rising.”

Sandwell MBC Council

The impact of UCDS?

“We have looked at all Notifications received between April and October. Firstly, matching rates immediately improved. Assessors used to spend around 40 minutes dealing with each unmatched case; now, unmatched cases are few and the time taken to deal with each one has also declined, by around 16 minutes.

UCDS filters out Notifications that are irrelevant to LCTR. Our LCTR scheme requires us to deduct the Housing Element from UC income – UCDS now does this automatically. All this has had an impact on productivity.

In October, we enabled additional UCDS parameters and it now looks at claimant history, filtering out changes that we deem to be not significant.
This has further reduced Assessor workload as well as the number of amended CT bills going out”.

The wider importance of UCDS

“Team morale is vital to sustaining our performance and service standards. Productivity gains from UCDS mean we can continue to run under headcount. So, if and when future savings are required, we retain some capacity to absorb these, whilst reducing the risk of redundancies.”

Reduces the number of work items created in the Benefits system