Innovation Exchange

Digital on the Move

Introduction

Key activities

Benefits and impacts

Learning

Dundee’s Welfare Reform Resilience Team brings together staff from across Dundee City Council, partner organisations and the voluntary sector to help people understand the changes to the welfare system and develop their capacity to engage with benefits and searching for jobs online. The objective is to mitigate any negative effects of the reforms. Many of those affected struggle due to poor English, literacy issues and lack of IT skills and the team aims to build resilience to understand and cope with change. Under the banner of ‘Digital On The Move’, the team has provided free access to computers and the internet in every ward, developed a city-wide network of IT classes, and piloted the use of pop-up IT hubs in outreach venues for people who can’t easily access mainstream facilities. The team has developed a computer game to explain the move to monthly payments and Universal Credit, and produced films (with captions and BSL signing) to highlight concepts such as claimant commitments and sanctions.

For further information on this case study please visit www.dundeecity.gov.uk/welfarereform/digitalonthemove

Theme: Digital

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The rationale for Digital On The Move is based on the major changes to the welfare system and the need to mitigate the risks and prepare people for change.

 

Analysis of the financial impact of welfare reform  estimated that the changes would remove £58million per annum from the city’s economy (Scottish Government Study, 2013). 29.3% of Dundee’s population (over 42,000 people) live in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland, and welfare reform and the requirement to access benefits digitally will compound difficulties for people already facing poverty and exclusion. Dundee had the highest level of sanctions in the country between 2012 and 2014, averaging at 285 sanctions per month.

 

Digital on the Move was planned on the understanding that many people struggle to engage effectively with changes as a result of poor English, literacy issues and lack of IT skills. The Scottish Survey of Adult Literacy evidences that people receiving benefits perform consistently lower in reading and dealing with forms and numbers, while local research highlighted that, in the most vulnerable groups affected by the welfare changes, 81% of people don’t have home internet access.

 

The Council and its partners  put out lots of web-based information, letters and leaflets  around welfare reform, but involvement with service users told us that people were not understanding the changes due to lack of digital skills and literacy skills and inability to understand the formal language used to describe the changes. ‘Digital On The Move’ therefore aimed to get target groups  engaged with and understanding  changes in the welfare system using creative methods, visual communication, plain English and animation/ gaming.

 

The team have worked to address the following key areas:

 

Digital exclusion and digital literacy:

  • Providing free public access to computers and the internet in every ward in Dundee;
  • Developing a city wide network of IT classes;
  • Piloting a network of mobile pop up IT Hubs in outreach venues, particularly for people who may not easily access mainstream facilities.

 

Innovative and accessible ways of getting across fundamental changes and key messages:

  • Using a computer game to introduce the move to monthly payments and Universal Credit;
  • Developing film and web footage to highlight new concepts such as claimant commitments and sanctions.

 

Innovative work with partners and the voluntary sector:

  • Loaning out mobile IT Hubs, including wi-fi enabled devices, purchased from Scottish Government funding, to voluntary sector organisations working with vulnerable and excluded people and acting as a first introduction to IT. Use of mobile IT kit is cost effective as it avoids the need for fixed infrastructure and broadband in multiple locations;
  • Accepting referrals from JobCentre work coaches and others to IT classes for people who are in receipt of benefits and have little or no IT skills.

 

The team has formed strong working relationships with the voluntary sector to develop a proactive partnership approach. It evidences synergies of inter-departmental and inter-agency working and demonstrates innovative ways of working to support vulnerable people affected by welfare reform. It shows the benefits of a preventative and learning approach to major change, through joint analysis of key risks and developing shared solutions. It a working example of the underpinning principles of public service reform identified by the Christie Commission: closer partnership working; integration of service provision; prevention of negative outcomes and a whole system of services - public, private and third sectors – becoming more efficient by reducing duplication and sharing services. The team’s work is informed by continuous improvement, user testing and incorporating customer requirements into the finished materials.

The Welfare Reform Resilience team has worked in partnership with both the voluntary sector and targeted groups throughout the development of Digital On The Move, to gain feedback to inform the outputs of the project and put in place ways to continue to understand the impact of each aspect of the work.

 

There are pop-up hubs operating in 4 voluntary sector organisations - Bethany Christian Trust, Faith in Community, Life-gate Dundee and Shelter. The pop-up hubs are providing valuable access to IT and the internet in venues without wireless connectivity with the support of trained volunteers. The service is provided to people who do not have internet access in their homes and, as a result, don’t have the necessary knowledge and understanding to deal with the changes to the benefits system. The Council’s IT Department has developed an evaluation app which will continue to provide information on usage and gain feedback from participants. 52% can now receive and send emails and the same number can use Universal Job Match.

 

The computer game has been tested at various stages of development with service users of the Adult Literacy Team and their valuable feedback has been incorporated into the game. The game has an in-built analytical section which provides information on usage and the type of decisions being made by people who participate in the game. 12,000 questions have been answered and, to give one example, 98% of respondents said less than £40 per week should be spent on food.The Scottish Government feels that the game provides a new approach to this subject and offered to have it customised for each local authority in Scotland. So far, 7 Councils - Aberdeen, Dumfries and Galloway, East Renfrewshire, Fife, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire and  Renfrewshire – have done so.

 

The film footage, with integrated BSL and closed captions, simplifies some of the key elements in welfare reform – sanctions, claimant commitment and using your money. Feedback will be gained from people who view these and we can also check how many times they have been accessed. 1,000 hits were received in a 9 week period!

 

The analysis of all aspects of this project will provide the Council with valuable feedback on ways of communicating policy and behaviour change for other types of work in the future.

Dundee is demonstrating innovative ways to address digital exclusion:

 

  • getting across fundamental changes using ‘gamification’. New concepts such as monthly payments and housing costs being paid to claimants instead of landlords are introduced in a computer game which we developed with a start-up Games Company. This is a new way of working - previously we have put out written or web based information but this new approach uses a game in a preventative way to get information across and to help people learn about change before it happens. The Scottish Government is funding roll-out of the game to other local authority areas.

 

  • producing film and web footage to highlight new concepts such as claimant commitments and sanctions, which are helping people understand their responsibilities related to welfare reform. The innovative element has been to look at the needs of the target groups and ensure that the medium used addresses literacy issues, lack of English or hearing loss/deafness. The film uses animation and visual cues repeating and highlighting important points. It also is BSL signed and has captions so it is fully accessible. This addresses the communication needs of relevant groups, using spoken word, graphics and Sign Language. It is a sustainable and affordable way of getting information across.

 

  • providing the voluntary sector with IT equipment and internet access, via pop-up-hubs and volunteer IT tutors. This demonstrates best practice by ensuring IT access is now available across the whole city, and at times and in locations which meet the needs of the most vulnerable people. It is supporting the voluntary sector to access equipment and avoiding duplication of resources. Providing mobile IT hubs means that equipment is not sitting unused in a fixed location.

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:

 

Marie Dailly

Head of Communities

Dundee City Council

marie.dailly@dundeecity.gov.uk

01382 435820

Case study added to site: June 2016

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