This quarterly business update is designed for our clients and partners within our Local Government operations. It covers latest partnership developments and wider Arvato news.
Universal Credit fully implemented in Sefton
Arvato has been supporting Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council to prepare for the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) since as far back as 2014, when the authority became one of the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) first pilot partners for the scheme. In 2017, UC was fully implemented across Sefton’s Job Centres, a process that required a significant amount of work from our local government team.
Key to this was ensuring frontline employees were trained and given the right resources to handle complex citizen enquiries. To do this, and based on estimations provided by DWP, we created a new Assisted Digital Support (ADS) team. This consisted of four existing Benefits and Customer Services employees located across the borough’s one stop shop customer service centres. Updated self-serve areas were also integrated into these centres to provide customers with Wi-Fi, PC access and facilities to print award letters and scan documents.
This system allows the ADS team to triage each potential UC customer to determine the level of support they require and either direct them to the self-serve facilities or provide more intensive support in the UC claim process. In addition to the face to face services, the council’s online benefit application form (BECS) was also updated to cater for UC.
Behind the scenes procedures were regularly updated and circulated to keep pace with the rapidly changing legislative and procedural environment. IT processes were continually refined as new functionality became available to manage UC workflows efficiently and record relevant data effectively.
This work was underpinned by close collaboration with the DWP. Prior to and beyond the go live date, we worked closely as part of the Customer Representative Group created by the department. This brought together key public-facing organisations, including registered social landlords, the Citizens Advice Sefton and local authority representatives. This group, which meets quarterly, ensures all services are joined up and feedback from front-line staff in all organisations is shared and acted on.
Our Sefton team is now collaborating with our other local authority partnerships to share the insights from this early adoption, and has recently supported our team in Chesterfield on the go live of Universal Credit for Chesterfield Borough Council. Both teams are also due to work with our partnerships in Slough and Derbyshire Dales in preparation for UC later this year. We are also advancing plans to arrange job shadowing between key UC champions from the DWP and our local authority teams to help them better understand any issues citizens are facing, with a view to helping to drive service improvements in the future.
Slough MP and local councillors experience a day in the life of an Arvato employee
On Thursday 28th September, Slough MP Tanmanjeet Dhesi visited our headquarters to get a first-hand experience of the support that we provide to the local authority and its citizens. MP Dhesi toured our Slough site with CEO Debra Maxwell and met with employees from across our different departments to talk about what it’s like to work at Arvato.
MP Tanmanjeet Dhesi said, “I was delighted to visit the Arvato Head Office and have a tour of the premises. I enjoyed meeting teams from this major local employer and having a chat about Arvato’s future plans. I’m grateful to Debra and the other senior directors for taking out their valuable couple of hours to give a presentation and personally introducing me to the staff within the various departments.”
On Friday 29th September, local councillors from Slough Borough Council also toured our sites in Slough, where they were introduced to employees, listened in to the Arvato team handling live customer service calls for Slough Borough Council and observed them hosting benefits advice sessions with the public.
Jason Laroche, Key Account Director, hosted the visitors and chaired a discussion on the successes of the partnership so far.
He said: “The councillors’ visit represented a great opportunity to showcase the services we provide on a day-to-day basis, highlight the ongoing improvements we are making and the commitment our employees show in delivering excellent customer service to local residents in Slough.”
“It was also the perfect opportunity for us to reflect and celebrate what we’ve achieved together over the last five years of our partnership from improving customer service levels by over 15%, while facing an increase in call volumes of 20% to delivering over 120 apprenticeships for young people in the region.”
In March 2012, Slough Borough Council entered a 10-year partnership with Arvato to provide a range of transactional and corporate services, including revenues and benefits, payroll, finance services and HR. In December 2013 it was extended to include customer services and ICT.
Sefton’s Housing Benefit subsidy team celebrate a successful 2017
Ensuring that Housing Benefit Subsidy can be fully reclaimed from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is essential for a local authority. It depends wholly on accurately delivering Housing Benefit claims, and we’ve been helping Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council maximise the amount they can recoup for almost a decade.
It’s a process that requires careful management and the buy-in of the council’s entire benefits service. Our team of two dedicated housing benefit subsidy officers work with employees across the benefits department to help them appreciate the subsidy’s financial importance. Raising awareness is key and last year the team delivered a programme of workshops to educate colleagues on how the subsidy works and how to make decisions that safeguard its provision.
In addition, the seminars aimed to strengthen the relationship between the subsidy team and those who deliver the Housing Benefit. Front-line staff are encouraged to treat the subsidy team as source of support, where they can receive advice on how to identify whether a claim is genuine, based on the evidence, and to decide the amount that a customer should receive.
The approach has created a more open culture in Sefton’s benefits department, improved the accuracy of payment decisions and increased the number of Housing Benefit claims that can be wholly subsidised by DWP.Behind the scenes, our team works directly with the authority’s accountancy department to oversee the application required to claim Housing Benefit subsidy from DWP. It has a significant role in the external audit of the benefit subsidy claim. During this process, subsidy officers prepare a sample of claims for inspection, challenge the auditor’s decision if required and produce a ‘lessons learned’ document, ensuring any weaknesses identified are addressed by the entire benefits department.
Ultimately, our team’s end-to-end management of the Housing Benefit subsidy makes it an essential resource for Sefton’s leadership team. It gives senior decision makers regular, well informed updates on the authority’s subsidy position so it can be incorporated and accounted for in the council’s budget – integral at a time where local government finances continue to be put under pressure.
Local Authority Challenge put East Midlands public sector talent to the test
We recently supported the East Midlands Local Authority Challenge for the second year running. The event brought together the best and brightest local government officers who competed in a series of real-life challenges.The Local Authority challenge took place at Donnington Park Race Track on 16th November. The day-long programme aimed to help local government managers to build their professional skills, by working in teams to overcome the kind of strategic challenges faced by local government senior managers every day.
The East Midlands event saw teams of six delegates work together as a fictional local authority. The teams chose which actions to prioritise, deal with a range of sensitive issues that emerge throughout the day and plan service improvements through partnering with neighbouring councils and by selecting from a range of emerging technologies, such as chatbots and Robotics Process Automation (RPA).
As a sponsor of the event, the Arvato team was on hand to provide support and insight to the teams, including advice on the technologies that are set to drive major transformation across local government. We also sponsored the award ceremony later in the evening, which recognised the winning presentation, best Chief Executive and overall winners of the competition.
Peter Schriewersmann, Key Account Director, CRM Solutions, Arvato UK & Ireland, said: “The Local Authority Challenge offers the participants the opportunity to hone their strategic planning, management and communication skills, as they tackle real-life issues against the clock. It’s a fantastic programme that allows them to think about their own digital agenda and develop innovative ideas to tackle challenges and we’re proud to be sponsoring the East Midlands event again this year.”
You can find out more information about the event here.
Arvato sponsors Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards for second consecutive year
We are proud to have sponsored 2017’s Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards, supporting the Gastro Pub of the Year category.
This is the second year that we have supported the awards, which celebrates the best independent food and drink businesses from across the region, as nominated by the town’s citizens.
The ceremony took place on Wednesday 25th October in the modern Heart Space building at Chesterfield College, where the awards welcomed over 250 guests, including food producers, restaurateurs and chefs, and Chandlers Bar were awarded the title of Gastro Pub of the Year.
Peter Schriewersmann, Key Account Director, CRM Solutions, Arvato UK & Ireland, commented: “The key to the success across our public sector partnerships lies in collaborative working and making a real difference to our local communities. Chesterfield has some great independent food and drink establishments, and we’re proud to be able to sponsor the awards again this year and help to ensure that these local businesses are recognised.”
We employ over 200 staff in our partnership with Chesterfield Borough Council and support several community engagement initiatives in the region. This includes being an Apprentice Ambassador and our apprenticeship programme, which saw us named a top 100 employers by the National Apprenticeship Service. We also support other Destination Chesterfield initiatives, work closely with The Prince’s Trust to help disadvantaged young people get onto the career ladder and raise money for local children’s charity Bluebell Wood.
To find out more about Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards click here.
Did you know?
We service 40 clients on 56 different business lines on chat globally
1 million contacts
Our multi-lingual contact centre provides customer services across eleven countries, covering seven native languages and receiving over 1 million contacts with customers per year
We’ve donated over £143,500 to The Prince’s Trust since becoming a patron in 2014
Arvato UK & Ireland and Bertelsmann news
Employees take on Tough Mudder for the second year running
In September, employees from across our Chesterfield, Farnborough, Willerby and Slough sites successfully took part in Tough Mudder, the 10-12 mile obstacle challenge, to raise funds for The Prince’s Trust.
Local Authority Challenge put East Midlands public sector talent to the test
We recently supported the East Midlands Local Authority Challenge for the second year running. The event brought together the best and brightest local government officers who competed in a series of real-life challenges.
Could a robot run your public services? Arvato facilitates dialogue about robotic process automation (RPA) in the public sector
Ever since successfully implementing RPA for its client Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council in 2016, Arvato has been at the forefront of promoting the benefits of the technology for the public sector.