Date issued: 9 April 2019
Colchester Borough Council is in the running to win a top prize in The MJ Achievement Awards 2019, after its Housing Benefits Team was shortlisted in the ‘Workforce Transformation’ category.
Held annually since 2004, The MJ Awards celebrate the best of local government services and personnel – with contestants judged by influential commentators from the private and public sectors.
Colchester Borough Council will now join seven other local authorities in the Stage Two selection process, after impressing judges with its team transformation programme.
The Housing Benefits Team submission focused on its success delivering the council’s service review, Customer Futures. The review involved a complex reorganisation of work and roles to distribute eligible benefit more quickly and raise the performance and morale of the team. A new operating model was implemented, shifting the focus away from experience towards attitudes and behaviours, to ensure the right people were in place to deliver the new processes.
These were designed around what customers wanted and what the business needed, with every team member’s opinion counting towards what those new processes should be. The outcome was a root-and-branch transformation in the way benefits advice is delivered: from individual officers managing their own contact wherever possible in real time, to building additional online services and utilising more government digital portals; from going paperless to minimise print and postage costs, to removing the burden of an outdated verification policy by using only one rule book and way of assessing claims.
The judges also singled out the council’s Digital Access Support Team for a commendation in the ‘Delivering Better Outcomes’ category. The team was praised for its work to help bridge the digital divide and equip residents with the skills to be able to access online services.
Jointly funded by Colchester Borough Council, Tendring District Council and the North East Essex CCG, the team install fixed digital access points and host community events where they support residents to understand and feel confident using today’s smarter digital technology – as well as attending medical practices to promote surgery services and assist patients to register online.
There was also high praise for Housing Benefits Caseworker Lily Etherington, who received a commendation in the ‘Rising Star’ category. Lily, who joined the council as an apprentice three years ago and won the Career Track 2018 Apprentice of the Year award, was applauded for her motivation to learn, her confidence adapting to a period of rapid organisational change, and her awareness of the needs of customers. Her other achievements include streamlining the processes that support the work of the local refuge and night shelter, deputising for team leaders and helping to spearhead expansion of telephony service standards by producing a Benefits Call Taker’s Guide.
Adrian Pritchard, Chief Executive of Colchester Borough Council, said: “I would like to congratulate the Housing Benefits Team for its superb efforts in making it through to the final of The MJ Achievement Awards.
“Reaching the finals reflects our commitment to customer-focused service delivery, continued investment in new technology and new ways of working, all of which are intended to deliver the best possible experience for our customers and make it easier for residents and businesses to interact with the council.
“My congratulations, also, to the Digital Access Support Team and to Lily Etherington, whose sheer hard work and commitment have also been recognised by the judges.”