Responding to The Game Changer

‘Game changer’ is an overused term. However, UC deserves this accolade.


Halton is one of 10 areas where the Full Universal Credit (UC) Service has operated from July 2016. Prior to this the Live Service had been operating since November 2014.

The Trust was invited to attend the Work and Pensions Select Committee to give evidence to the Hearing on UC. We also made two written submissions in January 2017 and March 2017.

An integral element of our preparation for UC has been our Digital First Programme.

At the heart of the approach was the need to radically rethink the way services were delivered to prepare for the introduction of UC.

For Halton this is up to 65% of our income, which is now at risk. 12% of our customers are currently in receipt of UC, but owe 38% of all our arrears.

To release the resources required to collect this money, we needed to shift our service model from one, which is based upon in person contact for all, to one which enables many of our customers to access services via a self-service route.

Then there is ‘the Housing Graph of Doom’.


With the rollout of UC, the number of transactions increases markedly. This is not just payments, but also includes a much wider range of transactions and contacts.

The average cost of an in-person transaction (including phone) is approximately £15.00. The average cost of the same transaction via a digital self-service route is £0.10.

As the number of transactions increases, if the overall cost is to remain unchanged then the proportion of lower cost transactions needs to increase.

This can only be achieved by encouraging more customers to switch to these online self-service routes.

As the UC financial tsunami wave hits, we need to ensure we provide advice and support for customers who can survive with the right level of help.

For a much smaller group we need to provide much more intensive support than has previously been offered.

Without delivering a shift to an increasing proportion of lower cost self-service transactions, the resources and overall cost will increase at a time when overall income will be reducing. This is clearly not a viable option.

One of the barriers to moving to self-serve is a misplaced assumption that “people who live in social housing don’t have access to the internet”.

Of the 5,500 customers we interviewed, nearly 9 out of 10 have access to the internet. Nationally, 10% of UK households no longer have a landline and three years ago, mobile internet access overtook desktop. The clear message is that the future is mobile.

In the last 12 months the reduction in calls, coupled with less people being involved in each individual process, has released resources. These have been redirected to provide intensive and targeted UC support.

Integral to the success of our digital transformation has been our app. This is simple to use, directly interfaces with our housing system and provides customers with services they need at the point they are being requested.

halton app

Contrary to the common belief, our self-serve offer has resulted in customer satisfaction levels at 95%. This is with 79% of all our customer generated transactions now being delivered through self-serve routes.

So what is the overarching aim of all of this? Simple. The overall impact of UC on our business is nil.


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