With the Department for Transport’s new Blue Badge digital process now live, Hannah Buckley, operations supervisor at Kent County Council, talks through the council’s strategy and transformative approach in responding to the challenges and timeframes.
As an authority, we are continually looking at ways to improve our service. However, there are times when new initiatives push our hand a little, requiring us to respond and think quickly. Last year, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that it was withdrawing the Blue Badge Improvement Service (BBIS) in favour of the Blue Badge Digital Service (BBDS). This meant that from February 2019, the DfT’s new system will encompass just the front and back end functionality, therefore leaving each authority to provide their own middle piece – a case management feature, that feeds back into the new BBDS.
Stay or go? Many authorities were already using another case management system alongside BBIS, but we weren’t at Kent County Council and this left us in a predicament. The question we asked ourselves was ‘Do we go for what we know, i.e. the legacy solution that could be purchased standalone, or do we use this as an opportunity to explore other options to see if we could realise greater efficiencies?’ As one of the largest local authorities in the UK, receiving 2,000-2,500 Blue Badge applications per month, the pressure was on, so we naturally went for the latter option.
What’s important to remember at this point, is that all decision making remains with each authority. With no extra funding, each authority needs to be confident that they have a system that works for them so, based on this we needed to review our options. Using G-Cloud Digital Marketplace as our procurement tool, we submitted our business case. There was a number of solutions on the market, yet the majority would not give us the complete service that we required. We, also wanted a solution that was customisable to our processes, tailored to us and not ‘out of the box’.
After a thorough and balanced evaluation we selected IEG4’s complete solution, as it met all our specification points and will help us in achieving overall greater efficiencies.
The new way
This now provides us with a powerful digital service that manages our processes more efficiently and this was our main aim. A Blue Badge customer can now go to GOV.UK to apply and go through the new BBDS system, run by Valtech. An API created by IEG4 then seamlessly links the customer to our system for the actual application process. Once approved, the API links back to the BBDS system which centrally holds all records. At this point the Blue Badge is then produced and sent to the customer centrally by the DfT.
A big addition to this new process is that it makes the process completely paperless. We encourage all applications where possible to be completed online and paper applications and correspondence are scanned at point of receipt and they integrate into the system in the same way as the online applications. By removing the paper based processes and digitising it saves us time as it eliminates the need for us having to physically look for applications.
Everything is online with the entire record held in one place. This makes it a more streamlined journey for customers who need to contact us throughout the application process, enabling us to provide a better service for all our end users.
Since going live we have seen more efficiencies than we saw with the old system. With the data being fully integrated into the new case management system, it significantly reduces time spent on manual data entry. The fact that we can automate correspondence with pre-populated content is a time saver so it immediately makes the application process faster. The system sends a SMS or email to give regular updates to the customer, so they are kept informed and therefore reduces the need for unnecessary contact to our outsourced contact centre provision.
In addition, we are implementing a customer self-service portal. Promoting a self-serve culture provides empowerment to the customer and means emails and calls are reduced. Customers can check the status of their application easily, minimising the need for customers to contact us via other routes and giving the customer greater visibility of the process. Currently the new system reduces case administration by at least eight minutes and within a month of being live, we will have a better understanding of the real savings to the Council.
To conclude, our new system is fully integrated with other GOV.UK websites such as GOV.UK Notify and GOV.UK Pay as IEG4 did this work for us. This was a plus point as some other vendors were unable to do this so it has negated the need for us to do the work ourselves and therefore freed up resources further.
With the DfT changes now in place, we welcome being able to service our customers in a communication style that best suits them, for the application to run more smoothly in a quicker timeframe and for us as an organisation to realise greater efficiencies as a whole.
With our new system, if we find new processes that require new workflows then this can be done for us. For example, there will be changes to the Blue Badge guidance within the next year. Potentially, we estimate that it could put a 10% increase in pressure on us but we are confident that we have a flexible system in place that can handle any challenges put our way.
Hannah Buckley is operations supervisor at Kent County Council