Council consults on digital-by-default information services

A London council is consulting residents and suppliers on a plan to overhaul its information and advice services, aimed at saving up to £1m.

London Borough of Waltham Forest today published a prior information notice to engage suppliers over proposals aimed at encouraging more residents to self-serve via digital channels at the first stage of contact.

It is initially proposing new ways of delivering information and advice on housing, money and debt, health and wellbeing plus business, employment and skills, following an internal review of its current provision.

The notice says: “A three-tiered structure is proposed for the provision of advice/advocacy services in the council with two levels at tier one.

“The first point of contact follows the council’s digital-by-default initiative and aims to signpost and support residents to self-serve.”

A further tier will then provide general advice, with the one or several providers delivering more specialist advice in each of the four service areas.

The council said that it could add additional services to the structure in future, but advice services linked to domestic violence, substance misuse and sexual health are not covered by the consultation.

According to the consultation document released by the council, the restructuring would be aimed at increasing the amount customers can do themselves by offering more advice and guidance online.

It would also help to reduce duplication of services and effort, develop solutions more efficiently, as well as encouraging “organisations to obtain funding from other places as well as the council e.g. look at ways they could generate their own income”.

Due to reductions in government funding, the council needs to save £45m over the next three years.

In addition, the Care Act 2014 has introduced new requirements for local authorities to ensure that information and advice is available to all residents in its area, regardless of whether or not they have care needs.

The council’s internal review found significant duplication and fragmentation across the services, “with different access points to the user and limited support around which service is best placed to meet an individual’s needs”.

The consultation closes on 10 April, and the council is holding a general market engagement day later this week.

Colin Marrs

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