DWP body plans online benefits calculator

The MoneyHelper website, which provides citizens with government advice and support on financial matters, has found that ‘substantially more people are helped’ when tools are directly embedded on its platform

An arm’s-length body of the Department for Work and Pensions is seeking to create a new online benefits calculator to help users “increase and maximise their disposable income”.

The MoneyHelper website provides government-backed advice and support on a range of financial issues. The site is run by the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), a public body sponsored by the DWP – but funded by levies on the financial services and pensions industries.

In February 2023, MaPS began an experiment in which an external tool – which asks visitors for various information before providing details of available benefits and other entitlements, including social tariffs – was embedded into the MoneyHelper site.

This testing period was intended to ascertain the impact of a “two-stage process, where customers first receive an estimate of their potential entitlements before moving on to a more detailed calculation, the results of which may include what they are already claiming”.

According to freshly published commercial documents, “analysis of customer data from the pilot indicates that substantially more people [have been] helped” by the tool being directly embedded in the government-run site – rather than being accessed via the inclusion of a link to an external site.

MaPS is now seeking to work with one or more commercial providers to support the ongoing inclusion of a benefits calculator on the MoneyHelper platform.

A market engagement notice from the DWP body advises potential suppliers: “We require the service to be available on our consumer facing website, MoneyHelper, within a MoneyHelper-branded page, integrated with the MoneyHelper website, hosted by you on a subdomain of our choosing.”

The notice adds that the tool should provide calculations based on “the widest possible coverage of benefits, social tariffs and other entitlements across the UK, including in the devolved administrations, for people of all ages and circumstances”.

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The calculator should also continue to support a “two-stage process, [comprised of] an initial estimate of entitlements based on a simple set of questions and a fuller calculation to confirm the original estimate”.

Providers will be tasked with delivering a “digital user interface and customer journeys in English and Welsh” – which can be customised to bring its appearance and content in step with MoneyHelper guidelines, and allowing MaPS “to add and approve written prompts and guidance”.

Once the tool is up and running, MaPS will require “data analytics to allow us to understand how close initial estimates are to the fuller calculations”, as well as the “flexibility to improve customer journeys thereby encouraging engagement with the benefits calculator and smoothing the transition to additional MoneyHelper guidance or… third-party advice services”.

Suppliers are instructed that the computing resource underpinning the calculator should be hosted “in the UK wherever possible”.

The service must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and “work on the most commonly used assistive technologies – including screen magnifiers, screen readers and speech recognition tools… [and] have an accompanying accessibility page”. MaPs specifies that the supporting commercial partner must “include people with disabilities in user research”.

The DWP-sponsored unit has not yet launched a formal procurement process, but rather is currently looking to “gain insight into market interest for this potential opportunity, determine capability and capacity and obtain [market] input in developing the specification for the proposed solution”.

Interested parties are asked to email MaPS’ commercial team – using the reference ‘P0131 Benefits Calculator’ – and are also invited to participate in a webinar being hosted on 6 August.

A contract notice, marking the commencement of a competitive process, is currently scheduled to be published in mid-September.

“It is important to note we are not looking for an advice-led solution,” the engagement notice adds. “This is because MoneyHelper is not a welfare rights or advice agency for people faced with claims issues… rather, we see income derived from benefits as a part of deeper financial-management journeys for those most in need of guidance.”

Sam Trendall

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