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Test and Trace Support Payments; delivering urgent funding fast

During the pandemic, local authorities needed to deliver support payments to those facing financial hardship. What’s more, they needed the tools and the people to get the job done quickly and efficiently. We take a look at the journey of Test and Trace Support Payments in the last year and a half. 

On 20 September 2020, Boris Johnson announced the legal requirement to self-isolate if you tested positive or were a close contact of someone who tested positive for Covid-19. But that begged the question: what would happen to those who couldn’t work from home and as a result faced financial difficulties?

It was promised that (just 8 days later) members of the public would be able to apply for a £500 test and trace support payment. And at the time, the government estimated just under 4 million people might be eligible for a payment.

Local Authorities across the country raced to find the best possible way to serve their citizens in time for the release of the funding. They needed a solution that allowed citizens to apply online and upload evidence to support their claim. The authority could then assess each claim and make payments where appropriate. Many of our customers turned to us, their software supplier, to see if there was anything we could do to support them. Within a month, we’d developed and implemented new software to meet the evolving requirement.

Self-service steps up 

You may already be familiar with our self-service platform for Revenues and Benefits: Citizen Access. When our teams realised the urgent need for support, they worked tirelessly to launch Citizen Access – Self Isolation Payments (CA-SIP) in time for the launch of the scheme. We knew our customers needed support, and they needed it fast. We could never have imagined quite how much it would take off! 

Since the launch, CA-SIP has processed an incredible 185,000 applications for support. Manually processing these applications would have been no small feat., especially for departments that were under more pressure than ever before. In total, 27 of our NEC Revenues & Benefits customers opted to use CA-SIP to help them deliver test and trace support payments. And three of our larger authorities saw over 10,000 applications each, with the largest processing 30,000 applications

People making a difference 

And it’s not just our software that’s stepping up to help make a difference. Colleagues at NEC quickly implemented a brand new service to process the applications for support payments. Since October 2020, 11 authorities have worked with colleagues here at NEC to help tackle backlogs and build resilience back into their teams. Our staff have processed nearly 64,000 applications in those authorities alone. This has freed up time for skilled staff in the authority to focus on other demands. 

Working together 

We’ve worked with 34 local authorities in total to process applications for the Support Payments (some software, some service and a few chose us to deliver both). While they have been exceptionally busy, some did manage to spare a few moments to talk to us about everything they’d achieved. 

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets was hit hard by COVID-19. Their infection rates were one of the highest in the country, meaning self-isolation would have a devastating impact for those on low incomes. With our colleagues supporting the delivery of their service, they paid out over £1.7 million to citizens in need. Ellie Kershaw, Head of Tackling Poverty at Tower Hamlets said

 “Asking NEC to manage self-isolation payments was a no-brainer. I can’t imagine how we’d have done that in-house.”

You can read more about how Tower Hamlets delivered much-needed support to residents across the borough by clicking here.

And Tower Hamlets’ story is not unique. They are one of many authorities who are working hard to deliver the very best for their citizens. We also caught up with Sandra Lovell, Welfare Benefits Manager at South Gloucestershire Council. She told us,

We were already working flat out to support customers through the pandemic, so needed to get expert help from a trusted partner.”

In just two weeks, we’d set up an application service in time for the Government deadline so they could hit the ground running with applications. Sandra estimates that sharing that workload saved South Gloucestershire 2-4 FTEs who could be moved to complex priority work. The full story from Sandra and the team can be found here.

No one could say that their life was untouched by this pandemic. But hopefully some of those difficulties were eased slightly by local authorities. By delivering these emergency support payments when they were needed, they made a tangible difference to people’s lives.