Benefits camp, sounds a little bit like somewhere you get sent when you sign on for the first time, luckily it’s a hackday instead.
Benefits camp was put on last Friday by the wonderful people at FutureGov (who I’ll be working for come the summer), and was to try and hack/fix/change/improve the benefits system, which is of course going through massive changes at the moment.
The main ideas were divided into 6 categories/teams: money saving/sharing; personal data; local impact; better comms/info; collaborative/peer-to-peer support; skills & volunteering; jobs & flexible working; better admin.
I arrived late as usual (fresh from a stats lecture) and joined the better admin group. We had great discussion of the issues in the area, and eventually settled on building a benefits calculator/quick-use entitlement app. At the risk of splitting the group(!) I think there are actually two key ideas that came out of this:
Quick & Easy Entitlement App
With the help of resident experts James and Stefan, we found that we could give a reasonably good idea of which benefits someone might be entitled to with just 5 questions:
- Do you have a fixed address?
- Do you have a medical condition?
- Do you live with a partner?
- How many of your children live with you?
- How much are you paid for work each week/month/year?
Using the answers to these, we can then give a list of benefits that someone is likely to be entitled to. Clearly it’s not going to produce a definitive list – and results are obviously not a guarantee to entitlement, but I think this could be really useful for, for example, community centres checking to see whether it’s worth referring someone on to a neighbourhood office advisor or whoever.
Brett already has a prototype (not sure of link at the moment) form, and all we really need now is to define the rules to sit behind the app. That does sound like a fairly major job, but it shouldn’t take too long for one of us to sit down with someone in the know and extract their knowledge!
This is largely what came out of our group on Friday.
Full Benefits Calculator
James is working tirelessly it seems on a full-blown online benefits calculator, which will be an amazing thing when it’s done. I think this is still going as a sperate thing to the 5-question model, and I’m sure any help you can offer would be gratefully received – check out cattell.com/james/benefitcalc. And hopefully there’ll be a good bit of tie-in between the two things.
I’ll try and update this as soon as I know the link for our prototype, but for now – here are our post-its and scribbles:
And finally – big thanks to FutureGov for organising, Hub Westminster for hosting, and all the others in the better admin group – sorry I can’t remember exactly who you are (shout in the comments and I’ll make a list ).
Just remembered: There was also a lot of chat about how this could integrate with and generally link to the new gov.uk site – particularly their API approach to things. We were lucky enough to have @nicepaul in the group to talk about this, he’s leading on transactions for the single domain.