Website and Housing/Council Tax Benefit info therein

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    Andy Shanks

    Hello all ,

    I have been given a project to bring our website up to spec as concerns the benefits end . My first thought was to go on various authorities sites and basically steal the best bits . I then realised that I may be able to get some assistance from all you kind people in Hbinfo land .
    So what should I be posting on the site , how much detail should I be going into ? Do I keep it short and simple to trigger contact for info , or should I be aiming for all dancing all singing with loads of info ?. Do other LA’s get much ‘business’ via their website ?
    If there is anyone who had recently done a similar project who may be willing to share their information/findings/feelings .
    Please note that I am not going to be building the site [that I will leave to the techno-boffins ] it is just the HB CTB content of the site that I have been asked to put together .
    Any help gladly received , no donation too small
    thanking you in advance 🙂

    P.S. when I said up to spec I meant that we have nothing at all about benefits which is not really very good in this world of E Government and all that !



    You are lucky to be starting from scratch.

    I would start by checking exactly what your web team are expecting from you and how they plan to organise your site – before you write anything. The framework/context is key to everything you write.

    Ask them where they are going to put your content (under which section/directorate) and how they are going to set up the links and menus to the rest of your council’s site and who decides what goes where. Try to ensure you are in control of as much as possible (eg who decides the menus – you ideally). Even though there will be a corporate template and corporate standards (for the appearance/logos etc) that should not dictate how your content is provided as you (ie the benefits section) are ultimately the ones responsible for providing the service and websites are only a means to an end (webteams tend to think that websites are the end, and well for them maybe they are).

    I have got to redo our site in April and get all the online forms finished or updated and uploaded and re-write the whole content. As there is so much there already and it’s out of date and not where I want it to be (some under housing and some under social services) its a bit of a nightmare.

    Try to learn the new web speak too – you know all that ‘ a better place for living well …’ malarky. Webteams tend to really hate it if you dont play along.

    I will also get my contented posted on here for comment (dont see the point in 450 councils all reinventing the wheel!).

    As for online forms – we are including a range of forms and leaflets – the leaflet versions will be available from our One Stop Shops and area benefits offices. We have some experiments ongoing already and people do use them – I think landlords/advice centres/our own colleagues are probably more likely to use them for now though.

    We are preparing:
    a downloadable hb/ctb form (one for council tenants/ctb only and one for private tenants)
    an online hb/ctb form (as above)
    a form for backdating (online and leaflet versions)
    change in circs (online and leaflet versions)
    temporary absence (online and leaflet versions)
    two homes (online and leaflet versions)
    DHP froms (online and leaflet version)
    free school meals (online and leaflet versions)
    school clothing grants (online and leaflet versions)
    benefit direct requests (landlord and claimant versions online/leaflet)
    information sharing as above
    fraud referrals (from public online)
    a landlords pack (online and paper versions)
    oh and before I forget it, the appeals form too (leaflet and online)

    To be e-enabled you can get away with using pdf files although personally I think they are a complete cop-out. Word versions are much easier to download and fill in – either on paper or to email back – but as the software for writing/designing online forms is so easy theres no excuse not to have these versions anyway.

    Oh and your council should have a plan for how it (or who) is going to manage any forms that are emailed back! There might not be many to start with but when the site gtets going you could well be inundated especially from landlords and advice workers etc.

    We also have generic email boxes and are planning an online calculator .

    And you may want to think about translations …

    Well thats enough rambling for now ….

    Good luck!

    Andy Shanks

    Thanks for that Dave




    I read this with interest with us having just redone the content here but regarding the online claim form wondered:

    1) would you not need it signed
    2) Accompanied by original documents

    If so how do you intend to deal with them so that you do not negatively impact on your PI’s?



    Our webteam havent actually put the online version online yet but when they do I suspect few people will use it – if I were claiming I’d find it much easier to fill in a paper form. I reckon that some landlords/welfare rights people might use it and in time our own benefits staff – either when seeing people at reception or helping people over the phone/visiting.

    If an online form is completed yes I guess we still need the signature – so we will be either:

    ‘phoning the claimant and inviting them to come into the office to sign the form and bring proof (we may email them too) within 7 days

    ‘phoning the claimant and arranging to visit them to get a signature and the proof preferably within 7 days (we would probably post the form and a letter about the proof needed so they were prepared)

    printing the form off and posting it out (with a prepaid return envelope) and a list of evidence required (as well as phoning them if possible )

    visiting them to get a signature and the proof preferably within 14 days if all else fails



    I think you are right that the usage will be limited (for the time being at least) and think it is a shame that LA’s are put off of this way of making an application because of the need for a signature and the potential for delay which impacts on how the LA is viewed.
    I guess if the rules are changed to negate the need for a signature and time taken to receive Docs from customers is not seen as reflective of the LA’s efficiency then all LA’s could follow suit and offer this enhanced service.
    Perhaps you could let us know how this goes.



    I am a bit of an annorak re web sites and spend some time looking at good and bad !!

    It is always best to look at other web sites. my favourites are Poole, N Somerset and Tameside

    Also ask your IT section for the SOCITM , better connected report and other recent publications on web useage and how they are graded.

    The other thing to rember that a web site inst just for customers it should be used by staff, other agencies and intermediataries such as CAB

    It should therefore be self service, dont ask anyone to phone to ask for a form !! it defeats the purpose of them visiting the web site

    going to put my anorak away now 😳

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