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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How are LookingLocal and entitledto enabling Hyde Housing to help their residents understand upcoming changes to benefits?

The July 2015 Budget announced a pledge to cut £12 billion from the welfare bill. This will result in many changes to benefits that will be introduced over the next few years. The welfare reform bill is currently in its third reading and the changes will start to be implemented from April next year.
To help people in the UK understand these changes entitledto has partnered with LookingLocal to include a responsive benefits calculator in our MyCouncil and MyLandlord apps.
The apps offer a digital platform for both landlords and local authorities to communicate directly with tenants and the local public on issues such as repairs, maintenance and litter. The apps have a simple, intuitive design making it easy for users to navigate while on the go.
The online benefits calculator from entitledto helps people determine which benefits they can claim. The calculators are authoritative and accurate and have unrivalled benefits coverage including means-tested and contribution based benefits such as Universal Credit and Council Tax Support.
By using the online benefit calculator from within the app, users can determine whether they are receiving the right amount of money in their benefit claims, whether they are eligible for other types of benefits, as well as understand what their position will be as government welfare reforms take effect.
David Morrissey, Director of Core Operations at The Hyde Group said:

"The Hyde Group are very pleased to be working with LookingLocal to provide a simple to use free app that delivers excellent housing and local services, as well as many very useful links to important information to help our residents stay up to date on a range of other key services.   We know our residents time is precious, so having all of this available at their fingertips makes it a far more convenient way to interact with us.  Don’t just take our word for it our residents are telling us that “one of the best things Hyde have is the app” and “we know that when we use the Hyde app that we can track the progress of our issue, which means we know it is being resolved” (Hove Residents feedback)."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Is there a solution to improving the Welfare to Work Programme?

BetterOff: A digital benefits and employment platform fit for the 21st century

This week the Work and Pensions Committee reported that the Government's Welfare To Work Programme was not helping a significant majority of participants back into long-term work and, whilst there were efficiencies and savings, there was a lot more to be done. It is clear that the participants on the programme are some of the hardest to move back into employment due to drug/alcohol dependencies, skills gaps and the length of their unemployment, but the fact that the benefit system and employment market are so disconnected has got to also play a part.

For many - probably most - understanding the benefit process and how the calculations are made is complex. Universal Credit will in time simplify much of this, making it easier for people to work more hours without losing their benefits, to take a short-term contracts and not have to stop claiming to then start all over again, as well as being able to claim back a significant percentage of childcare costs. But having the clear and accurate information as to how much benefit you can claim and how much a job pays *now*, is the only way many people can realistically make the decision as to whether to go back to work or not.

This week in West Yorkshire claimants are being introduced to a new benefit and employment platform which will soon be the default place for 70% of all claimants; all those bar the complex and vulnerable cases. It marks a number of 'firsts' in the UK; that claimants are being made to go digital-by-default, enabling people to clearly see how much better off they would be when looking at job vacancies and by bringing benefits and employment under the same digital roof.

The solution - simply called BetterOff - has two clear intentions:
  • To help people get the benefits they are entitled to; and
  • Enable people to clearly see the relationship between work and benefits, how much better off they would be in either case and help them make the step (back) into work.

It depends on which newspaper you read, where you live and whether you yourself have been unemployed for any significant length of time, but there are many people who want to work but who just can't see long-term whether they will be better off or not. It can be a vicious circle; getting employment and making childcare arrangements just to find that a few weeks later you have less money in your pocket. This just doesn’t work for family stability or putting food on the table.

BetterOff has been designed with frontline benefit staff and brings the process neatly into the 21st century. BetterOff is integrated with a reliable benefits calculator that leads claimants through their personal circumstances to give a clear indication of what they are entitled to and therefore a baseline from which to compare potential job opportunities and complete the relevant benefit forms.

Once the claimant has full sight of the benefits they are entitled to they can complete a range of resource intensive forms online, each injected with advisor’s ‘real-life’ guidance and knowledge to make them accessible to everyone (the advice comes in a variety of forms from text, to audio and video). This will hugely benefit those claimants that find themselves being sanctioned due to incorrectly filling out their job seekers forms.

They are also ready to start the job seeking journey and the BetterOff job journal ensures all relevant information is captured in line with the Claimant Commitment, and actively helps those claimants who have literacy issues by using pre-constructed sentences. A wide range of national and local job feeds have been integrated including popular search engine sites such as Monster and Universal Jobmatch, as well as from local sites to the area. The whole solution is underpinned by various forms of real-time help including webchat and form co-production.

BetterOff is without doubt seen as the right approach for those people who can become accustomed to the digital process (albeit some may still need minor guidance). It will lead to savings and efficiencies, a key one being the freeing up of frontline resource to help those people with the more complex cases, the very people the Welfare to Work Programme is designed to help, enabling them to work through all the barriers they are facing and hopefully increasing their chances of returning to work

If you would like more information on our work or the BetterOff platform, please contact us.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The most comprehensive online support available in the UK for people with long-term conditions.

Necessity, as the old adage says, is the mother of invention. It perhaps applies even more in public health services, where need v.s. resources are held in an increasingly fragile tension.  Now that the NHS is at crunch point, what will be necessary for us to do?

About two years ago, a partnership between NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG, NHS North Kirklees CCG, and Kirklees Council recognised that inevitable funding cuts, coupled with increasing demands on health services, would lead to an unacceptable situation in the health of its populace. Its provision of self-management and prevention programmes, while being excellent, could only make a small dent in the juggernaut of long-term conditions. Their response was bold and forward-thinking, and has led to the most comprehensive online support available in the UK for people with long-term conditions.

Fast-forward to today and the result is the Self-Care Hub (SCH), known as My Health Tools in Kirklees, which has been available to people in the area for just over two weeks. It’s still early days, and there has been a great response from health professionals and users alike. Already, there has been over 700 visits to the site, with 25% of those being returning visitors and an even spread of men (54%) and women (46%).

It also provides valuable information on what people have assessed as their immediate needs. The challenges and related goals at the top of the list are dominated by mental health and learning how to manage anxiety and stress.The cognitive behavioural therapy techniques used in the SCH are especially suited to these types of health issues and offer an alternative to traditional medical treatments.

Services like the SCH represent what is at the forefront of change within health services.  It’s a shift in thinking to ‘keeping people well’ instead of ‘fixing the ill’, with a focus on the whole person, prevention and self-care. It’s common sense if you think about it, but culture is surprisingly hard to change. The harsh reality is that the NHS is in crisis and these changes were needed long ago. But it’s never too late to start, and now maybe we will all be more motivated to do what is necessary.

Click here to visit My Health Tools.  For more information please contact Irene Zdziebko at or phone 0845 434 8540.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

My Health Tools Launches in West Yorkshire to Digitally Support People with Long-Term Conditions & Enable Self-Care

Today sees the public launch of My Health Tools, a digital self-care technology for people diagnosed with a range of long-term conditions (LTCs) across Kirklees, West Yorkshire.

With 1 in 4 adults suffering from at least one LTC in the Kirklees area, the Public Health team needed a radical but realistic solution to help both patients and practitioners.

Kirklees Council Public Health team in partnership with LookingLocal has worked together with CCG partners (NHS North Kirklees CCG & NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG), people with LTCs and other local health organisations to design My Health Tools, enabling users to self-assess, self-manage and self-monitor their long-term conditions for the first time.

Sarah Muckle, Kirklees Council Acting Director of Public Health says, At Kirklees we are really excited about My Health Tools and working with our residents in a different way, supporting them to make more informed choices about their own health.  Research has shown that self-management of care works; and with My Health Tools users can draw on a wide range of support and advice whenever they need it, 24-hours a day.”

Developed and managed by LookingLocal, the solution focuses on Pain, Anxiety and Breathing Problems, as they dissect so many medical conditions. Tools, resources and knowledge from a range of accredited sources, assists the user to develop self-care skills, as well as being able to access peer support through local and social networks.

My Health Tools is underpinned by a bio-psychosocial model in evaluating and identifying health  functioning and supporting positive behavioural change. Simple self-assessment tools support users to identify and prioritise their needs, challenges, long-term goals and targets to help them make informed lifestyle choices.

Users can set goals and identify the level of progress required which can be monitored over time. This clinical Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) methodology has been proven in a number of offline trials both within and beyond Kirklees, and the digital version will provide valuable data in understanding people’s ability and confidence to self-manage to support local commissioning priorities.

The cost to the NHS of long-term conditions has been headline news for some time, and the NHS’s ‘Five Year Forward View confirms the need to promote self-care to address the growing costs of LTCs:

“Long term health conditions - rather than illnesses susceptible to a one-off cure - now take 70% of the health service budget. At the same time many (but not all) people wish to be more informed and involved with their own care, challenging the traditional divide between patients and professionals, and offering opportunities for better health through increased prevention and supported self-care.”

“My Health Tools is a direct response to the challenging situation health organisations across the UK find themselves in and their need to deliver quicker, smarter care to people with long-term conditions.” says LookingLocal’s Managing Director, Guy Giles.

“By listening to people with long-term conditions first-hand and working with Kirklees’ Public Health professionals we have built a collaborative solution that is focused on helping users to self-care safely and in sight of clinical professionals, friends and family.”


Kirklees Council is making the platform available to other interested Public Health and CCG colleagues across the country. Please contact for more details.

To understand the background to My Health Tools and how and why people with LTCs can use it, see Kirklees’ My Health Tools Introduction video here on Youtube

The suite of tools My Health Tools offers includes but is not limited to:
- CBT based assessment tools
- Setting goals, targets and identifying challenges
- Personalisation
- Create a circle of support; healthcare professionals, carers, family, friends
- Trusted, relevant and personal multi-media health and care information/resources
- Journaling tools

See and use My Health Tools on any of your digital devices.

Monday, September 21, 2015

West Wakefield at the King’s Fund MCP Event

At the King’s Fund MCP (Multi-Speciality Community Providers) event last week we heard from some leaders in the field of implementing new models of care.  The sessions highlighted how great the need for change is and how urgently the country’s health services need it.  The role of IT and digital services was central in discussions on transforming care.

Chris Jones and Sarah Fatchett from West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing Ltd spoke at the conference about the changes that have been implemented in their area.  Particularly exciting was hearing about their new website, built by LookingLocal, and how its care navigation and directory features are a key part of their frontline services.  Chris pointed out that 50% of the work currently done by GPs can be done by somebody else, and in West Wakefield they are successfully channelling people to other services by using the digital site.

In the few months it has been up and running there have already been over 2,500 users.  By far the most popular page on the site is the one about the HealthPod - a giant, inflatable dome which is used as a mobile unit where different health and wellbeing services are delivered.  Bringing services into community areas is proving convenient and popular with people, enabling them to get advice without needing to make an appointment with their GP.  

Interestingly, 34% of visits to the website are outside of standard GP surgery opening hours.  There is an opportunity here to direct people to self-care and non-emergency services by making helpful and authoritative information available.  Providing online assessments and symptom checkers can help relieve some of the traffic from A&E and Walk-in Centres, where a lot people look to outside of conventional office hours.  Then linking this with what is available locally is an effective way of reducing pressure on frontline services.

What all this points to is that more and more people want to engage with health and wellbeing services at a digital level and in non-conventional ways.  Health organisations, as trusted authorities, can point people in the right direction and influence a new way of providing care.

To see the presentation given by Chris Jones and Sarah Fatchett at the event click here

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How will the refugee crisis affect housing associations and local landlords?

It’s headline news; local authorities and housing associations across the country are now being posed with the new challenge of helping to house 5,000 refugee families over the next two years. Politics aside - the real issue is across the lack of supply in the broader affordable housing market. That said, this additional challenge might prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

With enormous pressure already on public housing, one of the most obvious routes to help deal with this growing demand has been to encourage private landlords and homeowners to offer up capacity. Campaigns are running up and down the country to try and persuade housing associations and councils to welcome those being resettled, and the country has seen good support. However, it’s important that we don’t bury our heads in the sand in terms of having the right tools and technologies in place to be able to manage the challenge.

Where can we find the spare capacity? Councils continue to have a patchy relationship with the private rented sector in the UK. We have been working with a range of local authorities to tackle this with the LetsHelpYou service, and with reasonable success over the last three years, we have opened up many new properties to those who would otherwise struggle to find affordable accommodation. All good, but perhaps the less explored potential lies in spare rooms that sit unoccupied across the UK.

Most people don't know about the tax break that enables them to earn income from the spare rooms that may be at their disposal. The bedroom tax has also hit many tenants and forced many to default on their rent. Maybe there is a win:win here? Opening up capacity, and potentially helping tenants pay their rent at the same time. We used funding from the Government's Homelessness Transition Fund to develop the RentARoom platform that sits alongside LetsHelpYou. Perhaps this is its moment.

What’s clear is that ‘more of the same’ isn't going to cut it. We need to think differently here.

To see LetsHelpYou in action in a location near you click one of the links below: 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Are social landlords missing an opportunity in Health and Wellbeing?

Fascinating report just published by Metropolitan. I confess, it’s the connections between housing and health that really interest me. They’ve asked their tenants some interesting questions including which area's they felt there landlords should offer support, in which care & health came out top. The connections here with both health and council partners is not news to those of us working across these sectors. Social landlords are often perfectly placed to lead on the provision of this support. We’re moving to a world where budgets for care & health sit across the boundaries of the NHS and local government – but imagine a world where social landlords could be a part of that mix?

There are models of success in this kind of partnership working all over the UK but it’s still not the norm. We’ve seen first-hand in the work that we are doing at Kirklees Council around BetterOff; it has really benefited from the close working between the council and their local housing association, along with the myriad of third sector partners around delivering welfare advice and employment. 

This report has made me think more about the work that we have been doing on MyHealthTools, our on-line tool that supports long-term health conditions, and how we need to ensure that our housing partners are squarely part of that initiative. The outcomes of that project are based on very real reductions in people requiring access to GP’s and A&E. It’s time for housing to be part of that puzzle – they could well be the biggest advocates for this technology without us realising it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How can technology help improve health and wellbeing?

Seeing the recent news about the impact Type 2 diabetes has, and will have, on the NHS is enough to take anyone’s post-holiday energy down a notch or two. Then when you think about looming funding cuts to all areas of public health, it’s enough to make you need another holiday.

People who work in health will be well aware of the risk factors for someone to develop Type 2 diabetes. While ethnicity and having a relative with diabetes can’t be changed, things such as getting more exercise and eating right can make a difference, which means encouraging behaviour change.

And that is really the crux of the matter - how do we stimulate behaviour change?  The first step is to change how people can find the right information at the same time as making it quick and easy; people want and need to get answers amid hectic lives.

If a service is provided by a trustable source, people will seek out, digest, and act upon information.  Whether it’s about diabetes or any other health issue, their nearest walking group or what sort of food they should eat.  Knowing that information is accurate is reassuring and helps motivate people to act.  It also means that people can get the right information and support more quickly. For example, does a person really need to see a GP for a referral to a smoking cessation service?  Probably not. Directing traffic to the right places as early as possible will not only save everyone time, but also save the frontline NHS services a lot of money.

So, how do you make finding information different, easy and fast?

  • By not needing the ‘right’ search terms
  • Using directions to make it clear what to do next
  • Being ‘clickable’ - as more people use tablets and smartphones, finding information needs to be a smooth process without the need to type
  • Being Local - make it more relevant by finding groups, events and services within a certain distance

LookingLocal is helping health organisations to change the way people can find what they need, with its online platform HealthMyself. It is flexible and can be adapted to local needs and priorities, and makes information more accessible than the traditional internet search.  It’s design needs minimal content maintenance, meaning health organisations spend less time maintaining information. A win for the patient, and a win for the public purse.

The need for that holiday feels just a little further away….

Sheena Guthrie, Self Care Hub Analyst

Monday, July 13, 2015


Our BetterOff preview last week was a great success with delegates coming to the Library of Birmingham from all parts of the country to see, hear and interact with the new benefits and employment solution that LookingLocal has developed with Kirklees Council.

Steve Langrick from Kirklees started proceedings with a background as to where the thinking behind BetterOff had come from; primarily that the council needs new ways of building and delivering services in light of financial pressures and the added opportunity that digital offers. A new Kirklees customer-service video gave a broader picture of their ‘digital first’ approach and the ability to blend a face-to-face environment with digital services.

The financial element was paramount, with a welfare advice budget of nearly £1.75m a year facing a 30% reduction rising to 50% over the next three years, some radical thinking was required to ensure that Kirklees’ benefits system could still deliver and ensure that nobody slipped through the net.

With Level 1 (‘those able to self-serve’) and Level 2 (‘those who need a degree of support’) claimants making 70% of all claims, a digital solution with embedded web-chat and a high level of guided support and associated information was seen as the right approach. During Steve’s presentation and the following questions, there was a lot of agreement in terms of the financial situation councils found themselves in, the BetterOff approach as well as the need to ensure that vulnerable people were not excluded or left behind.

LookingLocal’s Lianne Viney then took up the microphone to take delegates through an overview of the product, picking out some of the functionality particularly around bringing together benefits and employment in the same solution and the compatibility with the DWP approach and systems. Then in seven smaller table based groups, the detail of BetterOff was demonstrated, debated and discussed.

The tables covered everything from usability to how it interfaced with housing benefit, Universal Credit and DWP systems, co-dependency of forms and multiple claimants to the same benefit process, the different rates of digital access and skills that still exists, as well as ideas around the job journal and the complexity of the appeals process.

Key to the BetterOff technology is the integration with entitledto’s assessment tool, which gives claimants the capability to work through their circumstances and find out which benefits they may be able to claim. Bringing this functionality into the solution enables claimants to compare their benefit entitlement to any job they are looking at or applying for, as well as leading them to the right forms to complete.

Just after lunch entitledto’s Phil Agulnik gave a great headline summary of the Summer Budget that had just been delivered and how it affected claimants and the changes local authorities would need to make around the delivery of benefits. Then we demonstrated BetterOff’s capability to co-browse; enabling a web-chat advisor not just answer questions when they hit a problem, but to actually see their form and help them complete it in real-time. Think webchat + Google Docs for benefit forms.

The co-browsing feature opened up further debate around information providers, how third parties could deliver advice, as well as raising the bar around levels of digital completion with lower overheads.

The afternoon session carried on looking at the detail of BetterOff; varied discussions continued covering the real-life guided content written by benefit advisors supporting the range of benefit forms (all the high volume benefit forms have been developed for BetterOff with further ones to follow) to video content to help claimants. Plus a few more areas in addition to the childcare, tax credit, transport and back-to-work/interview advice were all noted and will be fed into the content development pot.

Overall the technology was rated 8/10 by delegates – which is a great start seeing as we are still in development – and the main benefits were seen to be the self-service approach, the financial savings, the plain English guidance, but - crucially for many - the bringing together of employment and benefits into one setting. Issues were also highlighted around the effort required to change existing working practices and systems, as well as claimant communication, education and digital skills.

With this added insight from 30+ local authorities, we will refine BetterOff over the summer, as deployment for Kirklees is currently scheduled for September 2015. We heartily thank all delegates for their participation, thoughts and insight, as this collaborative approach is crucial to the development process both for Kirklees and other local authorities looking to address the same issues.

Click here for more information on BetterOff or email the BetterOff team.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Partnership developing self-care tool for MSK pain

A new tool that helps people manage chronic pain brought on by musculoskeletal disorders (MSK) will draw on the expertise of an alliance of leading organisations in the field of rheumatology and arthritis care.

The Self-Care Hub is a digital platform that empowers people with long-term health issues to  self-manage their conditions and take day-to-day control of their well-being by encouraging behaviour change.

The Hub’s developer, Kirklees Council-owned LookingLocal, is partnering with the Musculoskeletal Solutions Alliance (MSA) to explore the Hub’s application for arthritis and related conditions.

The Alliance, which brings together the British Society for Rheumatology, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and Arthritis Care, supports and advises commissioning bodies, other medical groups and service providers.

The MSA will work with LookingLocal to develop a large proportion of the Hub’s content around musculoskeletal disorders - and will also offer its expertise to any Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that takes up the Self-Care Hub.

The Self-Care Hub has been rolled out by Kirklees Council’s Public Health Directorate, working with the Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees CCGs. It recently completed patient trials in West Yorkshire under the title, My HeathTools. Patients experiencing chronic pain, breathing problems or anxiety took part in testing the platform, and also contributed to focus groups on the user experience.

The Hub uses proven cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to help users achieve measurable goals by promoting independent decision-taking; users can also engage the support of a circle of formal and informal carers.

Several CCGs have already shown an interest in the application of the Self-Care Hub to musculo-skeletal pain management.

Phil Baker, Director of Commissioned Services at the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, is the main liaison between LookingLocal and the MSA on developing the MSK component of the Self-Care Hub. He said: “The MSA is pleased to work with Kirklees Council and LookingLocal on a solution that underpins the proactive self-management of musculoskeletal conditions. A number of CCGs are interested in the platform and we look forward to supporting them in reviewing and implementing the Self-Care Hub.”

Guy Giles, Managing Director of LookingLocal, said: “Gaining the insight and expertise of the MSA will be core to the development of the MSK component of the Self-Care Hub and is reinforcing our belief in its value as a pain management tool for people affected by arthritis and related conditions. The hub has had very positive feedback from both professionals and end-users and we look forward to seeing it bring about real improvements to the lives of this group of patients.”

Further information on the Self-Care Hub is available from Irene Zdziebko, email:  Website:
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