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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:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Advice platform that boosts the local economy

A new digital platform will increase the amount benefits claimants contribute to their local economy - and deliver significant savings on advice budgets for councils, housing associations and other advisory bodies.

BetterOff helps claimants maximise their income by claiming all they are entitled to - and ultimately puts them in a better position to find employment. As well as pointing claimants towards job opportunities - BetterOff highlights how much better off people would be in sustainable work.

BetterOff is a self-service digital platform, optimised for mobiles, that streamlines the process of advising and representing job-seeking benefits claimants, reducing face-to-face and telephone contact.  Its user-friendly, guided approach ensures that claim forms are completed correctly and that sanctions are effectively challenged at tribunals.  Around 70 per cent of claimants will be able to self-serve using BetterOff.  

It is being rolled out by Kirklees Council where each year around 25,000 people use services, such as the Kirklees Benefits Advice Service (KBAS) and Citizens Advice Bureaux. It is estimated that claimants could  increase their income by as much as £5,000 per annum, with an associated contribution to the regional economy. Kirklees Council will save £400,000 on this year’s benefits advice budget alone.
The system will help to boost spending in more deprived parts of the community - spending that will, for the large part, benefit the broader local economy.

The burden on other public services, charities and voluntary organisations will be reduced, and benefits claimants are also less likely to borrow money from pay-day loan companies or unregulated sources.

LookingLocal will be showcasing the product to senior advice, revenues and benefits managers at a preview event on 8th Jul, with a view to partnering with other local authorities and advice organisations to further refine the platform.
Guy Giles, Managing Director of LookingLocal, said: “It is clear that, by helping people back into work and increasing their spending power, BetterOff will improve claimants’ lives and deliver wider social and economic benefits, as well as achieving immediate savings for councils, housing providers and other support organisations that provide advice.”   

Any local authority or advisory service wishing to find out more about BetterOff should contact or call 0845 434 8540.

Hubs deliver 24-7 health and care support in Wakefield

A new generation of web-based healthcare hubs is providing patients in West Yorkshire with round-the-clock access to services and a guiding hand on where to go for support and advice – without having to see their local doctor or visit A&E.  

West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing is a group of six neighbouring GP practices, serving around 64,000 patients in West Yorkshire. Their Health & Wellbeing Hub - an online ‘directory’ of local services - is supported by the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, the nationwide initiative aimed at improving day-to-day healthcare. Through it the organisation delivers local health, wellbeing and support information from a range of sources.
The group has just added a brand new ‘Care Navigation’ feature to the platform, specifically designed to help patients find their way around the local healthcare system and locate the most appropriate service for their needs.
A ‘triage’ feature gives pointers on where to seek help, depending on the urgency of their situation and - by integrating with recognised sites, like NHS Choices and Patient Opinion - gives patients the best possible advice on where to go.  It also pulls in other relevant content from social media sites such as Facebook, Yelp and Meetup, and makes patients aware of other informal sources of support and social activities that could help with their general well-being, from bereavement groups to book clubs.
Meanwhile a range of online tools can help patients, for example, check their own symptoms, plan healthy diets, boost their fitness, quit smoking and understand their own body mass index. They can also use the hub to access SystmOnline, which lets them book appointments at their own GP surgery and safely request prescriptions over the internet.
Representatives from all six of West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing’s practices, spread across Chapelthorpe, Horbury, Lupset, Middlestown and Ossett, were involved in developing this Care Navigation service – together with Nova (a support agency for voluntary groups in Wakefield), members of the Senior Citizens Support Group and South West Yorkshire NHS Partnership Foundation Trust.
Alongside this new online resource, West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing has developed a network of more than 70 ‘Care Navigators’ –  staff from the GP practices and volunteers from the community - who have been trained to guide patients to the support they need.  This includes directing patients to their local pharmacy, contraception and sexual health services, physiotherapists, family support and voluntary organisations, all dependent on their individual needs.  
As well as getting patients to the care they need faster, the Hub, which is optimised for smartphones and mobile devices, shifts demand away from the frontline and frees up more GP appointments for those who really need them.  
The Hub’s original directory of local services celebrated its six-month anniversary in April, not long before the new Care Navigation facility was launched.  It has generated strong interest, and its usage continues to rise: within six months more than 1,300 different people visited the West Wakefield Hub, between them holding over 2,200 sessions on the website.  Among the most common topics users search for help with are ‘mental health’, ‘mobility’, ‘sexual health’, ‘support groups’ and ‘home care’.
Dr Chris Jones, Programme Director at West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing, said:
“Since its introduction, the West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing hub has harnessed the power of the web to add a new dimension to care and support in our catchment area.  The Care Navigation facility will shift demand away from the frontline while still providing a high quality, 24-hour service to our patients.”  
Guy Giles, Looking Local’s Managing Director, said: “With increasing pressure on frontline services, helping local health bodies deliver round-the-clock support that cuts unnecessary GP appointments and reduces the number of visits to A&E is becoming increasingly important. Building on the success of the West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing hub, we are now in a position to share this capability elsewhere in the UK focusing on local health priorities.”

West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing’s website can be found at

Health organisations can find out how LookingLocal can help build their Health &

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Self-Care Hub demonstrated at the Digital Health Congress

The King’s Fund, 16 & 17 June

Health professionals learnt more about the Self-Care Hub at this week’s Digital Health & Care Congress 2015, organised by The King’s Fund.  
The Self-Care Hub is the new online tool that empowers people with long-term health issues to self-manage their conditions.  It encourages behavioural change and supports users to achieve measurable goals. 

The theme of the congress, exploring how the innovative use of information and technology is supporting improvements in health and social care services, was a close match for the Self-Care Hub. Sheena Guthrie, Self Care Hub Analyst at Kirklees Council, was one of the workshop speakers at the event. 

Kirklees Council’s Public Health Directorate, working with the Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) has recently rolled out the Self-Care Hub under the title, MyHeath Tools. 

Underpinned by proven Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, the new platform encourages behavioural change by supporting users to achieve measurable goals. It takes a ‘whole-person’ approach that promotes independent decision-taking – and users can also engage the support of a circle of formal and informal carers. 

The aims of the tool are to help users feel more in control of their lives; to increase their confidence in managing their condition; inspire new ideas and provide the support and skills they need.

The Hub has been created by Kirklees Council-owned technology developer, LookingLocal, working with long-term care clinicians and public health professionals.  

It had a very positive response from health professionals following a preview event in April - and from participants in patient trials and user focus groups. 

Further information on the Self-Care Hub is available from Irene Zdziebko on 0845 434 8540 or email  .

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Helping 70% of benefits claimants self-serve

A new digital solution will enable seven out of ten benefits claimants to self-serve, rather than seek face-to-face guidance from local authority benefits teams or other agencies, such as housing associations and advisory organisations.

BetterOff is being rolled out by Kirklees Council, working with other local providers. It will save the authority £400,000 on its advice budget this year.

LookingLocal has digitised all the necessary claim forms, adding easy-to-understand explanatory notes that guide claimants through the application process - and remove the need to sit down and work through the often complex forms with a benefits adviser. BetterOff  also incorporates an online benefits calculator, built by market leaders, entitledto.

The BetterOff platform is optimised for mobile devices and the Council estimates that around 70 per cent of customers will be able to complete the application process successfully online. The authority also predicts that it will maintain its 80 per cent success rate appealing benefits decisions at tribunals.

As well as delivering savings by greatly reducing face-to-face and telephone contact, BetterOff will free up benefits advisers to deal with more vulnerable customers, or those with more complex needs.

As LookingLocal is a not-for-profit technology developer owned by Kirklees Council, procurement is straightforward.

Senior benefits and advice managers are being invited to a special preview day in Birmingham on 8 July to see BetterOff in action and contribute their expertise to its ongoing development.

More information on BetterOff is available from or call 0845 434 8540.  

App is a neighbourhood investment for Plus Dane

One of the North-West’s biggest housing providers is putting a range of services supporting health and financial well-being at the fingertips of its tenants, with the launch of new apps for two of its regions.

In addition to services such as repairs reporting, paying rent and requesting appointments, Plus Dane’s new digital solution provides a wealth of support tools beyond housing. It also reduces the need for face-to-face or phone contact with Plus Dane’s busy customer advisers.

The two apps - for Plus Dane Merseyside & Cheshire and Plus Dane Ellesmere Port & Neston - bring together services including Universal Jobmatch, The Money Advice Service, Universal Credit and NHS Choices. This added capability reflects  Plus Dane’s  role “to maximise investment in neighbourhoods to enhance people’s quality of life, opportunity and choice.”

The apps helps tenants search for employment and provides job-hunting tips to boost their chances. Users can also calculate their benefit entitlement, book a GP appointment and check health symptoms.

Plus Dane’s tenants - who live in 18,000 homes across  Merseyside & Cheshire can use the apps to request demonstrations of the community alarm, report instances of anti-social behaviour, log complaints, or leave compliments.

They can also play their part in maintaining their local environment, with a street-scene reporting function for issues like roads in need of repair, dumped rubbish, faulty street lights and graffiti. Their reports are forwarded to the appropriate council department.

The Plus Dane mobile apps – which have been built by public sector-owned technology developer LookingLocal - are available for free for iOS and Android smartphones. They are based on LookingLocal’s popular MyLandlord platform.

The information can also be accessed through Sky and Virgin digital television, making them accessible to as many tenants as possible. Both have been designed to carry  Plus Dane’s  strong branding.

Kelly Arnold,  Plus Dane’s  Digital Inclusion Officer, is responsible for the roll-out of the app.  She said: “Plus Dane  is committed to ensuring that tenants have every opportunity to improve their quality of life and personal circumstances.  We are focusing on improving tenants’ digital skills and we are particularly keen to make employment opportunities and advice readily available.  LookingLocal’s apps make job-hunting and a range of other services straightforward and convenient and I know they will be appreciated by our communities.”

Guy Giles, Managing Director of LookingLocal, said:  “It is good to see Plus Dane  making such full use of the MyLandlord solution’s capabilities. We have tailored the two apps very much to the needs of Plus Dane’s tenants in the two areas and we believe they will be a valuable tool, supporting them in many aspects of their day-to-day lives. We look forward to receiving user feedback as the apps are downloaded.”

The apps are free to download from the i-tunes app store for iOS phones and from the Google Play store for android phones - simply search for Plus Dane Group.  

Plus Dane  tenants can also  download the apps at:
Further information on LookingLocal solutions is available from or call 0845 434 8540.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Learn about tenant directories that go far beyond Housing

A new generation of online Tenant Information and Community Hubs are providing far more than access to housing services.  

As part of a housing provider’s main website, they are now offering opportunities to grow skills, find work, manage money or improve health.

The Tenant Information and Community Hubs have been built by Kirklees Council-owned technology developer, LookingLocal who are offering housing associations one-to-one briefings on this exciting new platform that creates an online community focal point - and opens up resources vital to the tenants’ wealth and well-being.

Services and advice available on the hubs span jobs, benefits, financial planning, training, transport, community information and NHS portals.The Tenant Information and Community Hubs are designed for easy access across a range of platforms, maximising inclusion of all users

And as an online community resource, the hubs promote and support local businesses, charities, neighbourhood groups and other organisations, putting them at tenants’ fingertips.

Please get in touch if you would like to learn more.  Email or call 0845 434 8540.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Front line savings on advice to make claimants BetterOff

With £12 billion in welfare savings projected for the life of this Parliament, it is increasingly important that local councils and other advisory bodies find smarter and less costly ways of advising the majority of claimants - and demonstrating how much better off they would be in employment.
The often lengthy and expensive process of guiding claimants through a benefits application is being streamlined with BetterOff, a new digital solution that removes the need for face-to-face advice for the large majority of benefits claimants, delivering major savings for local authorities.

BetterOff has been developed by Kirklees Council, who estimate that the system will save them around £1.3 million over the next three years. It is predicted that around 70% of claimants will be able to self-serve using BetterOff, whilst maintaining their current 80% success rate at tribunals.

Available on smartphone and mobile devices, as well as via the web, BetterOff frees up benefits advisers – whether in local authorities or advice agencies – to deal with more complex claims or claimants who encounter difficulties.

Kirklees Council is looking to share this technology with other authorities and are keen to hear from anyone looking to tackle similar challenges in their own local area.
Founded on the principle that people in full receipt of their entitled benefits are more likely to find employment, BetterOff helps claimants back into the workplace by maximising their income, as well as increasing their contribution to the local economy.
Other key benefits of BetterOff include:

  • 70% of claimants will be able to self-serve
  • makes claimants aware of the benefits they are entitled to
  • guides them through the application and any appeals process
  • reduces the likelihood of sanctions by up to 80%
  • multiple job databases integrated with a job seeking journal
  • highlights how much better off a claimant would be in employment
  • optimised for mobile and web
Kirklees Council is partnering with entitledto, the UK’s leading provider of online benefits calculators, to deliver the service. We are looking to share this technology with other authorities and are keen to hear from anyone looking to tackle similar challenges in their own local area.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Health professionals positive about Self-Care Hub

The Self-Care Hub, the new online tool that empowers people with long-term health issues to better understand and self-manage their conditions, has had an excellent response from health professionals from across the UK who attended a preview at the Library of Birmingham.

Feedback from the day was overwhelmingly positive – with attendees describing it as “patient-centred”, “a great tool” that “works really well”, has “huge applicability” and is “an exciting way of involving people in the design of their own health care.”

Presentations and collaborative group sessions generated lively discussion - and valuable input into the Hub's development - as representatives from diverse areas of the health sector fed in their expertise. Areas discussed were wide-ranging and covered how the Hub might be perceived by patients, the use of social media to create a ‘circle of care’, how well the confidence self-assessment tracker worked, and additional features that users would find useful or engaging. 

Underpinned by proven Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, the Self-Care Hub encourages behavioural change by supporting users to achieve measurable goals. It takes a ‘whole-person’ approach that promotes independent decision-taking – and users can also engage the support of a circle of formal and informal carers.

The Self-Care Hub is being built by Kirklees Council-owned technology developer, LookingLocal, working with long-term care clinicians and public health professionals.

Attendees at the Birmingham preview heard from Sarah Muckle, Public Health Consultant at Kirklees Council, on the Kirklees self-care landscape; Dr Steve Ollerton, Chair of the North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group, on working differently with patients, and LookingLocal's Chief Technology Officer, John Latham, who outlined the challenge of digitising offline healthcare techniques. It was hosted by LookingLocal's Managing Director, Guy Giles. 

The Self-Care Hub is being rolled out by Kirklees Council’s Public Health Directorate, working with the Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) under the title, MyHeathTools. Patient trials have been taking place through March and April focusing on breathing problems and anxiety.

LookingLocal Managing Director, Guy Giles said: “It is clear from the very stimulating discussions at the Library of Birmingham preview that there is clearly a space for the Self-Care Hub in the area of the self-management of long-term conditions.  The enthusiasm and insight of those who attended will be invaluable in helping us further refine the Self-Care Hub and the many benefits it brings - to both patients and the clinicians responsible for their care.”

Further information on the Self-Care Hub is available from Irene Zdziebko on 0845 434 8540, or 01757 638154 or email  
© 2010 Looking Local - Owned and managed by Kirklees Council