Charities exist to be able to support people through times of hardship and as we know, the last couple of years have been extraordinarily tough for people on the lowest incomes. Our country now faces an economic emergency that is getting worse by the day. Energy and food prices are crippling household finances, inflation is at its worst in 40 years and keeps rising, and, as winter sets in, the worst suffering is yet to come.
For a national poverty charity, it’s crucial that we remain agile and adapt our services to respond to an ever-changing climate and increase our reach and impact. Communication and audience insights have helped drive forward our ability to continuously improve our digital tools and services to help people facing financial insecurity.
Helping people check benefit entitlements
The economic turmoil experienced at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic was profound. Our Helpline service saw increased demand while our online tools experienced higher traffic from people who were looking to find out what additional money they might be eligible to claim.
Having been in existence for nine years prior to the pandemic, our Benefits Calculator was a vital quick, free and easy tool for people to find out what state benefits they could be entitled to. However, over time, many people started a calculation but failed to complete one.
We knew this had to change.
This led us to redevelop our Benefits Calculator in partnership with lived experts to improve and enhance the experience for users, from both a usability and accessibility perspective. We also wanted to improve its capability for our service delivery partners who host the calculator on their websites.
This new, updated version has paved the way for a clearer and more logical user journey, an easy to navigate interface and clearer and more accessible language and benefit explanations. Furthermore, all benefits information is fully in line with the latest updates from the DWP. This also includes for people who are on legacy benefits, as our calculator explains the implications of choosing between staying on legacy benefits versus moving to Universal Credit and whether they are eligible for a move.
Throughout this project, and since the launch of our Benefits Calculator version two in May 2021, our ability to adapt to an ever-changing external environment has remained steadfast.
We have taken learnings from our Benefits Calculator relaunch to help guide us on how to effectively approach other pieces of work across the organisation.
For example, when the invasion on Ukraine happened, we knew refugees would find themselves arriving in the UK with little information or support on how to navigate our country’s benefits system. We were able to quickly adapt our information support to improve the usability of our calculator to make sure it was easy to follow for Ukrainian refugees by adding additional immigration and housing status questions, extra help text prompts and information for refugees who may need to seek further support from their local council. This then enabled us to point people in the right direction for the vital support they needed.
In addition to this, we created a programme with ITN for Channel 4 that centred on our helpline and the increasing call volumes and related stories around the cost-of-living crisis. A specific focus on our helpline through the media was something we had never done before, and we did have reservations about the impact it would have on our contact centre service; we weren’t actively trying to increase call volumes. However, the feature drove tremendous uplift to our digital tools, with Calculator calculations increasing from 2.3 million to 2.6 million when compared to the previous calendar year.
This continuous need for development and agility to keep our services and support information up-to-date and relevant has never been more vital, particularly against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis and the longer-term economic uncertainty that faces people in our country.
Creating long-term change, together
The issue of financial insecurity in the UK, and the need for anti-poverty charities in the sector to bring about change – is critical. And never more so in the aftermath of the pandemic and in the face of soaring costs in living.
Turn2us has been tackling poverty in the UK for 125 years. In all its guises over our history, we have sought to help people struggling to keep their heads above water. From our ability to remain agile, we have been able to deepen our impact for those who need us during critical times in our economy. Ultimately, we want to strive for a future where all of us can build financial security and to thrive. It is this work, driven by our purpose, that puts us in good stead to face this economic crisis head on and to raise up the voices of those of us who are most affected.
Find out how charities are communicating the issues that matter on our Social issues hub.