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16 September 2020

Liberata helps local authority clients successfully navigate Covid-19 challenges

Increased process automation coupled with remote working model enables Liberata to process huge spike in Housing Benefits and Business Rate Grant applications

Liberata, the business process services company, has today highlighted how it has successfully supported a number of its local authority clients during the Covid-19 crisis. The pandemic has seen a huge spike in Housing Benefits and Business Rate Grant applications at a time when councils have faced unprecedented operational challenges. However, thanks to implementing increased process automation and its rapidly rolled-out remote working model, Liberata was able to successfully meet client requirements and ensure a good level of service was maintained throughout.

“Covid-19 has presented exceptional operational challenges for local councils and the communities they serve, so we are proud to have assisted our clients as they navigated these issues,” said Charlie Bruin, CEO at Liberata. “As a business, we have also had to adapt quickly to the new remote working model, and we have successfully increased our proportion of home workers from 10 per cent to 90 per cent in just four weeks. This is a credit to everyone involved who made the transition as smooth as possible, which allowed us to continue supporting our clients with minimum disruption.”

Housing Benefits and Council Tax Support

Ensuring benefits claims are processed quickly and with little disruption during this period has been crucial, especially since many residents are increasingly vulnerable due to the economic impacts of Covid-19. For example, Liberata saw a 300 per cent increase in Universal Credit applications in April, which led it to develop an automated notifications process to manage this uptick. This resulted in 80 per cent of notifications received from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) being automated, significantly reducing manual handing time.

For Housing Benefits and Council Tax Support, Liberata worked with six councils, including Hounslow and North Somerset. Prior to Covid-19, Liberata maintained an average monthly combined caseload of 86,000, but this increased significantly once lockdown measures came into force. By June, this figure had increased to 89,000 which placed additional workload pressures on the team. In April 2020, Liberata saw a 26 per cent year-on-year increase in new claims and change of circumstances transactions, and over the rest of that quarter (April – June 2020), there was a nine per cent year-on-year increase. Despite this surge in workload, Liberata was able to maintain and in many cases exceed its service levels. For example, five local authority clients saw Housing Benefit new claims being processed in under 10 days on average throughout April and May, compared to a pre-Covid-19 national average of 16 days in 2019/20. By clearing an unprecedented document backlog, Liberata ensured that volumes had returned to ‘business as usual’ levels by June.

Business Rates Support

Local authorities also required support for the Business Rate online application system, which processed the emergency scheme announced by the UK Government in March. This allowed qualifying businesses to make applications for either a £10,000 or £25,000 grant, depending on their rateable value. Liberata was able to set up this system very quickly on behalf of Hounslow, North Somerset and three other councils. By reallocating internal resources and retraining existing staff, Liberata has processed £168 million in grants to local businesses since 27th March. During the same period, Liberata implemented significant changes to the Business Rate retail relief scheme, expanding it from 50 to 100 per cent for over 9,000 businesses across six local authorities. Robotic process automation (RPA) technology was deployed to ensure that all businesses received the vital reductions quickly.

“Liberata, as a long term strategic partner of the Council, has reacted very positively to the Covid-19 pandemic, ensuring our businesses and residents have experienced swift support and minimal disruption across a range of our services,” said Stuart Anstead, Head of Support Services at North Somerset Council. “The abrupt pressures generated from the administration of Business Rates grants and increases in demand for Benefit awards have been processed well with the team going above and beyond.”

“Liberata has worked alongside the Council to deliver core services on time during Covid-19”, said Councillor Rajawat at Hounslow Council. “Liberata was also able to improve its online contact forms and used its teams to field these enquiries quickly, to ensure residents received the benefits they were entitled to quickly during this difficult time.”

“It is testament to Liberata’s expertise and service delivery model that our local authority clients have trusted us with the responsibility of helping them through this incredibly challenging time,” added Charlie Bruin. “The investments we have made in automation have allowed councils to cope with large volumes of work, and the last few months have demonstrated the resilience and resources we have available to help local councils deal with any further disruptions going forward.”

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