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Benefits Owl Project 2020
To develop an existing website to enable claimants and those assisting them to understand the benefits they are claiming together with interactive tools to help them to challenge decisions. The Project will be focused mainly on Universal Credit and PIP, and on increasing the website’s interactivity.
May 2017 - March 2020
Charity information: Greater Manchester Centre For Voluntary Organisation
The combination of cuts to legal aid in 2013 and to local authorities’ resources over the last 5 years has had devastating consequences for the provision of advice. Web based resources about benefits are available, but some, like the Citizens Advice website, aim to provide comprehensive coverage and can be confusing: others, such as Benefits and Work, are largely subscription based. Claimants, and their helpers, therefore have an increased need for help in dealing with common benefit problems.
By making available a free website (http://www.benefitsowl.info/) that focuses on a relatively limited set of the most common benefit situations and problems and provides information about them in plain, everyday, English, and providing associated resources to help claimants express themselves to better interact with government agencies such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
1. Develop the Benefits Owl website to increase its usefulness to claimants and those helping them,
Activities» Enlarging the currently very basic information about Universal Credit to include full information for the main categories of claimant
» Developing the relevant sections of the existing website to reflect the impact of Universal Credit and other welfare reforms
» Providing personalizable resources to enable claimants to produce documentation to assist with benefit appeals and similar issues
» Using user feedback and web analytics to identify which sections are most used and/or most wanted and develop site accordingly
What success will look like
• Increased website usage figures;
• Positive feedback from users, including examples of successes in which Benefits Owl played a part.
It is hoped that the project will enable more claimants to understand how the benefit rules apply to them, and be better able to assert their rights.
Success will be demonstrated by
• Positive feedback from users, through an ongoing on-line survey;
• Accounts from appeal successes and similar, assisted by the site;
• Evidence (though web search rankings) that the resource is being shared and used.
1. The website could be hacked or corrupted. This risk is minimized by keeping an off-line ‘mirror’ version of the website, which itself is backed up regularly;
2. Material in the site may become out of date. This is addressed by ensuring that all pages are checked at least once per year, and by a procedures to ensure that developments in benefits law are incorporated;
3. Litigation. This risk is minimized by ensuring the advice given is generic only, and by professional indemnity insurance.
Donors to this project will receive a quarterly email report on the project detailing the ongoing and forthcoming activities and any necessary changes that have been made to the project plans.
Budget - Project Cost: £1,878Loading graph....
Amount Heading Description £1,728 Developing the website Time spent developing and updating site: £576 per annum (4 hours per week at £12 per hour) £150 Webhosting Webhosting and URL subscription - £50 per annum approx
The nature of a web-based resource is that it is not restricted by location. However users from outside the UK would not benefit from the project, as the information provided is limited to the UK benefits system.
Benefit claimants, and those assisting them, who do not have access to personal advice services, and who find the other web-based resources intimidating due to their complexity and/or the language used.
Read more about the Charity running this project.
Giles created the Benefits Owl project. He is also a welfare benefits case worker and a supporter and trainer of advisers.