Project information

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

Greater Manchester Centre For Voluntary Organisation logo
  • Need

    Need

    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.

    Solution

    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).

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    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

    • Increased website usage figures;
    • Positive feedback from users, including examples of successes in which Benefits Owl played a part.


  • Impact

    Impact

    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.

    Risk

    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.

    Reporting

    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

    Budget - Project Cost: £1,878

    Loading 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
  • Background

    Location

    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.

    Beneficiaries

    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.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    The Benefits Owl website has been running in its current form since 2013 and currently has around 1,200 users per month. The person working on the project (Giles Elliott – see below) has over twenty years of experience in the field of welfare rights, and has extensive experience of providing written training material to colleagues, volunteers, and the public. He also has experience of designing web-based resources using techniques including html, css, and javascript.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.

    People

    Giles Elliott

    Giles created the Benefits Owl project. He is also a welfare benefits case worker and a supporter and trainer of advisers.