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Norfolk speeds up Blue Badge Service for disabled drivers

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Norfolk County Council has cut the time it takes to issue a Blue Badge post application from weeks to minutes thanks to its new online service.

The Blue Badge scheme helps millions of disabled people to keep their independence by allowing them to park closer to their destination than other drivers, often without charge.

While the Blue Badge is a national scheme, councils across the country manage the day-to-day administration, including checking eligibility, with applicants able to apply directly to them or centrally via GOV.UK.

Norfolk decided to improve the service it was providing to local Blue Badge residents by adopting IEG4’s Blue Badge Case Management System - enabling it to manage all applications from submission to the issuing of the badges.

Ross Cushing, contact centre delivery manager and James Richardson, Blue Badge team leader explained that the council needed “a system that would work better for us and our citizens”.

Richardson says: “The IEG4 system manages our entire Blue Badge process on one single platform with APIs that link seamlessly into GOV.UK and the Government’s Blue Badge back-office system, Valtech. This means that applications which used to take several weeks to process can now take a matter of minutes.

“We now have one sole place for applications and requests and everything is done automatically, reducing administration time and making the process quicker and more efficient.”

Time to digitise

Previously, the council had used a system developed in-house some years ago. When applications were received, advisors would record them and any supporting documentation onto a dashboard to await assessment. If the applicant was successful, staff would then have to log into another system to manually trigger the issuing of a badge.

The system was cumbersome and the dashboard was becoming obsolete. Recent changes to legislation enabling those with hidden disabilities to apply to the scheme, also meant that there would be an increase in the numbers of applications. 

“We knew that the system we had wasn’t working,” says Cushing. “And that we didn’t have sufficient resources to handle any significant uptake in applications.

“We had to look for a more efficient and modern way to work and the IEG4 solution met the spec. It offered us efficiency through streamlining and automating processes, resilience - being cloud-based, and was capable of being adapted for any future changes in the scheme.”

Digital first

The new system fully integrates with GOV.UK’s online application form, which now enables applicants to upload documents with their application, including proof of identity and photographs.

After applying via the application goes straight into the IEG4 system where it is processed and checked. If the applicant is eligible then the IEG4 API automatically informs Valtech and a Blue Badge is issued.

The IEG4 system reports on progress with processing an application and flags tasks that need to be done to staff. Meanwhile, customers can track the progress of their application and upload further information if required. Email updates are triggered as tasks are completed and updates are sent so the customers are proactively kept up-to-date.

Success and next steps 

The council usually receives on average 18,000 applications a year and issues nearly 15,000 Blue Badges, but since going live – shortly after the scheme changes – there has been a 30 per cent increase in applications.   

“It’s still very early days yet 60 per cent of applications are now done online. Our aim, however, is to encourage more and more people to self-serve. This will not only give them the freedom and convenience of being able to apply anytime convenient to them, on any day of the week, but for the council it means a cheaper and a more efficient way of working,” says Richardson.

And Norfolk has seen a huge difference in the time taken to process applications, with a record of three minutes for issuing a badge on the new IEG4 system – an application that would have previously taken about three weeks to complete. 

According to Cushing and Richardson there was a paper element to the applications before “the new IEG4 and GOV.UK world”. But this has now stopped, which has helped to significantly speed up the process.

Says Cushing, “Straight away we’re reducing the administration time for dealing with applications. And there’s other benefits too, as the system enables us to easily trigger requests for supportive documents from customers. In all, customers receive a much prompter service now that it is all digital.”  

They say too that the Government did a lot of work and research refining the GOV.UK service to streamline the customer journey and this has meant the applications that they now receive are more accurate, more complete and have the right documentation accompanying them.

Evidence of this can be seen in the numbers to calls the council receives about Blue Badges. Despite the increase in volume of applications, there has not been a rise in the number of calls, and internal analysis shows that most calls are queries about applying, rather than queries about the service post application.

As a result, Norfolk plans to change its Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to promote online applications.

Explains Cushing: “This will lead to a fall in the volume of calls we receive and we expect the number of calls of customers chasing information will drop too as the new system automatically updates applicants on progress with their applications.”

They add, however, that the customer service advisors are on hand to help those citizens who are unable or don’t want to apply online.

From signing the contract to go live the project took just seven weeks and Norfolk is very happy with the outcome:

“We have a product that’s works for us now. But it also has the built-in flexibility that means we can iterate and develop our service further to suit our future needs,” says Cushing.

If you'd like to find out how IEG4 can help improve and deliver your Blue Badge processes, sign up to a webinar here


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