Milton Keynes Online Financial Assessments: a customer perspective Milton Keynes City Council implemented Online Financial Assessments (OFA) in early January 2023. This tool allows members of the public to calculate their contribution and to submit completed assessments directly to the council for review and further action. Milton Keynes spoke to us about their experience of implementing and onboarding the software.
We wanted to improve the service we provide to our customers, if they could see what they might have to pay for care at the earliest opportunity, this would help support them with their plans and preparation for potential charges. As it is often a very difficult time for our customers when they first need care and support, we wanted a way of them accessing the information when it was best for them, and this is something they can access in their own home at any time.
The benefit the OFA offers is an easy-to-use contribution calculator that provides an indicative charge from the start, that integrates with ContrOCC to synchronise the financial information needed to complete a financial assessment.
Having looked at feedback from other councils, we could see there were several advantages with implementing the OFA, including information being directly received, evidence uploaded directly and supporting the reduction of debt, due to service users being made aware of a charge when submitting the form.
Prior to implementing the OFA, Milton Keynes City Council had an internally designed online form that collected the financial information, and although this still helped, it was unable to integrate with ContrOCC or offer a facility to attach evidence and calculate an indicative charge.
ContrOCC have a standard form template already in place, which can be adapted to suit each individual councils’ requirements, ensuring the text and formatting follows the council’s communication, branding and marketing guidance.
We found that it was important when setting up the details in the system to refer to the provider and guidance notes, to ensure data was referenced correctly, providing prompts and guidance notes at the relevant points. The main aim was to make sure it is easy for the user to follow.
Testing was also critical to ensure all potential scenarios processed the expected results. This part of the project was time consuming, but obviously this is dependent on resource available for the project.
It was important that we put ourselves in the shoes of the client. Were the questions clear so the user understood what information is needed and why. We found that sharing the OFA form with colleagues before going live helped to ensure we hadn’t missed anything and made sense. Although we know there will always be something that crops up, the good thing is with the OFA that although we are now live with the form there is still the opportunity to add, change and make improvements.
One thing that Milton Keynes City Council found was not to overcomplicate the form by trying to accommodate every scenario, there are always going to be occasions, due to the complexities of a financial assessment that will require an officer’s intervention. The form however is an excellent tool for gathering the information and providing an indicative charge.
Marketing of the OFA is key, here at Milton Keynes City Council we worked with our communications team, getting the support from councillor’s to help spread the word, liaising with Adult Social Care colleagues to help promote the tool.
There has been positive feedback from colleagues in adult social care who have directed service users to the OFA. There have also been positive comments from service users, stating that the form is easy to use, and they like knowing a charge. However, this is still relatively new, and we haven’t conducted a survey yet to canvass for views on it.
Staff in the financial assessment team find it helpful, as the information is received directly from service users and this speeds up the time taken to access the information. However, some service users do struggle with entering their information correctly, and we do appreciate it’s not suitable for everyone.
From a workflow perspective it’s proving to create a robust audit trail from the point the customer submits their information onwards, and the convenient and secure way their financial documents can be uploaded prevents the risk of lost documents.
Based on the initial feedback and usage, Milton Keynes City Council is confident that over the next 12 months more and more service users will start to use this tool.