With cost pressures on local authorities intensifying, how could London Borough of Camden achieve its forward-looking social goals and drive substantial cost-savings?
London Borough of Camden created a single view of 16 systems containing data on residents and the services they use—helping to lift operational efficiency, detect fraud, and improve service levels.
35 teamsacross London Borough of Camden using the residents’ index
65,000index queries processed to date, saving thousands of person-hours
Enablessubstantial savings via precision-targeting of subletting fraud
Business challenge story
Becoming more proactive
Camden—like all UK local authorities—is under constant pressure from central government to deliver significant cost savings. In preparation for a budget cut of 50 percent in 2018, Camden must make at least GBP150 million in savings. At the same time, the council aims to drive its five-year strategy for reducing inequality while preserving the social mix.
Looking at the big picture, Camden realized that neither its social objectives nor its savings targets could be met by one-off actions—it needed to find a way to drive continuous improvements in terms of service levels, operational processes and cost-efficiency.
To solve these challenges, Camden decided to improve its operations by uniting previously siloed information and gaining a 360-degree view of how residents engage with services.
Camden realized that adopting a “systems thinking” approach could help it ensure that residents who registered their details with one service—for example, housing—would not need to give the same information again to other services. Similarly, the council wanted to empower its own staff to work more efficiently by automatically gathering information from other departments. This was be especially valuable for the council’s electoral registration team, which had been fielding around 80 calls per day from other teams just to check residents’ details.
Hilary Simpson, Head of ICT Business Partnering – Service Integration and Multi Agency Working at London Borough of Camden, comments: “We recognized that by linking key data from the individual datasets held by different parts of the organization into a ‘residents’ index’, we could improve internal productivity, as well as delivering more effective services to the people of Camden.
“There were two main requirements: we needed a new technology platform for master data management; and we needed a data governance framework that would ensure that the data was gathered, stored, managed and accessed appropriately. If we could do this successfully, we saw an opportunity to share our expertise with other councils too—or even to develop a solution that we could provide to them as a service.”
Finding a way forward
As a first step, Camden needed to win the support of the data-owners within its service teams.
“We performed a privacy impact assessment, which proved very valuable,” says Hilary Simpson. “It enabled us to weigh up the privacy concerns and address them during the planning stage, so when we spoke to the service teams, we were able to explain how the solution would keep their data safe and meet all the legal requirements.”
After consulting with other local authorities and leading IT analysts, Camden conducted a competitive tender process that resulted in the selection and purchase of IBM® InfoSphere® Master Data Management.
With buy-in from all of the key stakeholders, Camden worked with IBM Business Partners SCISYS and Entity Group to develop and deploy the residents’ index. The implementation itself was completed within just three months.
The index contains a tightly controlled set of data on all residents who are known to any of the council’s main services—including housing, schools, parking and adult social care. IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management builds a single trusted view of the resident and their household, enabling authorized staff to confirm key details such as addresses and contact details, and to check which services a particular resident is accessing.
By showing which services are engaged with which residents, the council can provide a better, more joined-up service to them, and make more informed strategic decisions by looking at service usage patterns as a whole.
Achieving more with less
Today, more than 300 personnel across 35 council teams use the index to support their day-to-day activities. To date, the index has served more than 65,000 enquires—enabling the council to unlock cost-efficiencies while driving continuous service improvements.
“End-user adoption of the index was extremely rapid—the organization was quick to embrace it,” recalls Hilary Simpson. “It’s difficult to overestimate the amount of time that the index saves us. One great example is police inquiries for information about our residents, which previously required one council officer to check up to 16 separate data sources. Thanks to the index, a single lookup that took an hour before can now be completed in minutes. We estimate that this automated process alone contributes to annual cost savings of around GBP60,000.”
The resident index is also enabling Camden to improve its ability to identify and protect vulnerable people in the community.
“We have a dedicated team of council representatives from the family services and social work departments who work in close collaboration with the police, health and youth-offending services: the Children’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, or MASH,” continues Hilary Simpson. “The challenge is that in cases where help is most needed, key information may be out of date or incorrect. Thanks to the resident index, we can offer the MASH team the instant visibility they need to capture basic information about potentially vulnerable children in the borough.”
Hilary Simpson continues: “Having a single, accurate source of information about every resident known to the council is enabling us to drive far-reaching improvements in services such as accessible transport—especially for elderly and disabled people, who tend to have difficulty accessing digital services.
“By using the index to perform automated residency and mortality checks, we can ensure that we channel our limited resources to the people who need them most. To date, we estimate that these checks have helped us to make substantial savings by minimizing instances of fraud and erroneous payments. Building a new council property costs on average GBP104,000, so it is essential to ensure that we assign our available housing to the people who need it most. The single view of our residents has already enabled us to identify 23 high-risk cases of illegal subletting. Every property that we return to the council housing stock saves GBP18,000 per year—and if all of the 23 identified properties are discovered to be fraudulently sublet, we could achieve savings of up to GBP414,000.
“Crucially, we can redirect these savings in initiatives to help deliver our services even more effectively to vulnerable people. For example, we now process around 25,000 Freedom Pass renewals automatically by cross-matching data in the resident index—enabling us to offer these services to 78 percent of older and disabled residents without requiring them to complete any paperwork whatsoever.”
With a powerful system of insight driving its decision-making processes, Camden was well-placed to meet the challenges of electoral register reform ahead of the UK general election in May 2015.
Hilary Simpson explains: “Camden has a transient population, which means that it is not possible to automatically validate many of our residents on the electoral register using data from the Department of Work and Pensions. Following the shift from household to individual registration, only 52 percent of our residents were automatically validated, and we faced the considerable challenge of following up with more than 110,000 people in the borough via post, phone and even face-to-face meetings.
“Thanks to the register, we were able to quickly build a solution that could consolidate and match data from our 16 systems of record to plug the gaps in the register automatically—bringing our number of registered voters up to 82 percent. This time-saving enabled us to accommodate an unprecedented surge in young people registering to vote just 10 days before the election—a major achievement. Today, anyone who registers for any of our services is flagged up automatically to the electoral registration team, enabling us invite them to register to vote and fulfil our objective of engaging residents in the democratic process.”
“Without a solution like the resident index, local authorities depend on data from third parties such as credit-reference agencies to gather information about the current addresses of residents in their boroughs; however, this information is often costly and out-of-date,” concludes Hilary Simpson.
“By contrast, Camden’s resident index is updated daily and is accessible to all the departments that need it—saving around GBP18,000 every year on purchasing third-party data. Austerity is the new normal, and it’s crucial for local authorities to find ways to make limited resources go further. With IBM, we have created a solution to help achieve major cost-savings with a single view of how residents engage with council services.”
London Borough of Camden
Camden contains some of the wealthiest and some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in London, and is one of the UK’s most diverse areas. London Borough of Camden is committed to preserving this diversity while building a more equitable community, where everyone has a chance to succeed and where nobody gets left behind.
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