Giving users more consistent services during the cost of living crisis

After the workshop that aimed to make content about services and benefits more consistent and easier to navigate, our Head of User-Centred Design, Jo Goodwin, talks about what comes next

7 December 2022

We ran the workshop with Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA). Seventy-three people attended. They were from local authorities, Welsh Government and representatives from Citizens Advice across Wales. 

In the breakout groups, we shared a lot of experiences and knowledge. This allowed us to start tackling the most important problems. 


We were clear that we need to end the day with actions and outcomes. Here’s what we agreed to do: 

1. To use the official names given by Welsh Government for all benefits and services 

All local authorities will use the official names given by Welsh Government for benefits and services. This will be clearer and more consistent for users. 

This is especially true to help users understand national campaigns and contact other organisations, such as Citizens Advice.  

The page names do not need to reflect the official names for grants. However, where the grant is named, there should be consistency.  

For example: 

Get help with your energy bills 

The Welsh Government has more support to help towards paying your energy bills.  

Eligible households can claim a one-off £200 cash payment from their local authority. This is called the Wales Fuel Support Scheme 

2. Local government and Welsh Government will work closely together to co-design new benefits or service information  

This will mean that new benefits or services, which are delivered by local government, will be better aligned with information and campaigns that are available nationally.  

This will allow more time for officers within local authorities to prepare their online content, ready for when new benefits or schemes go live.  

3. We and WLGA will continue to work with local authorities on content and research 

We will do this to make it clear to users if they are eligible to receive certain benefits and services.  

The mantra “do it once, do it properly” was mentioned during the workshop. Some people highlighted that officers work in silos within their local authorities and that they face similar challenges and decisions to those in other local authorities. 

Problems to revisit 

There were problems highlighted during the day which were too large or complex for the workshop. 

1. Bad online experiences 

People have bad experiences accessing local authority services online. Phoning or booking a face-to-face appointment is often a better experience. 

Many local authorities shared this challenge.  

We know from user research that 9 out of 10 people struggle to complete a service online. They often need to phone or visit their council to apply for, or report something. This is mostly because the service is designed in a complex way and it’s too hard for users to complete these tasks online. 

2. People don’t know what support is available to them 

Our research has also shown that some people and families in Wales have struggled for months to access all the support available to them. This is because they don’t know what benefits and services are available.  

If a person is struggling or seeking help, they would have to find and understand if they’re eligible for each benefit or service individually and then apply separately for each using a long and complicated online form.  

“People shouldn’t have to read pages of information before knowing if a service is for them. Often, they feel it isn’t worth their time, and when they have read all the detail, they are likely to be more, not less confused”  

Workshop participant

With the cost of living crisis having a significant impact on council budgets, we need to urgently consider the challenges that people face accessing services online.  

3. Local authorities have a safeguarding duty 

Local government officers all agreed that local authorities have a safeguarding duty to endorse local, community or third-party schemes to protect their residents.  

Some officers felt that local authorities should only share, publish and support the benefits and services that they managed and delivered themselves. 

Others felt the councils should be more proactive and support people by sharing and signposting other services that may help them.  

There was a robust discussion about balancing the need for information to help people without overwhelming them with too much information. 

After some break-out groups and further discussions, we agreed that local authorities have a role in sharing all the information that may help people. The reasons for this are: 

If you would like to see more detail about the sessions and order of the day, please view the cost of living workshop slide deck

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