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Turn2us Connect

A pilot service designed to help people claim Universal Credit during 2019 - 2020.

Turn2us Connect was a pilot service we ran from March 2019 to February 2020. The aim was to give people the practical tips and emotional support they needed to successfully apply for benefits. 

We were able to support almost 200 applicants to successfully apply to benefits. In total, they claimed an additional £103,000 in Universal Credit. 

After evaluating the service, we found that the current model could not scale up to meet the demand of everyone eligible for Universal Credit. We have now ended the service and are looking into alternative models that could support all those who need it. 

Connect project evaluation

Overview of the Connect project

We know that millions of pounds worth of welfare benefits go unclaimed every year, despite one in 5 of the UK population living in poverty. We thought that more people would feel motivated to claim if they had someone to hand to provide practical information and emotional support.

We did this through an SMS-support service, where an individual matched with a trained volunteer after using the Turn2us Benefits Calculator.

To keep the pilot project simple, we only opened it up to Universal Credit applicants. 

The applicant only needed a mobile phone to be able to send and receive text messages, while the volunteer used an app built by Reason Digital, so that no numbers were shared.

In February 2020 we paused the Connect project to evaluate the impact it had on increasing application rates to Universal Credit. 

Successes of Connect

Connect users were more likely to apply for Universal Credit than those who had not been matched with a volunteer

  • 74% of Connect users applied to Universal Credit, compared to 64% of users of the Turn2us Benefits Calculator. 

People appreciated having the same person to talk to throughout

  • The SMS model enabled people to have a consistent point of support throughout the application journey
  • The service users had control over if and when they responded.

The volunteers were a source of emotional support

  • Connect users were experiencing high levels of stress when completing the calculator
  • They were able to get emotional support through the conversation
  • After the conversation, their life satisfaction rates and anxiety levels improved.

The volunteering model encouraged more volunteers with first hand experience

  • Many Connect volunteers had personal experience of applying for benefits and experiencing financial hardship. For them, it was an opportunity to give back and develop their skills.

Listen to a Connect user explain the difference the service made to them

Drawbacks of Connect

The service was very expensive to run

  • The service was high quality, but was very intensive because of the training needed of volunteers and the need for staff to monitor conversations
  • The benefits to users were close to the costs of Turn2us to run the service.

The model was too restricted to meet the demand

  • Between March 2019 and February 2020, only 189 people used the service. However, from the Turn2us Benefits Calculator we know that over 1,300 users a day would have been eligible for the service.
  • We did not have capacity to take on more volunteers and service users.

It became clear that we needed to look for another model which would enable us to scale up. 

Outcomes of the evaluation

The insights highlighted the mental stress people experience when applying for Universal Credit, and the extent that they valued the emotional support.

We assessed alternative options which could provide this support to thousands of people, including existing services such as the Turn2us helpline. 

We decided that we should:

  • Retire the Connect service because it was not able to meet demand
  • More robustly and consistently incorporate emotional support into our existing services
  • Look into the demand for and feasibility of an online group for people applying to Universal Credit.
     

Contact Turn2us for more information

If you would like more information about the Connect project please contact Aisling Buckley at aisling.buckley@turn2us.org.uk

If you would like to collaborate with Turn2us to provide emotional support to people in financial hardship, please contact Sonya Ruparel at sonya.ruparel@turn2us.org.uk

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