Headlines: February 18th, 2010

Central Bedfordshire and Luton is the first of 13 Total Place pilot projects to publish its findings. The report has more than 50 proposals to cut crime and improve the welfare benefits system. The project has also paved the way for future profitable collaboration between public services including local councils, central government and voluntary organisations.

The report proposes a new way of dealing with prolific offenders that could greatly cut crime and the costs of crime. Research revealed that a quarter of the offences in the area is committed by a very small group of some 250 persistent offenders. The activities of this group cost the taxpayer as much as £112 million a year in total, which equates to £44,000 for each person.

Research into the benefits system showed that it is complex and expensive. There are over 50 benefits and the majority are complicated, require lengthy calculations and often overlap. Each has its own form, its own rules and its own costly administrative machinery. The project team found that customers are baffled, frustrated and often unaware of the benefits they might be entitled to.

This complexity consumes the resources of a vast array of other agencies including nearly a third of Citizens Advice Bureau time which is spent helping people understand and claim their entitlements.

The report recommends a simple, customer focused self-service process available across all customer access channels. It is planned to introduce a triage service to provide rapid access to expert help and advice whenever needed and bringing together the disparate agencies currently providing these services. It is estimated that these changes to the benefits system will result in a saving of 40 per cent in administrative costs.

Although the report findings are based on the local situation, there are prolific offenders in all parts of the country and the benefits system is standard across the UK. This report and the remaining 12 that are yet to be published, have been sent to departments across Whitehall so that action can be taken nationwide to improve services and cut costs.