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Gloucestershire County Council

Gloucestershire County Council

Gloucestershire County Council

The English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) makes concessionary travel widely available to disabled and older people across England. They can travel for free by bus to any location in the country, greatly extending their mobility and freedom.

In April 2010, the Department for Transport instructed county councils to take over management of the scheme from district councils which presented a new challenge. How could county councils take on this additional work as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible?

For Gloucestershire County Council, the answer was an innovative online solution, underpinned by technology from ACT.

The need to get online

At Gloucestershire County Council, the changes to ENCTS presented a real challenge. “We collated data about concessionary pass holders from six district councils. Then we had to set up and manage a new process for applications and renewals, which included getting the passes issued by an authorised card bureau. This was entirely new to us,” says Philip Williams, Lead Commissioner at Gloucestershire County Council.

Understandably, the council was keen to do this without making it any less convenient for customers - and without incurring huge costs. So Philip and his team decided to explore the possibilities of a self-service, online application system. “ACT’s innovative online application portal puts our customers in control of their concessionary pass applications and saves on administrative costs.”

An innovative, user-friendly solution

Gloucestershire County Council put out to tender for a turnkey system. The system had to allow those elderly people who wanted to, to apply on line, but others to come in for face-to-face assistance. “A lot of applicants would be unfamiliar with computers and the internet and disabled applicants have to apply in person so we can check their eligibility,” confirms Philip. “We wanted these individuals to go to their local library for one-to-one assistance.”

The council wanted an online portal, designed to appear as part of its website, where people could apply for, renew, or replace their passes by filling in their details and uploading a photo. This information would need to be sent to an ENCTS-certified bureau, which would issue the cards.

In the libraries, staff needed to be able to help applicants take their photos. They also needed to be able to scan in documents to support proof of disability or age.

After studying the tender responses, the council shortlisted five companies to pitch. And it was the solution presented by ACT that most impressed Gloucestershire County Council. “Each pitch was assessed by three groups, who represented everyone that would have to use the technology: prospective applicants, librarians and our back office team. The solution that ACT proposed was rated as the most user-friendly by all three groups.”

At the heart of the ACT solution was its CMS (Customer Management System), designed to store and manage applicant data. ACT proposed giving council back office staff direct access to the CMS, so that they could check applicant photos were valid, the right size and met the correct standards before applications were processed. Librarians, meanwhile, would be able to submit applicant photos to the CMS via a webcam, and use a scanner to upload any supporting documents.

The ACT CMS would then link to a fully accredited ITSO ENCTS bureau for the cards to be issued. Philip and his team were very impressed. “ACT aligned to our requirements in the pitch as closely as possible. It was clear that they understood our needs very well.”

A groundbreaking success

ACT had just over three months to get the whole system up and running. “The tight timescale focused everyone,” says Philip. “First of all, ACT had to develop the web portal in line with our specifications from the pitch. At the same time, they migrated 100,000 applicant records to our CMS from the six district councils. This ran very smoothly, and was a huge and impressive effort.”

The ACT solution at a glance

Hosted and fully managed ACT CMS back-office application

A fully accredited ITSO ENCTS bureau to issue and fulfil the passes

Full project management and migration of data from the districts to the County Council system

Online web portal to process concessionary pass applications

ACT ran an initial training course, which the team at the council followed up with internal training of around 100 library staff. “By pulling together, we met the deadline,” confirms Philip. Customers can now apply online or get help at any of 23 libraries.Since the system has been up and running, take-up has been extremely positive. “The web portal is proving very easy for applicants to use. Many people use the computers in our libraries to apply, where there is a web cam and someone on hand to help them if they need it; others apply from home and we have instances of people applying during the night or on bank holidays.

“70% of our online applications are validated automatically and passed through immediately – all we do in the back office is a quick check of the photo. This means customers get their passes in the post usually within 5 days. We’ve also had quite a lot of first-time applications, from people who were eligible before. I like to think this is partly because it’s now easier to apply,” says Philip.

Alan Barrett, Transport Manager, is also pleased with the process for replacement passes. “A lot of people lose their passes. Now, they go online, pay £5, and their replacement is issued straight away. There doesn’t need to be any human involvement so they get their replacement pass really quickly.”

The librarians are also getting on well with the new web portal. “The online portal is easy for our librarians to use, and is bringing many potential new library customers into the libraries,” says Alan.

Of course, the project hasn’t been without its glitches. “Some applicants struggle to adjust the size or brightness of their photos,” explains Alan. “ACT is developing new ways to help applicants to load suitable photos.” Not all applications are validated automatically, so some people applying online must visit a library in person to show original documents.

Most importantly, Alan believes the ACT system is very efficient. “Thanks to the ACT technology, we have issued almost 9,000 passes in 11 months in a way that is convenient to our customers – and with only one additional member of staff working on the process part-time. The online system helps us to manage concessionary travel applications very efficiently.

“ACT has been instrumental in making this ground-breaking project successful. They’re very responsive and extremely hard-working. I’d certainly recommend ACT.”

 

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“70% of our online applications are validated automatically and passed through immediately – all we do in the back office is a quick check of the photo. This means customers get their passes in the post usually within 5 days. We’ve also had quite a lot of first-time applications, from people who were eligible before. I like to think this is partly because it’s now easier to apply.”

Key facts

100,000 applicant records successfully migrated from systems across six district councils in just three months

9,000 applications via the new online system to date

70% of online applications are generated without
the need for any staff involvement in checking eligibility, meeting the council’s target


“Thanks to the ACT technology, we have issued almost 9,000 passes in 11 months in a way convenient to our customers. The online system helps us to manage concessionary travel applications very efficiently.”
“ACT has been instrumental in making this groundbreaking project successful. They’re very responsive and extremely hard-working. I’d certainly recommend ACT.”