Saturday, 12 October 2013

Operations File: Benefitting YOU - Use your heads

I’m too good to you lot...

As my friends, former colleagues and fellow collaborators (spies) at Mindwalking so eloquently keep pointing out more delicately than I always do... the answer to our woes (ALL OF THEM) is not only in our own hands but within easy reach too. 
Below are just two examples of designing forms to suit the purpose. You too could try erasing non-essential questions to get to the nuggets of facts that you seek in your place of work. It helps make work easier when one has one point of focus per form or process instead of dozens at a time. All too quickly we can get sidetracked away from the actual purpose of the exercise.

A good example of how muddled forms can get is the DWP's benefit form filling system for unemployment. More commonly the benefit system in the UK is run on the basis of 'are you worthy of help' instead of 'why are you struggling'. The aim of benefit forms should be to find out 

  • If a person needs assistance and in what form
  • How much assistance and in what form.

Below is an example of the sort of form I myself would have preferred to see when I signed on for benefits instead of having the seven step process of initiating, confirming, repeating, meeting, phoning, checking/meeting/signing before release of payment.

Surely there must be a better way of enabling staff to gain information about a client's needs at any initial point of contact, with consent, quickly and un-obstrusively. I don't imagine for a second the table below will be taken up as a serious contender for 'new look' benefit forms; I merely suggest here that perhaps our approach would be better served in financial and ergonomic terms if we got better acquainted with what is of most important to each individual client, because rumour has it... it varies a lot as much as people do in fact.

FIRST Assessment of Health by Tasks performed

1.        When unsure, guess or leave blank, or leave a comment.
2.        Add more detailed comments underneath if the tasks are stressing you out in any way.
3.        You are not required to ask anyone anything on this form you do not understand. So have fun with it!
This is a test of how simple and useful this for is for you.
DOES it work for YOU?

How YOUR time is spent
Time taken
Comments – (optional)
All health appointments (including spa treatments etc)
10 mins
It’s Sunday!
Additional shopping you need for your health only

It’s a day of rest allegedly
Attending work appointments (planning and booking only)

Do behave!
Personal finances (planning and budgeting)

10 mins
I update my own records, I still know how to even if you don’t!
Career development (planning time only)

I want to, even though I’m a PENSIONER!
Career advisor time

Well, provide one then, and I’ll see!
Career home working time (e.g. business planning)

Does this include studying pottery?
Charity and volunteer work time

Looking, but they treat you like slaves and are rude with it
Charity and volunteering travel time (how you get there)

Can’t get to anything as I live in a small town
Meal time (include preparation, shopping etc)

30 mins
I had a curry , sherry trifle and plenty of snacks instead of a roast I can’t afford
Laundry and repairs to clothing time

2 mins
Got my washing in as it looked like rain. Then it didn’t rain as usual!
Complaints, disputes and wasted effort time

10 mins
Wrote a letter to the Guardian, but thought better of it given I worked for GCHQ in WWII
Dealing with those you owe money to time

It’s SUNDAY! They can go swivel anyway.
Household maintenance (decorating and repairs)

As above, I have no funds for such things anyway and my roof is leaking
Incapacitated (unwell) time

Still very poorly. I can’t walk and can’t switch off my brain as the news is so bad.
Personal fundraising time (e.g. Car boot sale)

I want to keep my HIERLOOMS, but that’s a good idea.
Personal fundraising planning time

Well if I sell my stuff it saves it being stolen by thieves of all kinds! Ahem @Gov/banks!
Project budgeting time

Not a clue what you mean unless you mean financial statements. Do behave.
Project doing time

WTF? Perhaps my advisor will help explain this to me she’s a nurse.
Legal matters time

I haven’t done my Will yet, but as for suing everyone, I can’t be bothered at my age
Time spent dozing due to additional sleep needs

I am in my 80s you know!
Travelling and transportation time

Now you’re being silly again, I’m a wheelchair user due to a bomb
Time spent getting annoyed or upset by things or people

Am constantly annoyed that I have to budget to contact family, friends and veterans
Time spent annoyed with IT and technology and forms

Not much, I just ignore it all as much as I possibly can. Done my stint/shift.
New ‘must do tasks’ PLEASE TRY to list them here

I must remember to contact the British Legion in time for Remembrance Day




Anything else that worries or confuses you. Just add your comments below. THANK YOU!
I must say this type of form makes a refreshing change.
Why couldn’t it always have been like this BEFORE I was a pensioner on benefits?
WHEN will I get my money AND support then?

The answer to that last comment should be immediately as the basic rate for this type of vulnerable person, especially if they are a home owner. Anything else could be asked by an advisor, social worker, volunteer (e.g. CAB) or ANY medically trained professional if people were concerned.

It would:
1. Crack down on paperwork
2. Make it more accurate from the outset
3. There would be no duplication of effort
4. Nothing currently covered under Data Protection would need to be recorded unnecessarily
5. People would have greater control over their own privacy
6. People would possibly trust the support services provided a little more
7. Infringements would be clearer to spot
8. Policing and legal system would find it easier to track AND prosecute criminals if anyone lies
9. It would result in it costing us as tax payers less money for essential services
10. Essential services would have more time to function efficiently

Until we screw it all up again that is!

Now I don’t have the answer as to whether or not the Prime Minister is going to take this on board or not, but with an election looming I rather think ALL political parties will, don’t you?

The second example is even simpler appointment cards for all services and... for all types of people in need of help.

   A GP Surgery, Near YOU Street, Regardless of Postcode, UK


              To cancel or book appointments = 1234 567890-1
         Please call 1234 567890-2 for Test Results or concerns

Naturally I've leaned this toward health and care sectors but administration is an essential part of working and social life for things to get processed, one should hardly need to point out how many sectors could benefit from some prudent form-pruning papercrafts! 

Surely the way to start to regain command of emails, notes, agendas and other business administrative essentials all too commonly tied up in hours of frenetic computer activity, is to consolidate and condense to eliminate duplication of effort.