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OPINION: Keeping Concessionary Travel Assessment moving forward during Covid-19

Keith R. Lowe, business consultant at IEG4 discusses how flexible digital tools will help local authority Concessionary Travel Assessment services during social distancing, both now and in the future.

In light of Covid-19, one of the biggest challenges faced by local authorities in determining a citizen’s eligibility for a Blue Badge or a Freedom Pass is the inability to have a face-to-face assessment.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 and, therefore the associated element of, social distancing, are here to stay for the foreseeable future.  This means that a citizen who has applied for a Blue Badge, Freedom Pass, or Taxi Card, and needs to attend an appointment for an Expert Assessment, is unable to do so. 

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This becomes frustrating for both the citizen and the issuing local authority and looking at other methods to undertake this process as quickly as possible is therefore in everyone’s best interests. 

The changing face of local government.  

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to support the Concessionary Travel service during Covid-19, there are already a range of digital solutions available that will make assessments possible during social distancing.

We do however need to consider that any provision that is now implemented will create lasting change, and thereby improve the current processes. Transformation is about continual change, and needs versatile, flexible digital tools to deliver over the long term. The crisis has proven that we need to recognise that changing demographics and economic pressures are constantly raising new challenges for public services.

Nobody can accurately predict what their own organisations will face in the future, only that they will have to be inventive in developing new behaviours and solutions. Local authorities and other service organisations will have to reinvent their roles and focus on different outcomes for the public, and many councils are already thinking about how they can achieve this.

How local authorities are planning a safer approach 

The importance of versatility and flexibility of a robust Concessionary Travel solution, was recently discussed with our latest Blue Badge & Concessionary Travel customer site. London Borough of Lewisham’s Concessionary Awards & Pupil Support Team Manager, Claire Pierpoint, stated that, along with other local authorities, Lewisham is evaluating the possibility of asking its citizens to follow the route of videoing themselves, so that an Expert Assessor can review the video against set criteria. This supporting evidence will be used to determine the capabilities of the applicant and whether or not a Blue Badge or Freedom Pass should be issued.  

To assist local authority Concessionary Travel teams, IEG4 has added the functionality to download a MP4 file, up to 20MB. This latest addition can be accessed securely by the applicant, through the self-serve portal element of the Concessionary Travel solution. An example, where simple technology can be used to enhance a citizen’s journey through a difficult process, and again where simple technology can help the local authority to overcome a significant pain point.

Looking to the future

As we emerge from lockdown, the way in which we operate has and will continue to change. The use of transformational technology will be enhanced.  Local authorities, if not all businesses, will demand, are demanding, better, quicker, and responsive technology that will help and support their citizens and businesses beyond the pandemic.

By increasing the functionality to local government platforms we will not only overcome the current challenges, but will also be offering local authorities and citizens a solution that will be very beneficial in the future for applicants who find it difficult to attend an appointment due to their physical or mental disability.

Supporting and responding to needs and implementing the features to resolve challenges should be a priority for local authorities. Responding positively and swiftly with flexible digital tools will continue to highlight and enforce the importance and true worth of digital service transformation.

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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