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Cornwall's Benefits Offices Could Become Unmanned

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Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:03am 15th November 2014

Benefits offices in Cornwall could soon be unmanned.

A trial is starting at the One Stop Shop in St Austell.

Queries will be dealt with over the phone or by email rather than in person.

The council says it will help save cash and there will be a review on whether to roll it out.

A spokesperson said: "A review of how the Council provides face to face benefits advice in One Stop Shops has been going on for the last 18 months. Analysis has shown that over 80% of customer contact is to hand in documents however, there is no longer a legal requirement for original documents from those applying for benefits so customers will be asked to post copies to a central address or be directed to a secure post box on site.  Further analysis of the remaining customer contacts has shown that customer enquiries could be managed effectively by the Assessment Contact Centre i.e. via the telephone and, where appropriate, via our website.
 
"A pilot will now be conducted at St Austell One Stop Shop for 4 weeks from 10 November 2014 which will see these new practices implemented and customers in the pilot area have been advised of the changes.
 
"As a result, there will be not be a face to face Assessment staff presence in the pilot venue. Staff have been trained to identify exceptions, such as extreme vulnerability, and also regarding appropriate use of signposting to other organisations to ensure those who need additional help receive it.
 
"Feedback from customers will be monitored and reviewed with a view to considering further rollout across other venues. It is also anticipated that, if successful, this approach will support the wider council requirement of saving £2m over the next 4 years through encouraging customers who are able to use more efficient access channels to our services to do so."

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