A UK financial advice organisation funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a ‘benefits calculator’ in partnership with a fintech company.
The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) is promoting the tool help people find out which of up to 45 state benefits, grants and ‘social tariffs’ – discounted broadband and mobile-phone rates for people on Universal Credit (social security payment) and other benefits – they could be entitled to.
The benefits calculator has been launched in partnership with Scotland-based Inbest and embedded into the arms-length body’s ‘MoneyHelper’ website – the first time that MaPS has embedded such a tool into MoneyHelper services. Users are able perform a quick search using their basic information, with results delivered in ‘less than a minute’. The calculator then invites them to fill in a more detailed search to confirm what they might be eligible to claim. MoneyHelper previously signposted people to external benefits calculators.
The newly embedded tool is part of the ‘MoneyHelper Cost of Living Campaign’, which launched in January to raise awareness of free help available for people affected by the rising cost of living. The campaign is promoting the results of a MaPS survey of 2,180 UK adults that found that one in five people were borrowing money to pay for food and other essential bills – with half doing so for the first time.
There could be billions of pounds in unclaimed state benefits across the UK, according to figures published last year by Entitledto, an organisation that itself provides benefits calculators to allow individuals and organisations to determine what entitlements are available from national and local government.
Helping people with their finances
MaPS launched in January 2019, combining the UK’s Money Advice Service, Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise. The decision to merge the organisations was announced in March 2016 by HM Treasury. MaPS announced in March 2021 that it would be consolidating the three pre-existing brands into a single brand, MoneyHelper.
In 2020 the organisation launched the ‘UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing’, a ten-year plan to help achieve a vision of ‘everyone making the most of their money and pensions’.
“The most common reasons why so much goes unclaimed in benefits is that people are unaware of what they’re entitled to or assume that they aren’t eligible,” said Money and Pensions Service senior policy and propositions manager Michael Royce. “We look forward to working closely with Inbest and hope that making their benefits calculator available through our MoneyHelper website helps millions of households who are currently missing out to maximise their income.”
“We are looking forward to working with MaPS and contributing to the delivery of the UK’s Strategy for Financial Wellbeing by helping people access the benefits, grants and social tariffs they are eligible for,” said Inbest’s founder and chief executive Manu Peleteiro. “In terms of impact, our benefits calculator typically helps seven out of 10 customers identify additional income of £5,000 [about $6,000] per year on average – adding MoneyHelper reach to this can have a tremendous impact.”
Inbest is providing its four-question entitlements estimator and full Inbest calculator in a ‘white label’ format free-of-charge to MaPS (a white-label product is a product or service produced by one organisation that different organisations can customise the marketing for).
“In the future, we will consider whether a more integrated model within MoneyHelper is needed. A full open market tender will be undertaken if required,” Royce told Global Government Fintech.
MaPS’ fintech engagement
This is the first time that MaPS has worked with Inbest although the organisation has a history of working with fintech providers and platforms.
For example, linked to the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing, MaPS is engaging with fintech-based solutions through its funding of Nest Insight – a ‘public-benefit’ research and innovation centre in London – to test ‘workplace savings interventions’ (ways to help workers with financial matters). These include Wagestream, Salary Finance and Cushon. Inbest itself also works with Wagestream (its benefits calculator is embedded in Wagestream’s app).
MaPS has also signed the ‘2025 Fintech Pledge’, an industry-led campaign to ‘drive 10 million actions that improve consumers’ financial resilience by 2025.’ The campaign states that it will measure this through the number of actions consumers take each month that are ‘proven to positively build their financial resilience’.
Beyond its DWP link, MaPS also engages with HM Treasury on policy matters relating to financial capability and debt advice. It organises an annual initiative called ‘Talk Money Week’, which will this year take place from 6-10 November.
‘Q&A’ WITH INBEST’S FOUNDER/CHIEF EXECUTIVE
Global Government Fintech: Tell us about Inbest…
Manu Peleteiro: “We are a two-strong company founded in 2015 as a software and data analytics consultancy. Initially we focused on building market and credit risk models for retail banks, insurance companies and asset managers in Scotland. But we have also undertaken pro bono or heavily discounted consultancy for credit unions, community banks and welfare advisers in Scotland. As part of these conversations, they highlighted how hard it was to calculate the entitlement to welfare benefits, especially Scottish devolved benefits. We built an initial prototype for them, and what was initially a side-project became our core business. We exited the consultancy business in February 2020 and have been fully focused on the benefits calculator since then. We now work with more than 60 organisations in the public, private and third (charity) sectors, including Advice Direct Scotland (a welfare adviser funded by the Scottish government).”
Global Government Fintech: How is your partnership with MaPS going?
Manu Peleteiro: “We have been working since November with a team of MaPS’ benefits experts, product managers and designers, and they have provided invaluable feedback and insights on application design, user experience and accessibility; and also translating the benefits calculator into Welsh.”
Global Government Fintech: What about the MoneyHelper benefits calculator?
Manu Peleteiro: “MoneyHelper is one of the UK’s biggest financial portals in the UK and MaPS have placed a link to the benefits calculator as a ‘hot topic’ on their landing page. Since it launched (16 February) it is already our most-used calculator. But we believe that we are still scratching the surface.”
Global Government Fintech: Do you believe your MaPS collaboration to date offers any lessons for collaboration between fintech companies and government agencies?
Manu Peleteiro: “Absolutely. Firstly, I think it’s important for anyone seeking to provide services to a government agency to build relationships early on and keep them updated on your progress. In our case, we have been speaking with MaPS and updating them on our projects since 2018. Secondly, potential suppliers need to be patient and understand that the company and product have to be mature enough to be able to work with a government agency. Finally, try to focus on a solution with the path of least resistance to facilitate a speedy delivery and gain traction with internal stakeholders. It is important that both parties are practical and flexible, and work with a collaborative feedback loop.”
INTERESTED IN GOVERNMENT FINTECH INNOVATION?
The Global Government Fintech Lab 2023 will be held in Dublin on Thursday 18 May 2023. The Lab, our one-day event for senior public servants interested in exploring and implementing fintech solutions, is being organised in partnership with Ireland’s Department of Finance. The event, which is free to attend for all public servants, will feature keynote speeches, panels and breakout sessions focused on fintech-related opportunities and challenges for those working in central government, agencies and other public authorities.