Creating a Unified Approach for Maximum Impact

August 29, 2023

Outdated Welfare System is Costing Millions and Leaving Those Most in Need Without the Help They Need
  • “Fragmented, outdated and siloed” services in need of urgent modernisation
  • Millions of pounds could be saved to drive more social impact by enabling “no wrong door” for millions of people 
  • Scores of business and academic leaders brought together to change services
  • Fragmented services brought under one roof for easy access for people
  • Social Enterprise calling for a new era in how the UK should provide for those most in need and establish a new cross-sector Impact Council to co-design the solutions. 

We Are Digital (WAD), the UK’s only Wel-Tech business that helps people in need connect with local welfare services with a one-stop-shop platform, is calling on the government and big businesses to tear up the “fragmented, outdated and siloed” models that hinder the very people it was designed for.

They have recently created an “Impact Council” to create a new model for the sector that includes more than 40+ senior executives, thought leaders, and academics from a wide variety of businesses and sectors, including Health Providers, Third Sector Practitioners, Financial Service Providers, Internet Providers, large Housing Associations and Local and Central Government.

It is Chaired by Mark Thompson, a Professor in Digital Economy at the Exeter Business School, and supported by Leigh Smyth, who helped establish the Digital Poverty Alliance and Community Board.

At present, if someone seeks debt advice, housing assistance, or wants to learn online skills, there are a myriad of choices, and they may have to make dozens of calls and have several appointments over many months to get the right help. This disjointed experience leaves millions of individuals still requiring support as they are guided through a maze of disconnected paths, and some of the solutions rely on having the digital skills they are looking to gain.

We Are Digital, through its Community Partner Network that covers all of the UK, said the person in need should have one contact source so they can immediately get the help they need from the thousands of locations and methods of support, rather than having to make lots of phone calls to different people and departments. This also allows councils and providers to save millions which can then increase the capacity of the services to reach more people.

We Are Digital recently received $6.6 million in funding from Europe’s biggest social impact fund to help deliver this service. 

Matthew Adam is the Founder and CEO of WAD, which already works in a variety of ways with the Central Government, Local Government, Home Office, large Housing Associations and Corporate businesses, including Lloyds Banking Group and Vodafone, to help people live a more confident life.

Typical support includes developing new skills to gain employment, improving financial awareness, completing government forms, and receiving advice about grants or the cost of living crisis.

He said: “This is not something that everyone wants to hear, but the system designed to help people in need is itself in need of critical help, and that means modernisation and disruption.

“The lack of a joined-up service means that not only are people losing out, but this outdated and siloed system is costing millions of pounds more than it should. The system is fragmented, but it can be saved if everyone is committed to it.”

Mark Thompson said: “This is not a comfortable conversation to have, but it needs to be had, and we have to design it together. The Impact Council is for exactly this reason. Those in need are not being supported in the way anyone would like. The We Are Digital model has shown that millions of pounds can be saved at the same time as driving better outcomes for those most in need, but it does require the support of those that want to change the status quo.

The We Are Digital service connects all the dots. Rather than someone having to make several appointments over many weeks and sometimes months to get to the right person, We Are Digital does that immediately by plugging them into the third-sector providers and instantly finding appointments for them, but this should be the same for everyone – and it’s not.”

One Housing Association saved £250,000 a year using the platform, with the value to low income residents and community impact being £40m.

Rather than being pushed around departments and waiting months for appointments, users can access services more quickly, with the company triaging requests, handling bookings, and integrating with the huge nationwide network of local third-sector providers WAD manages.

Users can choose to have a video or phone call, or face-to-face session in a local centre or their home. In one project, We Are Digital helped residents across London access debt advice 80 times faster than the previous service model.

Mr Adam said: “We are positively disrupting a huge problem in welfare, one that hasn’t had much change in decades, and in a way that will benefit everyone. Our vision is for everyone to have easy access to services, support, and welfare advice to help significantly improve financial and digital well-being."

We Are Group