We are living in the age of information with millennials being the most informed generation there has ever been. Our appetite for information knows no bounds and a right to know attitude resulted in The Freedom of Information Act coming into effect to promote transparency and accountability throughout the public sector.
In a nutshell, the Act provides public access to information held by public authorities, but, as council staff know, this is a double edged sword when it comes to actually sourcing and issuing the requested information.
Currently when a freedom of information request is received, a response must be provided within twenty working days. A standard information request for a claim team will usually centre on the costs of insurance pay-outs or budgets. The claims team will then diligently sift through years of files to find and collate the data. More recently, freedom of information requests have become a little more unusual; everything from the cost of biscuits to post-apocalypse action plans have been requested from Councils. This trend seems to started back in 2011 when a local, requested information from Leicester City Council on their plans to combat a zombie invasion. The staff took it all in good jest and issued a report stating that the council had no such plans. If Leicester City Council has to gather all this data through manual systems such as spreadsheets or on paper, how much time did this take?
With a heavy workload, the insurance claims team will have a difficult time trying to squeeze in time to gather additional data relevant to the information request. In our market research on County Councils in the UK, the vast majority claimed that time spent on information gathering and report building was the biggest drain on their time. Currently Councils do not charge for freedom of information requests if time spent on each case is under eighteen hours. This seems reasonable until you start tallying up the real costs involved. In 2010, University College London (UCL) did a study to find the financial leakage involved, they found that nearly 197,773 freedom of information requests were made costing on average of £159.80 each. This totalled up to £31.6 million in government spending with the report identifying work hours a big contributor to this this figure. Unfortunately there has been no follow up studies since, but councils have reported a sharp rise in the more ‘unusual’ information requests.
Obviously, FOI is incredibly important in combating fraud and creates transparency but there are definitely savings that could be spent on education, social care and increasing jobs. Councils could easily half their overall financial leakage with an efficient system. Our own EvoClaim software archives information and can build a custom report in minutes reducing the work hours drastically. This will reduce insurance premiums as it will demonstrate to insurers that the council is able manage claims effectively and in line with regulatory compliance.
If reporting is taking too much time your current system, get in touch with our team for a consultation on what the best options are for you. Contact us on 0333 010 7999 or email email@example.com.