Supporting HMRC customers in a time of need

The events of the last 2 years have pushed digital exclusion firmly into the spotlight. With 2.6 million people in the UK still offline, and almost 15 million with very low digital engagement, there is still a big job to do. Through this period, people have relied on digital technology to access essential services, including those provided by the Government.

Good Things Foundation has partnered with HM Revenue and Customs since 2015 to support HMRC customers who experience barriers in accessing and using services, and need friendly and expert advice and support.

Working with welfare and benefits specialists across our network, we’ve been able to help over 50,000 customers to date. So we were delighted to be awarded further funding for 2021-24 to keep providing this important service.

The community sector plays a vital role in ensuring people with low digital skills and confidence, and sometimes without access to devices and data, can use the services they depend on.

This ‘digital support’ is an often overlooked aspect of the sector’s role, but will be critical as the digital transformation of services continues as we navigate the new ways of life that Covid has brought in its wake.

Good Things Foundation’s model is about building digital inclusion into the grassroots work of community organisations, recognising that digital access, confidence and skills underpin all areas of life and work.

A fundamental strength of this model lies in its holistic approach – people needing help present with a range of barriers, and Online Centres can address these barriers while facilitating access to digital services.

We’re pleased that HMRC recognises the important role of intermediaries in charities and community organisations for customers needing advice and support, and proud that our Online Centres can make the difference for so many people in need.

An example of one of these centres is Family Fund, who support families with disabled or seriously ill children and young people.

“The service continues to be really valuable - there are still a good number of families who have no idea of their additional entitlements with HMRC.”

Alice, Family Fund’s Service Delivery Manager

To help understand the impact of their delivery of HMRC Advice and Support, Family Fund surveyed families accessing the Disabled Child Element of Child Tax Credit between September 2020 and February 2021.

Of the 158 families who completed the survey, 3 in 5 families who went on to receive this benefit were not aware of the benefit prior to receiving advice and support from Family Fund.

“We got a year’s worth of money backdated! It was amazing, I was able to buy beds and furnishings for the kids' bedrooms, pay overdue rent, and afford food shopping. A lot of stress was lifted. Thank you.”

A parent supported by the HMRC Advice and Support programme

HMRC Advice and Support continues to be a vital aspect of the work of Online Centres, helping people in times of need and supporting access to vital public services online.

Good Things Foundation will be evaluating its contribution to the HMRC Advice and Support programme during the three years ahead, to understand who is benefitting, what models of support are being deployed, and how these models change in response to customer needs.

We hope that this insight can help HMRC, and other Government Departments and agencies, continue to develop effective policy that addresses digital exclusion, recognising its link with social inequality; and commission support that reflects the needs and lived experience of those excluded by the digital world.

Find out more about Good Things Foundation’s HMRC Advice and Support programme