The Income Maximisation Strategy
at the London Borough of Barnet

*This article was authored by Allan Clark and Darren Smith from the London Borough of Barnet and originally appeared in the March 2024 edition of the IRRV newsletter. We’re sharing it with their permission to highlight how local authorities use our benefits calculator as a core element of their benefits take-up campaigns. We’ve highlighted some areas to the interest of our website visitors. Over to Allan and Darren…

The Income Maximisation Strategy at the London Borough of Barnet

This past year, we have embarked on a transformative project to redefine how we identify and provide financial support to our residents. Central to our mission of ensuring financial stability and resilience within our community has been our income maximisation strategy.

Our mission involves a complex balancing act: improving the financial well-being of our residents, while maintaining the economic stability of our council. As a Local Authority, we play a crucial role in administering benefits, emergency financial support and grants, and welfare services. It’s our duty to help Barnet residents maximise their income and improve their financial well-being and resilience. However, we also need to ensure the financial stability of our council and meet our fiduciary duty to maximise Council Tax Collections – this is especially important given the current challenging times for Local Authorities across the country.

Our income maximisation strategy has been instrumental in achieving our mission, positively impacting our residents’ financial resilience and the council’s overall financial position.

What we’ve done so far

At the heart of our income maximisation strategy is the launch of our financial calculator. This tool is a comprehensive, all-in-one support portal, offering access to national benefits, social tariffs, retrofitting grants, and local grants. We’ve ensured this calculator is easily accessible on our website and have integrated it into our existing processes for assessing hardship grants and providing debt advice. This not only helps our residents to find out the benefits they are entitled to but also streamlines our advice processes saving valuable administrative time.

"At the heart of our income maximisation strategy is the launch of [Inbest] financial calculator. This tool is a comprehensive, all-in-one support portal, offering access to national benefits, social tariffs, retrofitting grants, and local grants."

Alongside this, we’ve launched targeted communication campaigns, encouraging our residents to check their benefits and discounts. We’ve also extensively engaged with the wider support community in Barnet, ensuring that income maximisation exercises are included in all interactions they have with residents. This collaboration includes working with Barnet Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK Barnet, Barnet Homes and Boost, an employment, benefit advice, skills and wellbeing service.

Impact on our residents

Since March over 7,500 residents have completed our financial calculator. On average, residents have found they could receive £8,067 per year in additional income and discounts, £13,420 per year for our more vulnerable residents, or those with a disabled family member, and as much as £15,315 for households with additional caring responsibilities. This means potential additional income of £7.1m per year to our residents and local economy.

The following graphs present detailed analysis of the additional benefits among our residents. These graphs offer insightful data on the extent of unclaimed financial support, highlighting the major impact that benefits take-up campaigns can have on our residents.

Following the launch of Barnet’s financial calculator, we carried out regression testing on people in receipt of Universal Credit since January 2022 to produce a forecast on likely take-up. Whilst Universal Credit migration will ultimately play a part, the below chart is evidence of a near 400% increase in people on Universal Credit, when we compare our forecasted increase against actual increase.

Impact on our Council

Our income maximisation strategy also offers significant benefits to our council. The primary benefit is the prevention of financial hardship among our residents. This proactive approach is not only more cost-effective compared to dealing with the consequences of hardship, but it also enables us to allocate our funds more efficiently to families more in need, and residents who are overlooked by mainstream support.

Another significant benefit of our strategy is the reduction in Council Tax arrears. Following a successful Vulnerability and Propensity to Pay exercise, a £1.2m reduction in Council Tax arrears over a 4-month period was achieved across households involved. This decrease in arrears results in both, higher Council Tax income and savings on service delivery costs. Finally, by helping residents to access their benefits and discounts, we boost their spending power. This increase in spending, in turn, stimulates local businesses and services, thereby supporting the local economy as a whole.

Lessons learned

We’ve learnt many valuable lessons on this journey. A key learning is the importance of engaging with the wider support community to maximise the reach of our financial calculator. The main challenge that we face is that people don’t check their benefits because they are unaware of the benefits they are entitled to or assume that they are not eligible. Therefore, it’s crucial to promote benefit checks through the services they regularly use.

Another lesson is the need to broaden our focus beyond national benefits to include the wider welfare support landscape. For instance, the uptake rate for discounts like social tariffs is surprisingly low, sometimes as little as 3%. To tackle this, we’ve found that delivering personalised take-up campaigns to specific segments of residents likely to be eligible for this support significantly increases the likelihood of residents acting. For example, collaborating with Affinity Water on their Low-Income Water tariff.

Additionally, we regularly receive feedback from residents and stakeholders, which inspires a continuous flow of improvements and new ideas. To make the most of these ideas, we’ve set up continuous improvement processes with our software partners that help us quickly introduce and validate new features. To measure the success of these features we focus on key performance indicators, such as the number of completed calculations, the total benefits identified, or the number of hardship grant applications. Our software partners’ Ascendant and Inbest’s ability to deliver fast is crucial, allowing us to rapidly deploy and evaluate new initiatives within days or even hours.

"Our software partners’ Ascendant and Inbest’s ability to deliver fast is crucial, allowing us to rapidly deploy and evaluate new initiatives within days or even hours."

Finally, a robust data analytics platform has proven to be a key asset in our benefits take-up strategy. This platform allows us to understand in real-time how residents engage with each of our delivery channels and partners, assess the impact of different benefits take-up campaigns, and monitor the results of the improvements we’re making. Crucially, it also enables us to evaluate the overall impact we’re having on our residents’ financial well-being and share these results with relevant stakeholders.

What is next​

We are pleased to announce that we have now also launched our affiliated partnership with the Money and Pensions Services ‘Money Adviser Network’. This valuable triage service ensures debt advice can be provided to Barnet residents through dedicated debt specialists. Residents can choose from three convenient options; instant access to a digital debt advice tool, the option of receiving an instant call back, or request a scheduled call back at a time convenient to them.

We’ve also partnered with Affinity Water to promote the low-income water tariff through our financial calculator, helping eligible Barnet residents access the reduction. This collaboration has opened up broader opportunities to enhance and simplify processes, with various options being explored.

Helping our residents determine potential financial support, and providing vital debt advice underpins our commitment to improving their financial resilience. We are convinced that there is much more we can achieve, and we’re just scratching the surface of what is possible. We’re exploring ways to use administrative data to deliver targeted and personalised benefits take-up campaigns, tailored to the unique needs of each resident.

Additionally, we’re working on building integrated end-to-end journeys that connect our residents with the local support scheme and services they need. These journeys will offer our residents a seamless online experience where they can easily apply for the support they’re eligible for. Moreover, this integrated journey will guide them to the organisations that can provide further assistance. This integration represents a step towards a more streamlined, user-friendly process, ensuring that our residents have easy access to the full range of support available to them.


We take great pride in recently receiving national recognition for our efforts, winning the 2023 Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation Performance Award – Excellence in Innovation (In the fight against poverty), and being Highly Commended in Excellence in Partnership Working (in community involvement and debt resolution). This prestigious recognition underpins our dedication to helping our residents achieve financial stability and resilience. We are truly honoured to be recognised for our innovative approach to financial resilience for our residents, which has helped thousands access the financial support they need. We believe that financial stability is the cornerstone of a thriving community.

We remain committed to continuously finding new and innovative ways to support our residents. We firmly believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive, and we will continue to work hard to make that a reality for each and every Barnet resident.