Tackling social challenges with HMRC

Written by Natalie Thorpe.

A couple of weeks ago, Good Things Foundation was very proud to host an event at the House of Lords where our Chief Exec Helen Milner and Chair Liz Williams talked about how we’re evolving as an organisation and how we’re pulling into focus the work we’re doing on social - as well as digital - inclusion.

I wasn’t able to make the event (and Helen is much more articulate about this than me) but I didn’t need to be there to recognise the reality of what Helen said - I’ve been seeing it in practice for more than two years.

The HMRC Advice and Guidance project, where we fund centres to support people access online HMRC services has been my baby since a pilot version launched back in April 2015.

My colleague Chris blogged about some landmark achievements of the project earlier in the year but what I’ve been thinking about is what a fantastic example the project is of how we think about our work and what a great example it is of what Helen's been talking about.

The fact that the project has been live in one form or another since April 2015, is proof that our new focus on social inclusion is in many ways just a way of framing the impact we've been having in hundreds of UK communities for more than 10 years.

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Online Centres delivering HMRC Advice and Guidance across England.

Tackling social challenges

Stories like those of Louise the single mum who accessed HMRC services that helped her out of poverty, and the amazing work Family Fund who help families under the most difficult circumstance tap into invaluable support - they show that before our Social Inclusion programme, before my job title was Social Inclusion Manager, our work wasn’t just about digital skills, it was about helping people use these skills to reduce exclusion, isolation and inequality.

And since the project has now reached almost 16,000 individuals since the start of delivery, these stories are just a tiny example of the lives being changed, all across England.

I’m also really proud of how good an example the project is of our collaboration with the Online Centres Network - collaborative being one of the core values of the Good Things Foundation team.

How we’re addressing social exclusion

Working with the centres delivering HMRC Advice and Guidance, we’ve redeveloped our suite of consumer-facing marketing - the leaflets and posters that actually let people know the help their local Online Centre provides - to include materials in 5 community languages, as well as English.

Inevitably, the people who need the most support accessing services face multiple barriers, and for many people that means not speaking English as a first language. These materials go a long way in making sure everyone knows just how much support is out there for them.

In that spirit, and again guided by those delivering on the ground, we were also very pleased to develop an infographic that more clearly illustrates the breadth of services that HMRC provides and that our centres can help people access.

If you say, ‘help with HMRC services’ to many people, you may get a blank look but if they see an offer of support to them as an older person or a someone one who’s self-employed, that moment of self-identification leads to a much clearer path to accessing the appropriate support for them.

There’s still another 18 months left on this programme so I’m looking forward to seeing what else we learn, both about the people the project supports and the lives it changes but also about how we can continue learning from our network to make sure we’re reaching those who need it most.

We’ll continue to provide updates throughout the lifetime of the project, so please do visit the HMRC Advice and Guidance page of the website.