Better Public Services Result 10 - Case Study: New Zealand Government Office, Christchurch
A seamless shopfront for Government services - both on-site and online - was the innovative solution for Cantabrians who no longer had permanent places to meet government service staff and solve their issues.
The Christchurch earthquakes had turned numerous government offices to rubble, and two of the most acutely needed government agencies were Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development. People and families needed MSD services such as pensions for seniors, StudyLink for students, Child, Youth and Family social work, and Work and Income benefits. They had similar needs for IR's Child Support, Student Loans and Working for Families Tax Credits.
The two agencies agreed that the public could gain maximum advantage from a single point of contact offering access face-to-face and online services, a joined-up service connecting agency offerings, and customers who were unfamiliar with online services needed a way to learn safely to become comfortable about going online in their own time and place.
At about the same time, the government announced its Better Public Services programme, which included a stated aim (Result 10) that, by 2017, an average of 70 percent of New Zealanders' most common transactions with government will be completed in a digital environment. IR and MSD saw that a single service delivery office could help overcome some well-known barriers for people accessing digital services - such as access to hardware and software; simple awareness that digital services exist; and the privacy of personal information. To solve those issues, the government needs to increase coordination between agencies, focus more on customer needs and customer-centred service design, and manage funding constraints.
The one-stop-shop ticked all the boxes. The New Zealand Government Office opened In Durham Street, Sydenham, in February. Customers are greeted by staff and directed to the right aspect of a growing range of government services. Customer responses have included:
- "Having all the departments under 1 roof is great"
- "Treated with respect, not rushed despite loads of needs"
- "I'm leaving feeling more informed and able to manage the situation"
- "Was seen promptly and was dealt with in a helpful manner, wasn't treated like a number"
- "Reception - smiling, relaxed, confident, interested. Case worker also competent and helpful"
At the Centre, customers get answers quickly to simple questions, book and attend appointments, apply for benefits and assistance, or check tax details. They also complete transactions online via self-service workstations, supported by front of house staff. Those who're unfamiliar with online services get a chance to learn in a safe, supported environment, and become comfortable about going online in their own time & place.