Swap crisis management to crisis prevention - a case study - TellJO

Received a link to a TellJO wellbeing check? Click here


Swap crisis management to crisis prevention – a case study

Published: Dec 20, 2023


Originally published in 2022.

Historically Chichester District Council focused on crisis management, but with the cost-of-living crisis affecting residents and increasing costs for the council, it became clear crisis prevention would better support residents and be a more effective use of council budget.

How TellJO embedded digital into the Council’s prevention and cost saving strategy

By using TellJO, Chichester District Council were able to achieve specific strategic objectives in transforming crisis management to crisis prevention whilst realising significant benefits:


  • Engage instantly and at scale with all residents demonstrating signs of distress.
  • Engage digitally with vulnerable residents.
  • Help identify and support residents who were choosing between ‘heating or eating’.
  • Provide soft signposting to external support services such as Samaritans and Refuge.
  • Create a unique personalised consent-based vulnerability profile for each resident.
  • Capture resident voice.


  • No wait time or backlog to reach out to vulnerable residents.
  • Residents respond instantly and are much more likely to disclose vulnerability digitally.
  • Chichester District Council matched grants with TellJO’s specific preidentified vulnerabilities, saving Officer time identifying potential customers.
  • Residents can access self-help digitally saving officer time.
  • Saving time, Officers don’t need to do an additional fact find exercise with residents.
  • Officers understand anecdotally how the resident is feeling and can support the resident with their immediate problems.

“TellJO is excellent at catching vulnerable people early on. It feeds vital information to our cross-functional team who can be proactive and work across our departments to help them.”

Marlene Rogers Benefits and Systems Support Manager Chichester District Council.
Marlene Rogers, Chichester District Council’s Benefits and Systems Support Manager used TellJO to move from crisis management to crisis prevention.

Project background

  • Chichester District Council serves a rural population of 124,000.
  • The Council had traditionally worked in a silo approach.
  • TellJO was used to identify vulnerable residents choosing fuel over food.
  • A new multi-disciplinary team now use TellJO to engage and support vulnerable residents.

With a population of around 124,000, Chichester District Council is a large rural district that includes Petworth, Midhurst, and Chichester. The council have faced a higher-than-average growth for England and the Southeast, with an increase of 20.8% in people aged 65 years and over.

How we created a joined-up approach to crisis prevention

Since 2011, the district’s population had grown significantly, with a high proportion of people aged 65 years or older. The Council had a much higher percentage of benefits cases at pension age than the national average; their residents experiencing vulnerability were less likely to be working as they were retired.

Many benefits cases had historical debt and complex issues. Coming out of covid, the benefits team became increasingly concerned how the cost-of-living pressures would affect their growing number of vulnerable residents.

Marlene Rogers, Benefits and Systems Support Manager saw an opportunity create a digital and human hybrid model to maximise the crisis prevention opportunity.

As Marlene Rogers, Chichester District Council’s Benefits and Systems Support Manager explained: “We needed a joined-up approach to prevention. And we faced four significant challenges:

  • Identifying residents who were likely to be most at risk during the cost-of-living crisis.
  • A lack of resource with staff often given more work without any extra help.
  • A silo driven culture. Housing do housing. Recovery do recovery. Benefits do Benefits.
  • Cost. I have already been asked to save 10% of 2023 budget. Everything we do has to provide a greater return.”

How we supported residents during the cost-of-living crisis

With the cost-of-living crisis looming and the Council concerned by a pattern of increasing costs to manage their vulnerable customers, a cross functional team was established to take a proactive approach to changing crisis management to crisis prevention.

Supporting You is a two-year in-house project to help Chichester’s residents with cost-of-living pressures. Supporting You is a five-person team recruited over the Summer of 2022. They launched in November 2022. See the Supporting You page on the council’s website.

The team cover a wide area including advice on finances, household bills, housing, health and wellbeing, plus help for businesses. They take in-bound calls from residents who have seen the Supporting You team promoted on the Council’s homepage, with links that offers residents advice, videos and tips to help with the cost-of-living pressures. They make out-bound calls to residents who have used the TellJO service.

One of TellJO’s tasks was to help get residents into debt advice as early as possible.

During 2022 TellJO identified 1000 Chichester residents with debt issues from council tax arrears data. Of these:

  • 75% requested a new payment arrangement for their Council Tax.
  • 60% received an Outreach call from the Council or TellJO to support the root causes of debt.
  • 57% were choosing between heating and eating.
  • 50% had recently seen their income reduce.
  • 50% were paying persistent debt such as min payment credit card.
  • 47% had an unmanaged overdraft.
  • 40% were in rent arrears.
  • 31% reported that a life event had affected their finances.
  • 27% were using a foodbank.
  • 20% were experiencing hardship with BNPL.

Preventing crisis is a priority

Marlene believes that “If you don’t deal with people at crisis early, then you have a missed opportunity. Homelessness, for example, is very difficult to manage and incredibly expensive.”

TellJO was also used for the energy rebate scheme, with a survey conducted to help identify residents who were choosing between ‘heating or eating’. The council spent £274,000 With an average award of £1,000 so that residents could clear their gas and electricity arrears before moving into the cold winter months.

As Marlene says, “We would not have been able to run our discretionary energy scheme without TellJO. They helped us identify and pay residents who were choosing between ‘heating or eating’. We used the Government energy rebate to help them clear their gas and electricity arrears before the cold winter months. For these people, that kind of money can be life changing.”

Find out how we can help you, to help your customers and achieve your targets.