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Getting Public Benefits to the People Who Need Them

27 April 2020

It’s common for government programs and grants to have unmet capacity despite attempts to promote effective take-up. BIU has a new guide on using behavioural insights to increase the take-up of programs and services

Increasing the take-up of programs and services.

It’s common for government programs and grants to have unmet capacity despite attempts to promote effective take-up. Around the world, it’s a challenge which can end up costing the community and being a poor return on investment.

Policy makers designing programs want strong take-up but, for example, a 2011 analysis of major US social assistance programs estimated that up to two-thirds of eligible families do not participate. 

Now, more than ever, it’s critical to explore behavioural strategies to engage citizens. 

BIU has a new guide on using behavioural insights to increase the take-up of programs and services. It covers four key strategies: 

  1.  Change the default to automatically enrol people into beneficial programs and services, with the choice to opt out
  2. Reduce hassle for customers by cutting steps, pre-filling information, and providing easy instructions
  3. Personalise the invitation by telling people why the offer is tailored to their needs and what the benefits are
  4. Support follow-through by encouraging participants to plan when, where and how they will participate, and sending reminders to attend 

As with all behavioural insights interventions, we recommend testing their impact in your unique context to ensure they have the desired effect. This is easy with our guide on How to test whether your behaviour change intervention works.

SafeWork NSW were early adopters of BIU’s ‘Do it Yourself’ guides. Their case study below should give confidence to other government teams that they can design and test their own behavioural insights too! 

Using BI to improve take-up of the Mentally Healthy Workplaces program – by SafeWork NSW

In late 2019, the Mentally Healthy Workplaces (MHW) team from SafeWork NSW wanted to increase take-up of our free mental health programs by NSW businesses. We designed and tested improvements to our Mental Health at Work eNews which is sent to 1,800 subscribers. 

Using BIU’s Testing Guide, we experimented with different email subject lines. We also used BIU’s Program and Service Take-up Guide to make the following improvements to the body of the email:

  • Reduce hassle for customers by shortening the newsletter and simplifying the content;
  • Highlight the customer benefits of each service showcased in the newsletter; and
  • Provide easy instructions at the top of the email to encourage recipients to sign up to mental health training.

We did not find a statistically significant difference in open rates or click-throughs when we compared different email subject lines. This finding was unexpected and reinforced how important it is to test behavioural interventions because what works in one context might not work in another. The MHW team plans to keep applying behavioural insights strategies to the Mental Health at Work website and measuring the impact on customer engagement.

BIU’s guide is available to download and we are running online workshops for NSW public servants. 

 Want more resources on increasing take-up of programs and services?

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