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Half of counties now enable older persons' bus pass applications online reveals Better connected

This finding is part of the latest survey carried out for the programme, headline results of which are available now on the new Better connected website.

Also freely available to all onthe Better connected websiteis the ‘all council’ report on the overall performance of councils tested (English county councils) on the ‘apply for older person’s bus pass’ task.

Better connected uses a team of reviewers to test council websites from a user perspective, seeing how quick and easy it is to carry out a series of the most popular tasks people come to council websites to do. ‘Apply for older person’s bus pass’ is one of twelve tasks to be tested by the Better connected team in 2015/16, with four tasks being assessed for each council type (ie English counties, Scottish, Welsh and English unitaries, London boroughs, metropolitan districts, shire districts and Northern Ireland districts).

Tasks are assessed through a structured questionnaire that test whether they are easy to find, whether essential information is available, and whether there is a coherent customer journey from search engine or home page through to completion. There is also an ‘essential question’ within each question set that must be satisfied before a task can achieve 3 or 4 stars.

Headline results for ‘apply for older person’s bus pass’ show that 48% provide a good or very good online service based on the survey, with 30% achieving four stars for the task, 19% three stars, 33% two stars and 19% one star. Top performing councils were Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey.

Having an online application facility was the essential question for this task, which explains why some sites that scored well otherwise achieved only 2 stars for the task. When the same question about online applications was asked in a Better connected survey two years ago, only eight counties (30%) offered a complete online application, compared with 52% today.

The likelihood of customers applying for free bus passes having mobility issues is a good reason for making online applications available, says the task report, saving trips to council facilities to present documents and all the associated inconvenience. However, when implementing such a facility, care needs to be taken to make it easy to use, given there are eligibility criteria and that submission of photographs is involved.

However, based on the Better connected survey, just having an online application facility is not the whole answer to a usable online service, since at least one of this group scores sufficiently badly on other key criteria to achieve just two stars.

Sites that do not perform well on this task tend to fail on details of presentation and navigation that are set out in the ‘all council’ task report. For example, reviewers noted that the term ‘concessionary travel’ was often used to describe the service when ‘bus pass’ is what most people will be looking for. The naming of the free bus pass also varied, and included terms such as ‘Senior Citizen’s bus pass’, ‘Older person’s bus pass’ and ‘Age-related pass’. Some sites had localised branded offerings such as ‘Gold Card’ and ‘NoW Card’. Occasionally such brand names would find their way into a top level menu without a supporting explanation.

Those seeking best practice can find commentary and links to relevant pages on the best performing sites. Socitm Insight subscribers can see the individual report for their council including reviewer comment on how their website performed on this task.

Results for ten further Better connected task surveys are due out before the end of April. Also coming up are results of Better connected tests on website usability, accessibility and access from mobiles. Once these tests are complete, sites will be ranked overall and be awarded a whole site score ranging from four stars (very good) to one star (very poor).  Best practice will be shared through events in the Learning from Better connected programme, details of which will be announced soon.

Notes for editors

All councils can access headline results from Better connected surveys, but details of individual council reviews are available to Socitm Insightsubscribers only (around 75% of all councils).

Any employee of a Socitm Insightsubscribing council can register for free with Socitm.net and then get access to the detailed results for their council.


Further information

Vicky Sargent, Better connected programme

Email: vicky.sargent@socitm.net         

Tel: 07726 601139