A new wellbeing assessment tool has been launched by Chichester District Council for those who are struggling to pay their council tax bills.
Residents whose council tax payments are overdue will receive a text message inviting them to complete a TellJO wellbeing survey.
TellJO is a software platform which helps local authorities identify vulnerable people who could be facing financial difficulties, poor health or other social problems.
The information they provide can help the council understand what is preventing them from being able to pay and identify ways to help them.
From the results, Chichester District Council will be able to see if they need debt or benefit advice. They may even be eligible for discounts or relief they did not know about.
Completion of the assessment is not mandatory, but it will enable the council to identify if someone has rent arrears, is unhappy with their landlord, or if they are struggling with other costs. In turn, the council can support them.
Housing advice and discretionary housing payments are available, and the council is also able to provide additional discretionary council tax support because of Covid-19 to those who qualify.
Councillor Peter Wilding, Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate Services and Revenues and Benefits at Chichester District Council, said: "We know, with rising costs and the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, many people are struggling financially.
"We are committed to providing support for our residents who are facing financial and social difficulties. We are here to help and have a range of support measures that can make a huge difference.
"We can work with residents to resolve issues going forward. We're here to offer help and support, so if you're struggling, please get in touch.
"Residents' wellbeing is at the heart of everything we do, which is why we have introduced the TellJO wellbeing assessment tool.
"It enables us to identify people who may need help at an early stage, and this means we can work with them to resolve issues before they get out of control and extra fees are added to their outstanding debts. TellJO is an additional tool that will enable staff to easily signpost customers to the support they need."
The TellJO system has been a huge success, helping, on average, over 75% of respondents to request new payment arrangements and providing 46% with immediate debt advice. The support provided by the service has enabled UK councils to help residents with a range of complex issues.
Depending on how overdue a council tax bill is, the resident will be sent either a reminder, a final notice, or a summons in the post.
A few days later, the resident will receive a text message from Chichester District Council inviting them to complete the TellJO survey.
To access it, customers click on a link which takes them to the TellJO assessment. If the customer consents, TellJO will pass the information to Chichester District Council.
The TellJO wellbeing survey has been successful across the country in reducing council tax arrears and supporting vulnerable residents. Text messages will start going out at the end of January.