For many years it was considered ‘best practice’ for housing benefits services to be designed with the following features: A front-office where people could be seen or spoken to over the phone, a back-office where claims are processed, a document-image-processor to connect the front- and back-offices and both front- and back-offices worked to service standards.

But studying housing benefits has revealed that these ‘system conditions’ actually drive in high volumes of failure demand; they result in poor-quality service and high costs.

Notwithstanding this evidence, the Audit Commission continued to drive compliance with these wrong-headed ideas about ‘best’. Furthermore, the Audit Commission drove councils to share their benefits back-offices, compounding the problems.
It is a lesson in the costs of compliance with opinion. It is also a lesson in the opinionated being unable to accept knowledge that challenges their prejudices.

‘Best’ is not the best idea.