Using flexible modern technology to support residents and prevent homelessness.
Like all local authorities, Hackney Council's Benefits and Housing Needs service is under pressure to deal with the growing demand for housing, with added complications caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hackney wanted to create an accessible service, underpinned by flexible modern technology, to reduce friction between staff and legacy systems. This would enable them to better manage demand, giving staff more capacity to go above their statutory duty to prevent homelessness.
Over 12 months our team delivered a suite of products to support changes in working practices at Hackney, building on work already underway at the council.
We began with research to understand the needs and current experience of staff and residents. We then created a vision of what the future service could look like, with residents becoming active participants in their journey towards finding a home, staff being able to tailor support to each individual situation, and services across the council becoming more joined up.
Working towards this vision, we built new digital tools for the service using serverless architectures and APIs.
- Single view - to gather resident data and case notes from multiple systems and present it in one place
- SMS tool - to enable staff to send SMS messages from their desktop to resident’s mobile phones
- Shared plan - a plan of action setting out tailored support for each resident, helping officers from different services to work together
- Waiting time tool - creating an accurate picture of likely housing options based on an individual's circumstances, giving residents an expected waiting time for social housing
- Snapshot - a way of capturing information on the vulnerabilities and strengths of residents, such as their financial stability and physical and mental health
- Evidence store - providing residents and staff with a simple, fast way of requesting, sharing and managing evidence documents
Thanks to this programme of work, Hackney is more able to support its residents and prevent homelessness.
The tools we built have had a range of significant benefits, including improving communication between staff and residents, giving staff an accurate picture of each individual's situation, and saving thousands of hours of staff time. This has helped Hackney meet the needs of individuals in the most effective ways, as well as generating higher levels of resident engagement, empowering them to take ownership of their situation.
The culture and new working practices we helped implement such as agile and working in the open have been embraced at Hackney, with the service team continuing fortnightly show and tell sessions as a way to manage change. With this new approach, the council's 170+ staff are key contributors to building the kind of housing service they want to see.
In addition to improving the experience for residents and staff, this work is forecast to deliver benefits of £1.5 million over the next three years across the Benefits and Housing Needs Service.