Challenge

The UK has a housing crisis, meaning there’s a serious lack of affordable housing. In Coventry homelessness is a real risk for many people, and is a complex concern that could worsen with complications from the pandemic.

One of Coventry City Council’s goals is to prevent homelessness in their communities and reduce the number of residents living in temporary accommodation. We supported the council to recognise ways they can work more closely with their partners in a coordinated way to prevent homelessness and find suitable and affordable permanent accommodation for residents.

Approach

We prioritised two challenges that the council wanted to resolve by putting residents at the centre of the service. The first was advice and self-service, where we focused on residents that were unable to locate quality advice, aiming to provide self-service tools to resolve their own situations. The second was helping residents with complex needs, as they can often fall in the gaps between services. Working with the digital transformation and housing and homelessness teams we created, developed and prototyped six solutions:

Advice and self serve

We created three prototypes that would help make sure residents at risk of homelessness could approach the council early and are able to resolve their own situations.

Let’s rent Coventry scheme

Coventry wants to increase the number of landlords offering residents private rented properties through their ‘Let’s Rent Coventry’ scheme. The current process for landlords to apply to be part of the scheme was arduous .

Providing landlords in Coventry with clear information and an easy route to apply to the Let’s Rent Coventry scheme made sure more landlords are aware of the scheme and encouraged an increase in applications. We designed new content and looked at the back-office process and service to design digital forms so that landlords can apply more easily.

Housing options quiz & video

To manage residents' expectations by delivering important messages and information in engaging ways we tested two ways to set expectations, which can be viewed before contacting the council or during the first contact. With residents coming in for an assessment, we introduced the quiz & video, these are now being sent to every resident as part of their booking confirmation for their assessment meeting.

Given the difficulty of getting social housing, I shouldn’t take away a home from someone who needs it more. This helped me make the decision to find my own accommodation.

Coventry Resident

User-centred web content

The information, advice and guidance on Coventry’s Homelessness web pages hadn’t been updated since 2018, the council had already written new content when we joined the project. The live copy contained a lot of jargon and was out of date, which resulted in people phoning to get the right up-to-date information.

We continued to craft the content that was designed around the needs of residents and the life events that they may be going through. The website is now built around how residents use the service, with clear content without jargon, consistent contact information on every page (if that is what the user needs after reviewing the information) and a clear button to register for the service and Feedback link for pages.

11 prompts on yellow buttons show different queries a resident may have when contacting the housing service.

Complex cases

To ​​support residents with multiple and complex needs we prototyped three ideas:

Move On Officer

Residents have little support to find settled accommodation or support to maintain a tenancy once they move into temporary accommodation (TA). We wanted to test a new "Move On Officer" role that will carry a TA caseload and maintain regular contact with households, building a plan for moving to settled accommodation.

5 images on blue background show the journey a Move On Officer would take a resident through to find accomodation.

Officers will continue to work with these residents to make sure they can sustain their tenancy. The business case for the role is agreed and Coventry is now implementing this new role in the housing and homelessness team.

Conversational assessment

Staff face challenges maintaining contact and engagement with residents because it’s often expected people with complex situations can fit within linear processes.

We tested different types of tools that support officers to have an informal, conversational assessment with residents. During the testing, we also realised how what we were trying to achieve was more about the behaviours and ways of doing the assessment more than the forms they were using themselves. We decided to pivot and test principles, training and workshop ideas to shift the assessment focus into how to best deliver the assessment for residents, and how to empower the whole team in feeling comfortable in delivering a flexible, transparent and empathetic service.

Teams built around people

Within Coventry, good practice multi agency working already exists, especially at the Vulnerable People Forum and their case teams, but it’s not formalised or streamlined. Each team is built around what residents need support with and they meet monthly at the forum to discuss the cases. These can include council services, partner agencies and voluntary & community sector staff.

We developed and tested a new forum meeting structure and tools to support collaborative working and promote greater efficiency and accountability.

We ask staff to test new tools to facilitate the case discussions at the forum and we engaged with forum participants to iterate on those. We also tested with different ongoing cases teams, introducing tools, such as a simple, digital shared plan to track actions, for them to use at their “case conference” to share information and make a plan of action at crucial points in a resident’s journey.

Impact

Coventry is passionate about continuously improving how things work for both the housing service and digital transformation department as they get residents into safe and lasting homes. They’re now beginning to implement and continue to test a number of the prototypes we designed together as they improve lives for citizens in the city.

Get in touch

We’re always happy to answer any questions you have about FutureGov and discuss how we can work together.

Contact us