We’ve been working with Hackney Council and MadeTech, collaboratively redesigning their Benefits and Housing Needs. We’re inviting you to follow our work through shared sprint notes as we design a service which is easily understood, fair, accessible and beneficial to Hackney residents. These sprint notes were first published by Hackney. You can follow our process on HackIT, and the other great work happening at Hackney Council.

Regular followers to our sprint notes will no doubt notice that we seem to have skipped a sprint! We can assure you the work has continued but the impact of Covid-19, the subsequent move of the Benefits & Housing Needs service to remote delivery coupled with some changes to the project team have meant a slight interruption to our normal plan. We’ll endeavour to catch you up on what’s been going on.

Dictionary.com provides a sports example for pivoting that reads;

Basketball, pivoting - to keep one foot in place while holding the ball and moving the other foot one step in any direction.

Anyone aware of the lingo associated with startups (and the success and failure of many companies) will be familiar with the term ‘pivot’ and the need to rapidly change direction to succeed. I like the basketball definition above, it mentions keeping one foot in place while changing direction with the other. That’s a nice summary of how we’ve been focusing our energy as a team over the last few weeks.

We’ve been grappling with two key questions:

  1. How do we keep firm and grounded in our vision for the future service?
  2. How do we rapidly re-prioritise our efforts to provide maximum value to staff and residents in the current environment?

Updating our vision for the future service

We’ve updated our tube line inspired map of the future service to reflect conversations and learning so far. The key changes reflect:

  • the importance of understanding vulnerabilities and assets
  • that tenancy sustainment plays a crucial role
  • a new branch has been added that ends with really good information and advice
  • we’ve added an (optional) stop for the crisis support that some of our more vulnerable residents will need before moving forward with a longer-term plan
Our updated service vision map

SMS tool and document upload

Kicking off with a new section for our sprint notes (where our “pivoting” comes into play).

We had previously experimented with using SMS to check-in and nudge residents on their shared plan and had a working prototype to test if people engaged with this format. As the service moved to being delivered remotely, it became clear there were more places SMS could add value across the service.

The team came together quickly to ensure the solution was secure and would cope with an increased load. One week later and we’re now scaling it across teams. We’ll still need to retrospectively check we’re meeting the right user needs and undergo a service assessment, but overall we’re pleased with the potential impact delivered in a short space of time.

Scaling a tool to have conversations with residents by SMS

Now the Hackney Service Centre has closed, there’s no easy way for residents to share evidence (think ID, proof of address/income and bills) to support any applications they’re making to the service, and for these to be attached to their record.

In less than a week the development team produced a safe, secure and working prototype of a new “Doc Upload” tool. Residents can take a photo, add information and share with the service. There’s potential for this to improve how documents are managed from the beginning (by linking with single view) to make sure residents only need to tell us once. Lots of testing to come.

Information & evidence and single view

We’ve now tested and iterated both the waiting time tool and changes to content on the Hackney website. Security and accessibility tests have been completed and there are only a few small tweaks to make before these changes are live. Watch this space.

The single view crew have now nearly onboarded all staff across the service and the analytics data is showing that users are actively adopting it.

The team have also:

  • shown they can successfully retrieve documents from the Jigsaw system
  • completed accessibility testing of the app
  • made some user interface improvements
  • added some useful snippets of data based on user feedback (such as bedroom requirements from housing register applications)

Shared plan and understanding vulnerability

When “everything that everybody does is geared around preventing homelessness”, then it’s up to all officers to build and contribute to a shared plan of action.

We’ve built a working prototype that enables:

  • multiple officers to contribute actions
  • residents to access via a link texted to them
  • residents to mark actions as complete

There are now six officers across three different teams testing the shared plan. The initial feedback has been promising, particularly during this time of remote working.

This is exactly what we need. Make your plan bite-sized. It’s a way to make just a few steps at a time.

Officer, Housing Supply team

I think this is going to be soo useful now everything is remote.

Officer, Housing Advice and Options team

The next steps for a shared plan include optimising the view for residents on mobile and giving residents more ways to input into their plan. Then we can measure if this is actually engaging people more and changing their behaviour.

Improving the user interface and design for residents

For the moment we’ve paused on understanding vulnerability and assets and will pick it up again in the next phase. There’s also the potential for this to be fed into wider Hackney work around their covid response (of which understanding a resident’s vulnerability plays a key part).

Want to know more?

Take a look at the links to our most recent show and share sessions on the 25/03/20 and 01/04/20.

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

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