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.

So firstly something to shout about (well, tweet about). The attendance at the show & share session on 29 April was over 100 people. It also included six Benefits & Housing Needs Officers talking about their experiences of using the new tools. This is an incredible achievement, and clearly illustrates the level of engagement from the Benefits & Housing Needs Service.

If you missed it, you can see the recording on Youtube.

Delighted to see six officers update on progress to over 100 attendees

SMS Tool & Document Upload

As we highlighted in our last sprint notes, the SMS Tool has been rapidly scaled up to help officers communicate effectively with residents in the current environment. The headline stats are:

  • 67 officers have used the tool
  • 592 texts have been sent to 431 residents

Officer feedback has been positive, particularly highlighting the ease of using a desktop tool to send and access messages as an alternative to a phone. Also for making contact with residents who hadn’t responded to emails or telephone calls. Crucial areas that the tool is being used for are arranging appointments, prompting for information and providing addresses.

Testing of the new document upload prototype has begun. The tool allows a resident to take a picture of the required evidence and share it with the service. Information uploaded by residents in testing has included Universal Credit documents and medical information. Initial feedback has highlighted the speed of response by customers as an advantage of the tool.

Information and Evidence & Single View

We’re very happy to advise that the new website pages and waiting time tool are now live on the Hackney website. The waiting time tool (which estimates the minimum time a customer will spend waiting for social housing via the Housing Register) will be used to inform conversations with residents about their housing options. Going forward we’ll be monitoring feedback received through our website and adapting the pages accordingly.

If I hadn’t seen how long the wait time was I would have continued to bid and see bidding as my only option.

Resident, after using the waiting time calculator

One small step for the single view crew has resulted in a giant leap for the Benefits & Housing Needs Service this sprint, by successfully incorporating documents from Jigsaw. This now means that staff across the service can view documents and information from all five of our main systems in one place. This allows staff to quickly access important information about a resident from one place, so they can provide them with effective advice.

Shared Plan & Understanding Vulnerability

The focus for the shared plan in this sprint has been testing with officers.

In one example, two officers collaborated on a shared plan to assist someone with finding private rented sector accommodation. A housing advice officer and a housing supply officer both contributed to the plan along with the resident. The plan included actions for each person and took 15 to 20 minutes to build and agree on steps. The plan was shared with the resident via the SMS tool. It’s great to see how all these component parts can start working together.

A live shared plan for finding affordable housing created by two officers and shared with a resident

Feedback from the officers highlighted how it was much easier to keep track of progress without emails getting lost. The focus for the shared plan going forward is on further testing with customers who are in emergency accommodation as part of the COVID-19 response with a view to live scaling.

The work on understanding vulnerability has currently been paused to allow the team time to pivot onto upscaling the SMS tool and prototyping document upload. However, it’s set to return with a bang in phase three, so watch this space.

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