The Homelessness Reduction Act extends the statutory duty that local councils have to prevent homelessness from 28 days before eviction to 56 days. However, pioneering councils are seeking to identify and support people even earlier.
We have been working with Policy in Practice and Uscreates to use our own council data to identify those at risk of homelessness early, and to develop an early intervention service that contacts those identified sensitively, understands their needs and refers them to online self-help or community support. Online self-help is important because it starts to build resilience early on, and sets the expectation that council support is for cases where crisis is more immediate but that individuals can take other action themselves or get from community organisation. We have prototyped an early version of what the self-help might contain (for example raising awareness of risk of financial or housing insecurity, a budget calculator, actions and tips to prevent homelessness) and now want to develop it through an alpha phase.
We know that other councils (e.g Lewisham, Westminster) are also developing early intervention approaches which involve self-help and think this could develop into an open-source tools for others to use across the country.
We ran a 8 week discovery (involving ethnographies with 6 customers) to identify needs, followed by a 2 week prototyping sprint (involving 4 users) to test early stage concept prototypes and are about to do a second prototyping sprint (with 12 users) before live trialling the non-digital elements of the new service. We can share with you the discovery report.
Both staff and customer interviews highlighted the varying levels of support that customers need when moving through the service. An online self-help tool on the council’s website would help direct people with higher levels of resilience/capability to self-serve.
- Support checker:
To help residents understand the severity of their situation and direct them to the type of support they need. We have been prototyping different kinds of questions and phrasing that would resonate with customers as a user needs to become aware of their own risk (as many people would not identify with the term ‘homeless’).
- Signposting to services or workshops:
To help residents effectively navigate the local organisations to support their situation. This would be updated with any local workshops, talks and group activities
- Financial budgeting tips and tools:
To assist residents who need advice or support around managing their finances.
- Digital leadership training (for council leaders, service managers or senior executives)
- Digital and agile awareness
- Introduction to product management
- Agile for teams