Anyone who has worked in local government recognises that one of our greatest strengths is the depth of our knowledge. As individual officers and services we are experts in housing, the benefits system, adoption, mental health, planning and many more. Unfortunately, this strength is frequently experienced as a weakness by the customer with complex needs. Because we are structured to deliver specialist interventions we all too often fail to comprehend the complexity of people’s lives – we treat diseases, when we should be curing patients. Furthermore, our approach is inherently costly; a revolving front door where each service ‘discovers’ the customer anew each time the they present.
The partners to this project share an ambition to adopt a smarter approach to supporting our customers. Our vision is to plan and provide our services based upon a comprehensive understanding of what customers actually need rather than what service x or y can offer. Our proposal is to develop an intelligence led ‘Demand Management’ approach. We want to pilot this in a shared priority area – reducing homelessness. If successful we will look to replicate this to other priority areas in our localities.
Barking and Dagenham ‘Community Solutions’ roll out in 2017 entailed the Council’s Corporate Insight Hub working with the homelessness service to create a model to forecast demand. Through data collection, front line shadowing and discussion with housing domain experts the team created a forecasting model that predicts the monthly numbers of households presenting as either homeless or in need of housing advice. This allows the Council to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of different interventions for individual customers by balancing the likely cost with the likely outcome.
Through exploratory analysis of the data, including combining homeless data with other datasets, such as housing benefit data, it has been possible to build a picture of the homeless cohort presenting to services in Barking and Dagenham. This has led to a piece of qualitative research which is being carried out by a design charity, Azuko. The outcome of this will increase the local understanding of why families are becoming homeless and focus future resources to aid these families before the point of crisis.
- Introduction to user research
- Introduction to service design
- Introduction to delivery management
- Introduction to product management