Homelessness prevention through digital innovation

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

This project aims to address rising homelessness affecting councils across the UK. We would like to see how this can be controlled and prevented through early intervention. Our vision is that this could be achieved through self-service and using digital tools & technology.

A pre-discovery in Nottingham with the Housing Aid service discovered that the service is largely paper based and not digital. Discussing this with other councils including Mansfield and Newham we know this is a common problem. Our research would like to prove that citizens at risk of homelessness are able to use digital technologies.

Objectives:

  • Identify how citizens at risk of homelessness can move over to a digital platform and what benefits this provide to both the council and citizens.
  • Discover technologies available that can be used to improve the homelessness process and customer journey.
  • Design a scalable digital service model in partnership with Mansfield & Ashfield, which can be adopted by other local authorities.
  • Identify efficiencies and savings which will be common across other local authorities. A digital service will provide back office efficiencies and a reduction in emergency accommodation spend.
  • Identify how telephony technology be used to assist self-service i.e. automated speech recognition and Artificial Intelligence.
  • Design a self-service digital triage tool to provide a more responsive and improved process, helping to reduce the risk of homelessness for citizens.

We will be “Working Out Loud” using these principles to build relationships, enabling our partners and ourselves to achieve common goals.

Information identified in the pre-discovery has been used to drive the objectives.

To manage the project we will use a combination of Prince 2 & Agile methodology. At the earliest possibility a Gantt chart will be drawn up to map out the project in detail. An internal project team will be procured using a combination of Council resources and the digital fund as we believe in doing all the work in-house.

 

Milestone Activity details Success Criteria Deadline
Obtain partners Identify and contact potential partners through LocalDigitalGov Partnership agreed 9th Nov 18
Kick Off meeting Conference call with partners Project approach, scope and resource agreed 14th Nov 18
Submit Bid & Sign Digital Declaration Obtain Council buy in Director signs Digital Declaration & Bid Submitted 15th Nov 18
Design & Define SMART project objectives Full kick off meeting with partners Objectives mapped, timeline drawn up and tasks assigned 15th Dec 18
Build Project team Obtain resources required Project team recruited and Blog published, SharePoint site setup 31st Dec 18
Train project team Attend GDS Academy courses Training   complete 25th Jan 19
Baselining & Research Collect performance information & perform user/system research User, system, baseline data & research complete 31st Jan 19
Development Stage Design service model, develop digital triage tool and website. Triage tool & website developed 28th Feb 19
Testing Test developed systems, website and service model Testing passed 15th Mar 19
Discovery outputs produced and shared Write up Business case, User research report, recommendations report Results and report written up and published 25th Mar 19

 

In order to measure whether we have completed our objectives we will track progress using the project plan and regularly check back against the bid criteria to ensure outcomes are correct and produced on time.

There is a growing cost to Councils to move homeless households into emergency accommodation. In Nottingham we spent an additional £1.3 million last financial year (17-18). This overspend is unplanned which in the current climate is adding additional pressure to the councils budget.

If we could design a service which is fully digital with an emphasis on self-service, this will provide citizens with the information they need at the first point of contact enabling them to support themselves. This could help citizens avoid homelessness through improved information and intervention. At Nottingham a considerable amount of time is wasted performing manual tasks such as booking appointments, scanning documents and posting out letters when really we should be putting all of that effort in helping citizens at risk of homelessness out of their situation. Each council we’ve discussed this with is in a similar situation in that every year the budget is being reduced so we are all having to provide more with less. In our Housing Aid service we are currently struggling to deal with the current processes alongside increasing demand.

We will perform extensive user research that will involve engaging with housing organisations to see if there is a more intelligent way of working together. We’ve already discovered missed opportunities, such as how the HMO/Selective Licensing team could support Housing Aid.

To keep other interested parties up to date we will publish a blog and also tweet regular updates promoting this work and to celebrate collaborative working. Regular communication will be maintained with the LocalDigitalGov Slack channels to search for additional partners throughout the project to enhance our work.

The new service model design will be digital by default and easily shareable with other councils. Enabling other councils to adopt this model will support efficiency savings and higher prevention rates, which means less spend on emergency accommodation.

It’s well known that homelessness is a national problem for local authorities and worsening each year. Research will involve contacting local authorities to confirm common issues to ensure the work undertaken will be of wider shared benefit. The partnership with Mansfield made sense as they are geographically close and experience similar problems.

We will share information and collaborate with other councils by use of SharePoint, Slack and a Blog. During the bid process we have contacted and been in contact with other councils which without this fund wouldn’t have happened.

This collaborative project has allowed us to gain corporate support, which will help us to improve the customer journey and improve the lives and prospects of citizens at risk of homelessness across the UK.

Solutions proposed will make use of existing and new technology discovered. A gap analysis on popular systems will be completed, published and shared with other organisations.

The funding will allow us to complete the majority of the work we identified in our pre-discovery.

Expected outputs include:

  1. Business case for the work to be completed based on the research we have performed. We expect the business case and benefits to strongly display evidentially that by moving homelessness services online and providing self-service there is the opportunity to significantly reduce spend on emergency accommodation. We also want to streamline case management to ensure maximum efficiency for local authorities and citizens.
  2. User research report, based on our findings here at Nottingham City Council and our partners. Also we will aim to capture relevant information from wider afield i.e. reports from America and Europe.
  3. Conclusion report which will include information such as Telephony information (voice recognition), Systems Gap analysis (Jigsaw & Northgate), Additional system findings such as the use of Firmstep.
  4. Digital System Model – Future state process maps, Web site information & design and a prototype digital triage tool to provide quicker and better decisions with an emphasis on citizens at risk of homelessness.

The project will be allocated a qualified and experienced project manager to ensure tasks are completed on time. Funding will enable us to provide a dedicated project team to complete this work to cover Nottingham and our partners. At Nottingham we have a small highly skilled digital team whom we will make use of on this project but due to current commitments we will need to recruit additional members of staff to complete this project.

Our aim is also to procure a system/module or piece of technology, which we can then test to see if it will be of benefit to other local authorities. This could be something such as a digital Kiosk as although the project will aim to move people online there will always need to be a reception type function for cases where a citizen is unable to go online.

User research already completed in Nottingham as part of a pre-discovery has identified how much more detailed research is required and provided has areas to focus on.

Ultimately we want to know if we can improve the homeless situation by providing a fully digital end to end journey for citizens at risk of homelessness and also improve back office functionality through the use of technology and improved processes.

The first things we will do is identify all the stakeholders involved in the homelessness processes. We will then work with our partners to map out all the interactions and compare to find any commonalities.

User research will be performed by speaking to citizens at different points during their customer journey. This will help us understand how they feel about the current processes and see if they would use self-service. Some processes will still need to be face to face but having that digital option available might be a big saving for the council and citizens. For example, is there really the need for a housing aid officer to visit a citizen in their home, could it be done via a Skype call? There are so many possibilities we would like to explore further.

Wider research will be performed as homelessness isn’t just a UK problem. We will research what other authorities in different countries are doing to see if there are any innovative ideas or technology we could be adopt. It’s often possible to find research online completed in another county that is relevant.

Performing user research will allow us to capture metrics which we will use in an alpha. These metrics will enable us to measure our success and also how our customers journey is improved.

We will make use of existing links and seek to engage with other organisations through this project. As mentioned previously we expect other councils to be very interested in what we are doing so there is lots of potential for collaboration.

We would appreciate some guidance at regular intervals throughout the duration of the project if we are successful to ensure that the work we undertake is in line with what is expected. This might be a regular conference call with the team where we would provide updates and discuss how the work is progressing. This would ensure both parties are happy with the project, outcomes and how it is progressing. We do feel that we have a strong understanding of what we want to achieve but by having those regular checks with yourselves it would enable us to keep on-track and stay relevant, which can often be a problem with projects where multiple parties are involved.

We would also appreciate it if you can share any templates if they are available. For example, a business case can vary a lot between organisations. Even having some more detail on the expected outcomes i.e. what you would expect to see in the business case etc. would be helpful.

We haven’t previously applied for funding.

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