When North West housing group Torus was established in 2015, it was with a firm vision of rationalising key service areas for its customers. One of the first areas to be examined was the offer to older people. The founding members of the Torus group, Helena Partnerships and Golden Gates Housing Trust, each had a mix of sheltered housing schemes and bungalows for over 55s.
In many of the schemes, the hard wired emergency alarm systems had exceeded their life cycle and were difficult to maintain. This necessitated a full service review, a drive to improve efficiency, service consistency and, where possible, to save the business and its customers money.
Helena had already successfully implemented a system called Housing Proactive in a number of properties occupied by tenants over the age of 55. This was used in conjunction with a staff led service called Staying Home, which provides tailored support from a dedicated team who help older people. Given the success of Housing Proactive in some of Helena’s existing properties, together with the fact that the existing alarms in the majority of the older peoples’ stock needed replacing, the group began a consultation with residents as to what the next steps should be.
Helena had introduced Housing Proactive as a solution that went above and beyond traditional alarms and methods of managing properties. The system comes complete with devices that interface through the wireless or telephony network, which enable housing related contact on a daily basis. It places control in the hands of the resident, who presses an OKEachDay button in their own time each day to demonstrate that everything is fine at their property. If the button isn’t pressed, a specially trained call centre is informed who enquire about the status of the property and will, if necessary, escalate any concerns to housing officers or family members. Given the success of Housing Proactive in some of Helena’s existing properties, together with the fact that the existing alarms in the majority of the older peoples’ stock needed replacing, the group began a consultation with residents offering three clear choices:
- 1 Do nothing and wait until the hard wired emergency alarms failed altogether.
- 2. Replace the hard-wired alarms at significant cost.
- 3. Introduce an enhanced housing management service which incorporated Housing Proactive and the Staying Home Service.
Residents voted overwhelmingly for the introduction of Housing Proactive and the Staying Home Service. This was then rolled out to more than 2,000 homes
A year on and both services are enhancing the lives of many residents. Being able to pay rent or report repairs directly via the system is a huge improvement, as is the flexibility for daily interaction which is having a dramatic effect in reducing social isolation. The Staying Home Service regularly broadcasts news and local events and, when the ‘Beast from the East’ hit last winter, it was able to deliver weather warnings and news of power cuts, quickly and efficiently. Paula Underwood, head of Torus support network, said:
“Both the business and our tenants were quick to see the benefits of Housing Proactive and the OKEachDay button.
Together with our own Staying Home Service, who use the messaging tool to broadcast news and updates, it gives our older customers real independence which is critical to our strategy of helping them stay safely and securely in their homes for longer.” Alertacall, the organisation behind Housing Proactive, provides contact-based services to over 30 housing providers and recently agreed a contract to introduce Housing Proactive at Wheatley Group, Scotland’s largest housing provider.