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Communicating with older residents during a national lockdown

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Housing providers responsible for supported housing and sheltered accommodation have found themselves on the front line of providing services to those identified as being at a higher risk.

How to effectively maintain contact with older residents while working remotely has been one of the hardest challenges to overcome. As we begin the third national lockdown, we look at how Housing Proactive (Alertacall’s housing management system for older persons and supported housing), is helping housing teams to keep residents informed and keep up a two way channel of communication during the coronavirus outbreak.

Housing Proactive combines digital engagement with frequent human contact to improve health and safety, the reporting of repairs and to help detect changing needs. It is in operation with around 50 housing providers across the UK and receives excellent feedback from both housing teams and their residents. In a survey undertaken with housing providers in July 2020, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with 93% scoring the overall service 4 or 5 out of 5 in helping them maintain their services to residents over the first lockdown. Several providers went on to describe Housing Proactive as ‘invaluable’.

As residents access the service through simple to use, plug in devices, such as a telephone or touchscreen, Housing Proactive has been implemented with a number of new providers over 2020.

“Housing Proactive provides us with useful information on any changes, concerns, repairs and hospital admissions. The portal is such a valuable tool – providing accurate and up-to-date information. Having the courtesy call [for residents] has been extremely beneficial, especially during the lockdown period.”
Helen Chiddy, Senior Scheme Officer, Bromford

Remote working – maintaining contact with residents and online housing management information

In order to protect both residents and staff against infection from coronavirus (in line with government guidelines), many housing teams found themselves required to work off-site. Remote working created many logistical challenges, particularly given the speed at which working from home policies came into effect. However, in supported accommodation, where it is vital to maintain regular contact with residents and undertake property checks to ensure residents live safely and securely, working remotely presented practical challenges in how they were to maintain this contact.

In the 2020 survey, 87% found that Housing Proactive helped them better manage their customers while working remotely. In particular, through:

  • digitally enhanced daily contact with residents – confirms health and safety, and highlights any issues relating to tenancy.
  • property checks to improve repairs performance and detect changing housing needs
  • full visibility of property occupancy status and property type

Furthermore, Housing Proactive has an online reporting platform which provides housing teams with a range of housing management reports which housing teams were able to access from home and in real-time.

Resident communication – how to get messages out efficiently

Getting messages out, often at short notice, to residents became extremely important. Going into lockdown happened quickly and there were multiple updates required, such as:

  • changes in working practices, e.g. only emergency repairs being undertaken
    during lockdown
  • advising about staffing changes if colleagues had to self isolate
  • guidance on visitors, use of communal rooms
  • providing updates on the progress of maintenance work
  • warnings about bogus callers
  • identifying those who needed help and support

This was particularly difficult for those working in supported housing given that older residents are far less likely to have internet access and thus unable to read email communications. Housing Proactive does not require a broadband connection, or even a landline, making it easy to introduce for all.

Using the Housing Proactive messaging system, housing teams were able to quickly provide residents with notifications of any site issues. 90% of our users found Housing Proactive useful in helping to get messages out to residents.

Alertacall also took on additional projects to help tackle loneliness and isolation with older residents for some housing providers in 2020. The team made extra reassurance calls to residents and offered regular phone calls.

For more information on how Housing Proactive could benefit your organisation and for an online demo of the service, email Benjamin Lambert, Head of Client Relations, on or call 0808 208 1234.