Winner is a charitable organisation which provides information, support and advice for women fleeing domestic violence based in Hull. Established in 2000, the charity has helped thousands of families and offers a range of services, including specialist domestic violence support, a nursery, training courses, clinics, a not-for-profit legal service, as well as many safe and affordable properties through its housing service.
Winner has a small team of staff who are responsible for covering a full range of services for its tenants as well as the wider community. They wanted to dedicate more resource to improving property management and increasing contact with tenants around housing related issues without compromising other areas of the service.
Due to the turnover of tenants, who due to their circumstances can often give little or no notice that they are vacating a property, it was difficult to track occupancy. With around 100 women in need of housing at any one time, it was vital that staff knew when a property had become available to help the next person or family.
While they wanted to increase the contact that they had with tenants, Winner also wanted a service which was non-intrusive, promoted independence and would help reintegrate people back into society in the long term.
The Housing Proactive service from Alertacall was implemented by Winner in August 2015. The service was introduced as a 6 month pilot and received extremely positive feedback from both housing staff and their tenants.
The Housing Proactive management tool meant Winner could easily track the occupancy status of each property, get access to detailed housing management reports and ensure daily property checks with tenants while also respecting their privacy. Funded by Housing Benefit, by way of an eligible service charge, the charity was able to recover most of the cost of providing the service.
A specialised device that uses the mobile networks, and through which daily contact could be maintained with tenants, was set up at each property by Alertacall. Due to the turnover of tenants, there is often little time to set up a landline each time and often service users may be in the process of changing their contact details. The device meant that tenants were easily contactable from the start of their tenancy.
Tenants press a button on their device before a chosen time each day to confirm that everything is ok with their property. This also means they don’t have to wait in for a call from housing staff. If they don’t press, a member of the Alertacall team contacts the tenant to make a property check and identify any issues. If no contact is made, it is escalated to housing staff to make further checks. Daily contact in this way also notifies housing staff that the property is still occupied.
At the point the button is pressed, messages from the staff team at Winner can be delivered to the tenant – the team often send appointment reminders to individuals in this way. Housing staff are also able to send out mass messages to all tenants, such as to let them know about work that might be taking place on their property, important meetings and other housing related activities. The service makes it easier for tenants to report property repairs as there is a repairs button on each device.
Training from Alertacall was provided to staff at Winner so that they were able quickly get new tenants on to the service and fully engage with it. Furthermore, an engineer employed by Alertacall was recruited in Hull to provide additional technical assistance where needed.
Over 100 properties are now successfully managed via the Housing Proactive service for Winner. The service is due to be rolled out to new properties as the charity expands its housing service.
By using Housing Proactive, Winner has benefited from the following:
- Significant reduction in staff time on property management – daily property checks made via the Housing Proactive service allow housing staff to focus on other specialist service areas
- Clear visibility on the occupancy status of all properties – lower levels of voids means more women are able to access the service as properties are not left vacant.
- Improved communication with tenants – daily contact and messaging service has increased engagement
- Better maintenance of properties by tenants – increase in the number of repairs being reported and issues being fixed quicker.
- Increased attendance of appointments through reminder prompts
- Assisting the charity with its mission to encourage tenants to be independent while ensuring daily contact – tenants like the service as it is non-intrusive
Alison Ashton, Domestic Abuse and Housing Service Manager at Winner, commented:
“The service provided by Housing Proactive has been an invaluable addition in how we engage with our tenants. Tenants have reported to us how easy the system makes it for them to communicate with their housing officer about a variety of matters – housing officers state that the system allows them a greater knowledge of their properties and tenants. The service has helped to reduce the time staff members have to spend on housing management issues and instead enables them to focus on the enhanced support they offer to tenants.”