More than a year later after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the inquiry continues, with people still asking how a disaster of this severity could ever have occurred. Meanwhile, a new Green Paper on social housing has been released recognising that while there is a problem, it fails to acknowledge there is still a shortage.
With almost 1.2 million people on the waiting list for social housing, the number of council homes in the UK has slumped to a record low. Experts predict the need for 70,000-90,000 new homes a year to meet the housing crisis in England alone, with only 6,000 built in 2017.
With Theresa May recently pledging £2billion for social housing at the National Housing Summit in London, leading voices in the social housing sector, including the National Housing Federation (NHF), Crisis, Shelter, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the Chartered Institute of Housing, still claim this isn’t enough.
If that’s the case, should housing associations look to the NHF’s suggestion of collaboration, innovation and vision to cover any financial shortfalls?
Digital transformation is an ongoing process
Most experts argue that the UK’s housing crisis is not just about providing new homes; it’s about making them more efficient and sustainable.
Housing associations are also being encouraged to embrace new technology. The Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) voluntary Repairs Charter for Housing specifically refers to the use of effective technology.
Investing in new technology may seem illogical when there’s such a critical need to create new homes, but for housing associations, digital transformation is about improving the user experience of the service, not simply to cut costs.
Building a digital platform that allows information to become more readily available will help eradicate inefficiencies and reduce operational costs. It’s an ongoing process that will see data become more accurate, allowing standards to be raised for tenants and communities.
There are several ways to do this:booking repairs online is far more convenient (and quicker) than waiting to speak to someone in a call centre
- Installing Internet of Things (IoT) throughout an association’s properties to monitor heating, lighting, water supplies and security allows data to be analysed to identify which tenants are most likely to run into rent arrear
- From smoke detectors that can alert the fire brigade in an emergency to devices that detect damp and water leaks on pipes before they become serious, there are many applications where the IoT can more than prove its worth for housing providers.
It’s this level of foresight through advanced technology that allows for better planning and delivery and can make a huge difference to the way a housing association works. Expenditure can be allocated more accurately, while tenants receive the right service at the right time.
These efficiencies will directly translate into operational cost savings, and when deployed correctly, increase customer satisfaction.
Time for change
Script&Go have developed a suite of user-friendly, customisable products that integrate tablet-based technology – and some with handwriting recognition. Performing in real time, they’re designed to improve efficiency and control, which for housing associations is an attractive proposition when budgets are tight and they are under pressure to deliver.
A follow-up guide to the CIH’s voluntary Repairs Charter for Housing explains how the right technology can address the challenges of delivering an effective repair service. It recommends the use of smartphones and tablets to accommodate dynamic, flexible and remote working, and respond to real-time issues.
With predictions stating that:
- More than 80% of the UK population will have an internet connection by 2018
- By 2020, two-thirds of the UK population will use a smartphone at least once a month
- Roughly half (50.7%) of UK tablet users will use an iPad in 2018, which is expected to remain relatively stable until 2022* (https://www.emarketer.com/Report/UK-Digital-Users-eMarketers-Estimates-Forecast-20172022/2002220)
It’s ever more apparent that technology can help to make buildings safer and benefit the health and wellbeing of residents. Protecting the most vulnerable members of society is of paramount importance, particularly in the aftermath of Grenfell.
Housing associations are also making the most of mobile and remote working technology to support the changes in modern working practices, which even applies to traditional ‘HQ’ activities such as call-centre functions.
Larger housing associations have systems in place for tracking their stock and associated information, but these will often be accompanied by a range of other systems and processes that need to collect, report and analyse data.
Unless these are integrated under one platform, problems such as ‘bad’ data being entered into an association’s main system because of mobile employees struggling to keep up, and relying on handwritten notes (or worse still, from memory), associations will never be able to provide the support.
The benefits of real-time software and applications for social housing
Script&Go’s real-time collaborative technology is a key enabler for housing associations to efficiently control repair and maintenance issues on a long-term basis.
Managed through either a mobile digitised cyclical or intermittent planned procedure, operations are quicker, can be managed on-the-go, offer instant customer support and mitigate more risk. It’s an inclusive process where workforces operate in partnership wherever and whenever, and tenants are kept continually informed.
- Reporting is instant and can be accessed across multiple operating systems
- Health & Safety compliance is current and adhered to
- Association/Landlord/Tenant communication is fluid and transparent
- The accuracy of reporting is optimised
- Routine procedures are automated
- Duplication is reduced
- Paperless solution using a stylus
- Productivity is enhanced
- Paper-based site journals replaced by digital site data for auditing
- Centralised assignment of tasks to co-workers
- 24/7 access to co-worker site reports, data and detail
- Professionally-produced reports via a button
- Reduced site reporting time
A home not a house
With housing associations already stretched to cope with the demands of those living in social housing, there’s never been a more appropriate time to replace legacy IT systems with new technology. These are people’s homes after all.