Thenue Housing Association

Summary

Thenue Housing Association operates in some of the most deprived communities in the UK where digital take up has been much slower than in other communities.

Thenue Housing’s Board approved a Digital Strategy in August 2015 which had 2 key aims:

  • To maximise our residents’ access to the internet through supporting and encouraging them to go online, and
  • at the same time drive forward our Business Objectives of efficiently delivering more of our services and processes in a digital and online way.

Thenue are currently investing in 3 areas of digital services:

  • a new fully integrated tenant app
  • mobile working devices for staff to access our housing systems on site and avoid having to print off forms and documents before going out on visits and manual form filling when out on site. It also avoids subsequent manual entry of activity from paper forms on return to our office.
  • Online housing application form that transfers key data into our housing system with manual entry.

Who was it aimed at? Drop in IT

Thenue staff and Thenue tenants.

Thenue aim to have at least 60% of our tenants using our online services by 2018. The graph below shows the change in internet use amongst Thenue’s tenants.

 

Thenue want to deliver online services to those tenants who are already online (53% of our tenants) and support and encourage those who aren’t, to go online. We believe that simply moving services online without considering digital inclusion is likely to restrict access to new services for the people who need them most. We also recognise however that we need to continue to provide many of our services in traditional, non-digital ways.

We see online Services as also particularly important in resolving the challenge that arises from the increase in resources required to mitigate the potential impact of Universal Credit, with potentially less income but more resources required to collect? Our aim is to free up resources for Universal Credit by going digital where we can, rather than take on additional staff.

The more of our tenants that use our online services, the lower Thenue’s costs (and ability to minimise rent increases) will be. We also recognised that many people increasingly want to get on with their lives, with interaction with us and other services being quick and easy at a time that suits them.

How was it funded?

All software and hardware fully funded by Thenue.

Thenue are investing in a “Self Service” tenant app which is more than an automated email generator. We were particularly interested in investing in a mobile app rather than a web based portal as we believe that most of tenants will access the internet through a smart phone.

The app is fully integrated with our housing systems and will assist the tenant to manage their tenancy and kick off processes them selves and update our housing system in real time. It will provide facilities for :

  • rent balance and transaction enquiries
  • payment facility
  • repairs request
  • reporting issues in communal areas
  • reporting anti-social behaviour
  • gps and photo upload

We have also invested in an online housing application and mobile working software and devices for staff.

HA Resources Provided

Thenue staff will be trained to support tenants to help them download and use the app and help applicants complete the online housing application form.

What Partners were involved?

Our Housing systems supplier Aareon UK, and their partner 1st Touch who supply and implement the app and have also provided integrated mobile working solutions for Thenue staff.

Challenges

Our 2015 Customer Survey noted that very few of our tenants access our website or have downloaded our first mobile app (which was a simple email generator), yet 37% of our tenants access the internet every day and another 10% 3 to 4 times per week. Why?

We believe there are 3 possible reasons for this:

  • Tenants didn’t see Thenue as an online service provider (they expect services to be delivered in traditional ways)
  • We didn’t effectively promote and encourage tenants to use our current digital services, and
  • We didn’t have online services that are good enough for tenants to want to use.

Lessons Learnt

If we were to invest in digital housing services then it was essential that those services are integrated with our back-office systems and are easy, simple and attractive to use otherwise take up will be low. That is why we chose 1st Touch for our new mobile app who were able to fully integrate with our housing systems.

Contacts

Brian Gannon, Head of Community Housing Services

brian.gannon@thenuehousing.co.uk