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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Four things we learned from Going digital: gearing up for the future


We’ve been working with Incommunities and Halton Housing to build up a picture of where social landlords are now on their digital development journey and how they are gearing up for the future. CIH policy and practice officer Faye Greaves examines some of the lessons from the organisations we spoke to.

1. Tailor your approach to different tenants

When West Lancashire Borough Council surveyed residents across 12 local sheltered housing schemes, almost half said they had never used the internet before – either due to cost of access, lack of confidence and ability or simply because they were unaware of what might be on offer. As a result, the council teamed up with Social Telecoms to roll out free WiFi for 12 months to all 12 schemes, while the county’s education service Lancashire Adult Learning put together a range of bespoke services to be delivered in the communal lounges at each of the schemes. The council also provided tablet taster sessions where residents could explore the many benefits of having easy access to the internet.

2. Set clear and specific metrics to measure your success

Halton Housing asks customers how satisfied they are with ‘online services’ rather than about satisfaction more broadly – as of March 2018 satisfaction level was running at 93 per cent. Other metrics include the percentage of customer-led contacts made using digital channels, the percentage of households accessing services digitally, and the number of calls made and received by its customer service team. Halton also monitors the percentage of enquiries or requests made for key services digitally – for example rent balance enquiries, repairs requests and anti-social behaviour reports.

3. Digital development can bring huge benefits in other areas

Fortis Living recruits digital champions from all ages and backgrounds – usually people who are looking for work. They are formally interviewed and put through a selection process which provides good experience for their own job searches. If successful, they are trained and supported with ongoing one to one support from a ‘digital connector’ who acts as their mentor. Volunteers not only support the organisation’s digital inclusion plans but they also gain high levels of knowledge, people skills and professionalism. Similarly, Stockport Homes’ Digital Heroes project supports local people to encourage their communities to get online. Heroes help their communities access funding for targeted projects, Wi-Fi, equipment and training but they also benefit from the experience, skills and confidence they gain, often leading to employment opportunities. Meanwhile community access hubs can help people develop their digital skills at the same time as providing activities to tackle isolation – Glen Oaks Housing Association for example started by showing members of its Knit and Natter group how they can use computers to search knitting patterns online. Once people have built up their confidence the team shows them other ways they can benefit from being online like saving money through researching price comparisons, job searching and managing their money.

4. Successful digital transformation can have a significant impact on your employees and on your bottom line

Since providing all staff with smart phones and tablets, Rhondda Housing Association has seen a three per cent reduction in sickness absence, saving £9,000 per year. There has also been a 15 per cent increase in staff who feel RHA is a great place to work, while the organisation has cut its CO² emissions by half a tonne per quarter. Two hours per day, per staff member, have been saved by eliminating paperwork and unproductive travel and streamlining workflows, and there has been a 19 per cent increase in daily repairs carried out.

Faye Greaves is policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing

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