A vision beyond housing in Rochdale
Co-designing a Connected Services Model to provide access to stable homes
Homelessness services across the UK have experienced uplifts in the number of people in temporary accommodation since the Homelessness Reduction Act came into force in April 2018. The demand for housing has increased in Rochdale, impacting their housing allocations services.
Rochdale Borough Council identified the need for a new approach to delivering their Homelessness and Housing Allocations services. A new approach to meet these changing needs could give residents the secure base needed to lead more successful, healthier lives.
The Strategic Housing team recognised that a considerable change was needed in the way services are delivered to better meet the needs of residents while addressing escalating costs and increased demand. We supported Rochdale in conducting a discovery around their Homelessness and Allocation services, sharing what we learned in week notes.
Approach: Discovery, 3 months
We ran a three-month discovery to understand the challenges, pain points and opportunities by speaking with residents and staff about their experiences of the homelessness and housing allocations services. We found that people who access housing services are likely to have touched other council services before. The way the council worked in silos across the system was ineffective, inefficient and did not make the difference Rochdale could make in people’s lives.
The Connected Services Model
With a better understanding of the challenges, we developed a new vision for housing and the Connected Services Model for how housing services could be delivered in the future.
The Connected Services Model includes four core elements which will help Rochdale move from a reactive to proactive provider, focused on prevention and collaborative working with other services, partner agencies and the third sector:
Multidisciplinary team working - embedding housing specialists into the local community with colleagues from Health and Adult Social Care Services, we’re aiming to reduce handoffs between directorates and create a more collaborative approach to solving problems around individual cases.
Multi-agency strategy group - bringing together a group of leaders across services and partner organisations to meet regularly, we can address collective challenges using data and insights and discuss strategic priorities that will help people in need and inform the long-term strategy.
Holistic Advice, Homelessness & Allocations Service - bringing together the front of house teams, we can create an integrated delivery team, to assess people’s situations in a holistic way, providing advice and bringing them into contact with the right services.
Insights, Innovation & Partnership - Collecting qualitative and quantitative data about people’s needs in Rochdale, we can work at all levels from predicting tenancy sustainment to modelling future housing needs in the borough.
The Connected Services Model is an innovative approach to combine the council's and partner’s efforts and work collaboratively towards positive outcomes for residents in Rochdale. It’s about making the best use of the diverse skills and expertise within and beyond the council to have a sustainable impact.
Prototyping the Connected Services Model, 5 months
To move from theory to practical structures for implementation, we prototyped elements of the proposed model with staff, service users and partners. This process of prototyping had the added benefit of building trust and stronger relationships through co-designing with the network currently delivering services. Starting with 15 potential concepts, we prioritised the following prototypes based on viability, feasibility and desirability, assembling five multidisciplinary teams from the public, private and community sector to work together, facilitated by FutureGov.
As we progressed the prototyping, the team also tested two further elements of the model: The Accommodation Panel which is a development of the Multi-Agency Strategy Group and the role of the private sector team as part of accommodation provision as well as enforcement.
A crucial element of the future connected service model is building relationships with wider services to meet all of the user’s needs. We recommended embedding a housing expert with experience in both private and social housing markets into multidisciplinary teams. This role will connect services and learn how problems can be solved earlier and more consistently.
Prevention approaches have been proven to lead to better outcomes for service users and a reduction in the cost of services. We have recommended Rochdale invest in a data analyst role to guide the use of data and insights to prevent crisis and inform future supply. We’re defining processes for how a data analyst role may feed insight through to relevant teams, including how those identified of being at risk may be signposted to advice or fed through to a multidisciplinary team to provide holistic support.
Extending tenancy sustainment support will build confidence with registered housing providers and private landlords that vulnerable service users will be supported in their tenancies. We have recommended that Rochdale support tenants throughout their tenancy by building on existing provision in the social sector and extending to the private sector.
Strengths-based Working + personal housing Plan (PHP)
The PHP is currently not being used as a tool to support service users into settled housing. A simple and widely shared PHP would enable professionals across the system to understand a fuller picture of the service user. Being able to widely view one plan for the actions of a resident will save time for staff and deliver better, faster outcomes for service users.
We have recommended that all conversations with service users should be strengths-based, centred around the individual, their assets and skills. The PHP should be simplified, set out clear plans for the service user and is shared with all relevant professionals.
There’s currently no consistent way to define or manage a housing-related crisis across the council. We have recommended enabling any front door to triage a crisis, with a single escalation pathway to a crisis lead in each service with the support of a multidisciplinary team.
Covid-19 has enabled the testing of the crisis service in a live, crisis environment and has validated recommendations. We learnt for the response to be sustainable we need strong provision' through smarter allocations and a developed Private Rented sector.
Currently, there’s a number of boards and panels which oversee different aspects of commissioning and managing accommodation across the council. The ASC Accommodation Review and this work both identified that this process needs to be simplified.
We have recommended that Rochdale establish an accommodation panel, bringing together both council and partner services to consider future housing supply and strategy.
Private sector engagement
Rochdale’s current social housing stock alone will not meet the needs of their service users. They must interact with both the social and private sectors equally. We have recommended that housing actively builds relationships with private sector landlords and agents to reduce homelessness and develop supply.
We completed this work just as Covid-19 was starting to impact on services. As with many organisations and councils delivering in this crisis, many new ways of working that felt far away suddenly became possible - use of data to identify vulnerable people, MDT working, deeply collaborative working across departments and with VCSE.
Over the next few weeks we'll be working with Rochdale Strategic Housing to develop a plan that builds on the learning from Covid and the prototyping to implement the future structure of the Connected Services Model.
This implementation will include the following actions:
- development of a finalised structure for the service and consultation document for staff
- implement transition structures to support service change - including the accommodation panel, crisis response and MDT working with community hubs
- technology discovery to define the technology needs of the new service
- prototyping of integrated working across homelessness, allocations and PRS case management and front of house delivery
Long-term outcomes from implementing The Connected Services Model will see:
- increase in the diversity of housing options available
- reduced cost of housing service
- improved outcomes across other council & partner services e.g. ASC and CSC
- lower demand on housing services in Rochdale
- improved service user wellbeing
- improved staff wellbeing and retention
These outcomes reach beyond the housing service, benefiting other services in adult’s and children’s as well as partner services in health and the VCSE.