Chelmsford City Council

Innovation to improve services for homeless families

Homelessness is devastating and can happen to anyone for a variety of reasons, including unemployment, mental health, domestic violence and substance misuse. Chelmsford City Council works with local partners to relieve homelessness in Chelmsford offering a wide range of homeless prevention support services to the community.

The council also works closely with a number of partner organisations to provide emergency temporary accommodation to people who are facing homelessness. Due to the nature of this service, the tenancy tends to be short term, as residents invariably move on to permanent accommodation.

Following an internal review in 2017, the council identified an opportunity to improve service efficiency by adopting new working practices and systems. Thanks to the findings, Chelmsford City Council looked to procure a Housing Management System that would help them achieve these objectives; as well as realise savings.

Dianne Gable. Project Manager at Chelmsford City Council said, “Historically, the Council’s Housing Service recorded data for properties and tenancies in different locations. Due to this approach and the fast turnover of our tenancies, we were unable to provide accurate reporting for expenditure and income collection. With the implementation of a Housing Management System, we hoped to resolve this issue by tightening our internal practices around billing, rent collection, payments and invoicing; as well as improve the flow of accurate information from our partners through system integration and development. This would enable the Council to drive efficiency and savings; providing staff with more resources to fight homelessness.

As part of the tender process, we evaluated each solution against the key objective areas identified by our Strategic Housing Service review; including:

  • Property and supplier management
  • Household, tenancy and rent management
  • Management and reduction of housing benefit subsidy loss
  • Management and performance reporting
  • Accurate budget management and financial accounting
  • Integration with other systems used by the council
  • Internal and external data compliance and security
  • Improve customer service and experience

During demonstrations, we were delighted to find that OmniLedger’s Pyramid Housing Management System addressed virtually every point that was outlined. OmniLedger had also shown that information could quickly be extracted from Pyramid in a wide variety of analysis formats, using either standard reporting tools or a custom report generator. This kind of reporting would enable the Council to monitor key performance across the Housing Service and identify areas of improvement.

Having decided to go ahead with Pyramid, OmniLedger assigned the Council their own project manager, who guided us throughout the implementation process and personalised the system to our requirements, including:

  • Defining our own data sets
  • Mapping our arrears process into the systems
  • Designing our letter and statement templates
  • Integration development for our receipting and housing benefit system
  • The data collection and validation process
  • Assurance of full compliance for GDPR purposes

Within 12 weeks, our data was imported into the system and we were able to go live. With familiar data in place and Pyramid’s user-friendly interface, we found a high level of staff acceptance during training sessions. This enabled us to train a handful of in-house specialists, who would then pass on the knowledge to the rest of the team.

Having gone live, we are already experiencing benefits from implementing Pyramid, such as processing rent charges. What would have historically taken a day to process, now takes no more than 30 seconds to complete, saving us a considerable amount of time. We’re also in the process of using Pyramid’s reporting tools to generate monthly reports that will form the basis of our KPI monitoring. The system will also help us to provide continuous support and monitoring of customers in Temporary Accommodation with their Personal Housing Plans, a new requirement of the Homelessness Reduction Act that went live in April.

Moving forwards, the Council plans on developing a suite of 24/7 self-service tools for our residents, with the purpose of promoting independence, digital inclusion and making out of hours services more readily available. We are part way through implementing the Pyramid Messenger Module, which will enable us to communicate with our customers through an intelligent two-way text messaging service. We also look forward to implementing the ‘MyTenancy Portal’ where customers will be able to view their tenancy details and rent statements on line.

The staff at OmniLedger are friendly, supportive and professional – project management, system implementation, development and daily on-going support have been second to none. Their whole approach to our project has been very refreshing!”

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