Audit service provider RSM and Halton Housing Trust have launched an initiative to help housing providers implement effective digital strategies. It aims to provide support to ensure the sector is prepared to respond to welfare reform, and in particular the introduction of universal credit and the resulting need to collect 65 per cent of their income direct from tenants, which is currently paid direct in the form of housing benefit.
The two organisations have developed a digital roadmap to help housing providers deliver a bespoke digital strategy that will improve efficiency, save money, enhance tenant services and protect their income streams.
Halton Housing Trust has enhanced its digital strategy to transform how it engages with tenants. Drawing on this experience and working with RSM, the two organisations have created an effective model tailored for the social housing sector.
Peter Lunio, head of RSM’s social housing practice, said, “From our recent survey, we know that improving digital functionality is a key priority for housing providers. 87 per cent want to implement new technologies in the next 12 months; it’s a pressing issue, but many are unsure how to tackle it.”
Nick Atkin, group chief executive, Halton Housing Trust, said, “The housing sector has seen more change in the last two years than the preceding 50 years and the operating environment is almost unrecognisable from where it was just a few years ago. With the rollout of universal credit by 2018 the number of transactions will increase markedly. This is not just payments, but will also include a much wider range of transactions and contacts.
“The majority of housing providers don’t currently collect 65 per cent of their income as this is paid through housing benefit. However looking ahead, this income will need to be collected following the rollout out of universal credit which will significantly increase the number of transactions. To release the internal resources required to collect this income, the service model needs to shift to one which enables the majority of tenants to access services via a self-service route.”