Simon Stackhouse from BancTec explains why good case management can be the key to happy families in social housing.
Managing and assigning social housing has always been a socially- and politically-charged task. With continued money saving and lengthy decision-making processes, an effective case management system is critical.
Injustices and failed complaints procedures within social housing have been relatively well documented in the press in recent years. The introduction of policies such as the spare bedroom tax have created confusion among tenants. Queries, complaints and housing assignment must all be dealt with efficiently; without a system to organise incoming communications, managing these as well as the assigning of housing effectively will be difficult. A case management system can avoid these issues.
Collaborative case management
Case management allows for the collaborative management of tenant information from multiple sources. This allows for easy access to data whenever and wherever it is needed, making complaints procedures, decision making and communication efficient and effective. It ensures any incoming communication, whether by phone, email, letter, in person or social media, is documented and applied to a single profile.
For the majority of housing providers, the primary contact with tenants is over the telephone or by letter. However, these two contact points will often not actually be linked. A lack of case management has recently been made evident by this winter’s flooding; severe delays in dealing with essential complaints and repairs demonstrated a failure by many housing providers to effectively deal with and manage communications.
Housing providers are not deliberately choosing to ignore their tenants. Rather, it seems they are overloaded and unable to manage all of the enquiries and complaints they receive. This often results in tenants escalating their complaint to the housing ombudsman. The issue here is time. In many situations, the housing ombudsman is involved purely because housing providers cannot cope with a high number of enquiries, not because they are dealing with them badly. Lots of time could be saved and productivity increased, resulting in more queries resolved successfully, through the adoption of a case management system.
Access to case files
An effective case management system would allow housing providers to hold a case profile of every tenant. This would contain all of the communication the client has had with the housing provider, no matter what communication channel they chose. Whenever a tenant gets in contact, it will be documented within an individual case file. This means as soon as the tenant gets back in touch with the housing association, no matter how they got in contact before, the member of staff handling the request will be able to track and examine the full case history, avoiding the question of ‘do you know who you spoke to before?’.
Case management systems also allow social media enquiries to be contained within a case. There is a growing trend for people to complain via social media feeds, based on the expectation that by complaining publicly, the organisation in question will be more inclined to respond and do something about the complaint in order to avoid further embarrassment. Most organisations originally started social media feeds with the intention of marketing and distributing information, however, with so many people using social media to complain, their role has significantly changed.
Dealing with social media
Research has shown that 58 per cent of people who tweet about a bad experience expect the company in question to respond, with 42 per cent expecting a response within an hour. This significant consumer pressure demonstrates the necessity to adopt case management in order to ensure every social media communication is treated in the same way as an incoming email or letter.
The assigning of new council homes and the management of waiting lists is one of the most controversial areas housing providers have to manage. The benefit case management can bring to this is an overall view of each applicant’s case history. For example, details such as ASB records from previous tenancies can be fed into a single case of an individual as well as their complaint history, allowing for an overall view when assigning housing.
As another example, someone whose case history shows that they have had noise complaints from previous neighbours directed at them can therefore be assigned away from high rise residences or shared accommodations. Case management allows for this decision to be made much faster by consolidating all relevant evidence into a single place in front of the decision maker.
Case management systems allow housing providers to prioritise, seeing the key flashpoint areas and concerns of their tenants by placing all communications from an individual in one place, via multiple access points no matter how they chose to communicate. The key benefit of this to both housing providers and tenants is an increase in efficiency. Local government and housing providers are regularly considered inefficient and slow to respond. By contrast, case management gives housing staff all the available information on an individual case in one place, increasing efficiency and speeding up the process.
Simon Stackhouse is the business development manager for BancTec.