Rebuilding the Housing Register – weeknotes 07/12/21

Since the previous Housing Register update, significant progress has been made by the development team. Due to time pressure, resident-facing functionality had previously been prioritised over the functionality that would be used by Benefits and Housing Needs Officers (Housing Register) to process cases. Whilst this allowed us to quickly get feedback on the resident-facing functionality, it meant that the Officers were still having to use various manual systems to complete their work.

We are glad to say that multiple features that will assist our Benefits and Housing Needs Officers with their day-to-day work have now been completed and have gone live, including the ability for them to edit the status of a case and a full audit trail of any changes that have been made to a case. As with the resident-facing application, the team has been gathering feedback and iterating on this functionality in order to ensure that any defects are being resolved and that the system matches the needs of that group of users as closely as possible.

On the resident-facing side, we currently have 32 applications to be placed on the Housing Register that have come through the new system and are currently being assessed by the Benefits and Housing Needs Officers. We have also added the ability for residents to be able to sign out and then return to their application when they sign in again, which was previously not possible. And, coming soon, we will roll out a redesign of the “task list” page, based on feedback that we received in order to make it easier for residents to understand and use.

The largest piece of work that has been undertaken on the resident-facing application has been the automated calculation of bedroom need and the automation of the workflow where a household resident has a birthday, as this can affect the bedroom need. This is a complex calculation, so has undergone multiple rounds of testing and is now ready to go live.

Now that the system is up and running, our FutureGov colleagues will be moving on to other projects in the next few weeks. The Housing Register application will continue to be supported in a maintenance capacity by HackIT internally, before being absorbed into one of our larger Product teams in 2022, who will continue to build on the work that has been done up to now and enhance the system even further. We would like to place on record our gratitude to the FutureGov team, who have been a pleasure to work with and who have helped us to deliver a Housing Register that will meet the needs of both those applying for social housing and the staff who are processing their applications in a way that provides an excellent user experience for both groups.

Rebuilding the Housing Register: Weeknotes 29/10/21

One of the consequences of last year’s cyber attack on Hackney’s IT infrastructure was that it meant the loss of the previous system that our Benefits and Housing Needs Officers (Housing Register) used to manage applications to be placed on Hackney’s housing register. Likewise, the public-facing system that allowed Hackney residents to apply for the register was taken offline.

Given those circumstances, and with changes having been made to the  London Borough of Hackney Lettings Policy, the opportunity was taken to revisit and assess the entire process of applying to join the housing register in order to ensure that we provided the best service possible for applicants, in addition to an effective “back-end” process for  Benefits and Housing Needs Officers (Housing Register).

A cross-functional team comprised of our colleagues from FutureGov and members of Hackney’s Benefits and Housing Needs team undertook extensive research with groups of potential service users and  Benefits and Housing Needs Officers (Housing Register) to design a user-friendly and easily accessible application process, built according to HackIT and GDS standards.

The new process and system was successfully launched to a small group of residents in the past few weeks and the team is currently using the feedback from that group and from the  Benefits and Housing Needs Officers (Housing Register) in order to iterate quickly, so that any defects are resolved and additional features are launched as soon as possible. Congratulations to everyone on the team for reaching this important milestone!

In addition, the team has participated in a Service Assessment exercise with a cross-functional panel made up mainly of staff from HackIT. This assessment was designed to evaluate how well the service had been designed and how well the team had operated against the GDS Service Standard. This is not a “pass or fail” exercise, but a way of reflecting and assessing any areas of potential improvement that can be implemented going forward. The team has received great credit for how they have worked so far, and are planning as to how best to take on board the recommendations for improvement.

Once this initial phase of rollout has been completed, it is hoped that the system will be gradually rolled out to a wider group of residents, in addition to the support and improvement of the system being handed over fully to Hackney staff.