Kingdom Housing Association has completed a pioneering mobile working programme that has seen staff issued with over 350 mobile phones and tablets, specially selected to suit the requirements of their different jobs, which is already delivering greater efficiency and streamlining the delivery of services.
The Association is one of the first in the country to develop a comprehensive strategy for mobile working and, through research and trial, eight different mobile devices were selected to meet the differing requirements of staff in repairs and maintenance, support and care and housing management.
Security is at the heart of the programme, which has already been studied by several other housing associations, and was showcased at the recent Mobile Scotland 2016 event in Edinburgh.
Gary Haldane, Kingdom Head of ICT, said: “Each phone and tablet has been installed with mobile device management software to guarantee security. It is vital to protect customer and corporate data which can be penalised with fines of up to £500,000. The software provides locate, lock and wipe functions and allows central management to rapidly deploy apps.”
Kingdom’s in-house maintenance team undertakes 12,000 repairs a year and mobile working has allowed a massive reduction in the paper trail.
Gary explained: “Tradesmen have waterproof and dustproof 5” phones to complete all jobs. We tested the phones and also submerged them in water for 30 minutes prior to purchase. Inspectors have 8” tablets which are the best size when they are performing pre and post job inspections. Due to constant use, the weight and size is easier for them.”
For Kingdom’s Support and Care staff it was found that the 12” Microsoft Surface Pro was the best solution.
Gary said: “This makes it easier to share the screen with clients and for clients to input into their own plans during 6 monthly reviews with our 260 clients.”
He added: “Housing Officers also have 12” Microsoft Surface Pros, these are useful for helping customers with digital forms and easy for both to see screen. The Board and senior staff have iPad Pro. The standard iPad wasn’t big enough but the Pro is A4 size and it is easy to see information.”
The programme is already producing tangible results. Housing assistant Charlotte Sheret cites one of dozens of examples: “I visited a young mother in the north of Fife who works 10 hours per week and has a low income. Her housing benefit had been stopped and I helped her complete a housing benefit form online and also apply for a back date from the date the benefit was stopped, successfully re-claiming £932 and reducing the stress for our tenant.”
Housing officer Susan Lowden has similar stories to share: “I was working with a tenant who we transferred from one of our wheelchair properties as her husband who was disabled had passed away. We thereafter moved her into a one bedroomed cottage. The family were initially supportive but did not take an active role in any of the housing benefit changes and the tenant who is aged 75 was unable to do any of this herself. She cannot drive so was unable to come into our offices and therefore arrears accrued as housing benefit stopped, on both the previous and current tenancy. We carried out a visit and carried out two housing benefit and successfully backdated claims online to the value of £960.”
Some of the most heart-warming examples are provided by Care and Support staff. Bernadette Smith, senior support worker, explained: “Using the tablets with the services users was both a new and exciting experience. At first, the service user I supported was apprehensive about it. This was overcome by talking to him about the computer and having a laugh and joke about taking his photo, which automatically got him involved.
“During the conversation I was delighted to see how he really engaged in his ‘about me’ section where he answered loads of questions and was able to tell me things I didn’t know about him. Some of which meant I didn’t need to ask a question as it made the conversation feel more natural. I found this a useful tool for extracting lots of new information about him and how he likes to be supported. I could tell he felt I was listening to him because he kept asking if I was typing it in. He also kept asking me to read it out to him what I had typed and then agreed when I said something he told me. He also wasn’t shy in adding things to what I had typed, this was a really fun and interesting way of fully involving him in his support plan. I got a lot from this experience and really got to know him from the conversation we had.”
Bill Banks, Kingdom chief executive, said: “This has been a huge success. It has allowed us to improve performance, cut down on paperwork and streamline our service provision. We were also able to secure cost reductions by renegotiating our mobile service contracts.”