Case Study: asra Housing Group
asra Housing Group was founded in 1965, although at that time it was known as Leicester Housing Association.
They provided housing and support to people in Leicestershire. Fast forward to today and asra has 14,000 properties in the Midlands and London. Their head office is based in Leicester, in whose county many of its properties are located.
The name asra means shelter in Hindi and Urdu and was taken from a project the organisation ran in the 1970’s, which supported Leicester’s Asian population.
In 2012 asra group’s arrears were 6%, although some areas of London were running much higher. They were using their Housing Management System to manage arrears, but were experiencing several issues.
“At the time income officers were facing an excessive number of weekly tasks.” Explained Simon Cousins, Income manager at asra. “This was compounded by the fact that officers were spending lots of time managing their escalation processes rather than the arrears and deleting a large number of actions. This all meant that at a large number of accounts were not getting looked at on a regular basis.”
There were also issues about the data from their systems, as management were unable to get a clear insight into performance.
“We needed to improve income performance as our arrears were at 6%, but we could not analyse the data coming our way.” Commented Head of Income at asra, Emma Conlon.
For these reasons in late 2012 asra conducted a root and branch review into their arrears performance, systems and processes. The findings of the review recommended that systems and processes needed to change if they were to meet their incremental arrears targets which they had been set, which were: 4.4% by March 2014, 4% in March 2015 and 3.8% in March 2016. Part of the findings recommended using Mobysoft’s RentSense solution.
In March 2013 asra deployed RentSense and it did not take long for them to see the benefits of their investment.
“There was a bedding in period, as it was a time of change for asra. We had changed processes, restructured the organisation, invested in RentSense, but within six months we were seeing dramatic results,” Emma stated.
The improvements have continued: After twelve months arrears reduced from 6% to 4.4% and by March 2015 they were at 3.8%. “This was ahead of our 4% target,” commented Simon.
“Over the two years since deploying RentSense, and changing our processes, our arrears have fallen by around £1.65m,” explained Emma.
From the outset asra’s focus was on reducing arrears but an extra benefit of RentSense is that it has helped ensure the income team get through their weekly caseload and in doing so created capacity within the team.
“We originally focused on arrears and not creating officer capacity, however now we are in the process of going through a restructure because we have capacity,” Emma explained. “We are increasing the officers patch size by about 400 which has allowed us to reduce our FTE.”
RentSense has also helped the income management team monitor performance more effectively.
“We know what the officers are doing. What tasks are being worked on and completed. It also helps manage staff off site, as we can see what they are doing in their week.” Commented Emma.
“Before we had to spot check the management of their case work,” highlighted Simon. “But with RentSense we are confident the cases they are getting are the right ones. So now we know an income officer has time to look at all their cases.”
So RentSense is working for the management but how do officers at the coal face find using the system?
For Hayley Cardinale, an income officer who has experienced both systems, commented:
“It (RentSense) has reduced the number of cases and freed up time to do more work. It is streamlined so you do not have to open and analyse cases, and it is really easy to use.”
Today RentSense is still having an impact, the arrears target for March 2016, of 3.8%, has already been exceeded as asra are currently at 3.6%.
“With Rentsense we now have a commercial approach to arrears and this has helped us tackle arrears effectively.” Explained Emma.