Case Study: Charter Housing Association
Charter Housing Association manage almost 5,000 properties across South East Wales, predominately in the Newport region. They are part of the Seren Group, which recently merged with another South Wales Housing Group to form Pobl.
Caseload Reduction: 65% – 2,700 down to 942
Daily Processing: Contributing a 10% caseload reduction to the 65% overall
Officer Capacity Created: 2.21 FTE (32.5% of 6.8 FTE income team)
Charter Housing was one of the Welsh landlords that participated in the Department for Works and Pension (DWP) project called Direct Payment Demonstration, this research analysed the impact of tenants’ housing benefit being paid direct to the tenant, in preparation for Universal Credit, rather than directly to the landlord. The findings were extensive, part of which highlighted the potential risks to landlords’ income streams. The project proved added stimulus for Charter to ensure they had additional capacity to cope with Universal Credit so they were able to maintain their performance.
Before RentSense Charter used their Housing Management System to help them manage their rent arrears. It was configured so that the HMS would pull through all an officer’s cases in arrears. But this meant officers were trawling through the cases, even those that did not require any contact. Part of the findings of the direct payment pilot highlighted the importance of speaking to tenants at the right time.
“Knowing more accurately who should be paying and when is becoming increasingly important when the tenant is receiving the money themselves,” commented Stephen Evans, Director of Housing at Charter Housing Association.
Charter made the decision to invest in RentSense, to help increase capacity within the income team without increasing the number of staff. At the same time Charter employed some benefit specialists to ensure the organisation had a joined-up approach to the challenges of welfare reform.
“It was important that we had the right staff as well as having the technology to help move us forward.” Commented Debbie Evans, Rent & Financial Solutions Team Manager at Charter.
No Missed Cases
When deploying RentSense, for some organisations it is a leap of faith in ‘trusting’ the recommended cases, as typically the caseload is massively reduced. This was the case at Charter as well, as the income team were used to having around 2,700 weekly cases from their HMS, but RentSense reduced this by 65% so the team were working on under 950 cases a week.
“There was some scepticism that the team would lose cases they should be looking at,” explained Debbie. “After the test-period there weren’t any cases missed by RentSense and even today I still don’t know of any missed cases, several years on from when we started using it. In the beginning this really helped build confidence with the team.”
Not only did the team ‘buy-in’ to using RentSense they also enjoyed how simple it was to use, as all the information they needed was right in front of them.
Management Insight & Flexibility
RentSense has given Stephen and Debbie insight into team and officer performance so they can be more proactive with the team and caseload.
“Now I know how everyone is getting on with their caseload and can see completion performance throughout each week. It also means if anyone has been off sick or has got behind I can get others to help out and work on their patch, as it enables me to see who has capacity to help,” commented Debbie.
Mitigating the Complexity of Welfare Reform
On-going welfare reform is impacting both landlord and tenants, as the resulting caseload is often more complex, so officers need more time to work their cases, which RentSense is enabling, as Stephen explains:
“All welfare reform is affecting Charter, it essentially means less money in people’s pockets which mean they are finding it harder to pay the rents, so more focus on the right cases is critical as where previously we could easily waste our time, and the now cases are more complicated they also take more time. This is where RentSense has really helped.”
Dealing with Universal Credit
Having participated in the DWP pilot Charter arguably have a clearer insight into the effects that Universal Credit will have on landlords. One finding that struck a chord with Charter was how it highlighted people tended to pay in quite a chaotic fashion.
“Trying to work out a pattern of payments would be very difficult,” explains Stephen. “There was lots of part payments rather than full. And this is very difficult to see when you are faced with a raft of payments you can’t necessarily see the wood for the trees, that’s where the RentSense will pick these up.”
Due to the algorithms and predictive analytics that RentSense is ‘built around’, it is able to identify trends that Housing Management Systems miss. This means it not only flags cases sooner it can also identify a tenant is likely to pay so it does not flag them for action. What’s more there is an additional RentSense module called Daily Processing that processes and analyses payment details each working day rather than weekly. This then removes additional cases, where payment has been received, from the weekly caseload.
“Knowing as quickly as possible about who has and has not paid is key with Universal Credit. This was also a driver for daily processing, with the tenant getting the money themselves and any delay in them getting the money and then paying us rapidly diminishes the chance of getting the rent,” comments Stephen.
Another approach to mitigate welfare reform has seen Charter undertake a project which requires officers to work quite differently to how they do at the moment. The project is about understanding the root cause of arrears and trying to resolve it, which requires a great deal more intensive work and support.
“RentSense is freeing up time so to enable some officers to work on this project to try and help break the cycle of arrears and debt,” explains Stephen.
Since using RentSense Charter have achieved some pretty impressive results. Not only has the caseload been reduced by 65%, of which Daily Processing has contributed a 10% reduction, and it has helped create officer capacity of 2.21 FTE.
“RentSense has enabled us to create capacity that has meant we have not had to recruit additional heads with in the team,” commented Debbie.
It has also helped Charter to maintain their arrears performance over three years, currently they are 2.4%, in what has been a changing environment due to a raft of welfare reform. Moreover, in that period Charter have seen their number of Universal Credit cases rise incrementally as they ready themselves for full-service UC later in 2017. What’s more, RentSense has helped them take a different approach to cases, as highlighted earlier in Charter’s new project.
“Knowing the workloads has allowed management intervention to share the workload out. It’s easy to refer cases out from there as opposed to a HMS. It has also allowed us to get the project pilot approach of the ground, because of that we can make more informed decisions on how big these patches will be on this project and we change it easily moving forward as they get on top of their patch.”
Software with a Service
Mobysoft works on hard on client success and dedicates a lot of time to after sales care and account management which is all geared towards helping customers achieve their initial business case targets, as Stephen explains:
“Mobysoft has a very responsive team, with software companies they are usually very difficult to contact once they have sold to you and data configuration usually takes forever and is very complicated, that did not happen with Mobysoft. The deployment and set up was really straight forward and they are really responsive and we have regular meetings with Mobysoft.”