In July 2017, with the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) due to come into law the following April, Slough Borough Council joined the pilot for our unique HRA solution, Housing Jigsaw Homelessness Reduction (formerly PRAH). The greatest change to homelessness legislation for many years, the HRA meant an overhaul of processes for local authority Housing Options and Homelessness teams in order for them to remain compliant with the new Act.
Julie Render, Housing Demand Manager at Slough Borough Council explains their proactive decision to join the Housing Jigsaw Homelessness Reduction pilot and along with other pilot local authorities, to help shape the module into a system that would truly support the sector:
“We did not have a system which really facilitated the HRA and this was an ideal solution to pilot something that did seem to fit what we needed. The initial training and support provided to myself and the team was amazing – even though we probably tested their patience at times, it didn’t show.”
Housing Jigsaw Homelessness Reduction is designed to ensure legal compliance and supports officers to develop a tailored journey for each customer with key guidance at critical points in the triage and assessment phases.
For Julie, Homelessness Reduction’s user-friendly nature is key for her team. She explains, “Homelessness Reduction is so easy to use and for new staff it has been really helpful in the way that it carries them through their casework.”
Each customer recorded in the system has their own comprehensive case record with a full overview of their current status, including any outstanding actions, a summary of notes, their Personalised Housing Plan, relevant documents and letters.
“From a management perspective,” Julie describes how, “it shows where the cases are and what has elements outstanding, making caseload reviews easy to conduct with each officer on a one-to-one basis, while also allowing an overview of the team, so we can react on where an officer may be struggling.”
After 3 years, Slough Borough Council have built a strong working relationship with MRI Social Housing. Julie elaborates on what this means for the local authorities we work with:
“Working with MRI is a real joy; nothing seems to be ‘a stupid question’. They are always responsive, and they seem to really have yours and your customers’ interests at heart regarding development, so we are always moving forwards.
“The Support Team are one of those where ‘it does what it says on the tin’; they are always really friendly, helpful and again, nothing is too much trouble. Myself and the team cannot praise them enough – and they even remember you!”
The development of the platform and the new releases, often based on customer feedback are all included within the annual subscription to Housing Jigsaw Homelessness Reduction. In the last year alone, we completed 31 live releases.
For Julie, this “Most definitely offers value for money. As mentioned before, the system is continually being upgraded and improved, so I don’t have to worry about things being outdated, whereas I would with other systems.”
Julie sums up Slough’s experience of working with MRI Social Housing:
“I cannot think of anything bad to say about Homelessness Reduction and MRI. Even when we have had a problem or are unsure of something, there is always a friendly, helpful person who will try and support. I have yet to come across anything that they have not resolved or where they have said, ‘You should know that’ – their attitude is great.
“I really think it helps because they understand the HRA, homeless work and homelessness teams, therefore they are the provider who really does understand what you are saying, the importance of things and really how pressured our work can be.”
Rough Sleeping Pathway – Rise Implementation.
In November 2020, following the success of Housing Jigsaw Homelessness Reduction, Slough Borough Council took the decision to implement Rise, the latest solution in the Housing Jigsaw suite of products. Rise provides a unique platform designed to support local authorities, voluntary sector organisations and wider partners to manage their rough sleeping pathway.
Julie explains, “We purchased Rise because we found we had no system which would facilitate the work being undertaken by our in house Out Reach/Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) team. So rather than keeping numerous spreadsheets and ‘person notes’, Rise fitted what we wanted to do, e.g., have the ability to log rough sleepers’ locations. It links into Housing Jigsaw so the whole team can see cases regardless of the approach route and it will assist with support work being done with the customers.
“We’ve only just gone live, but we believe Rise will be invaluable to our officers and our customers in the future.”