Housing repairs service for local government (Beta)

Contents:

  1. Project timeline

The City of Lincoln Council is leading on this collaborative project, which aims to build a new application form for social housing residents to report their repairs. The project also looks to produce a common API that will enable user facing applications to integrate with appointment scheduling software.

For the next stage of work, the project proposes 3 phases to:

  1. Build the user interface with a single scheduling supplier at one council. It will use a subset of repair types based on the common service pattern defined within Alpha.
  2. Prove that the tool can be replicated, using an appointment scheduling system where possible.
  3. Develop a common API that will integrate with alternative scheduling suppliers. It will also consider future development to housing management systems using a common API layer.

To contact the project, email kristin.mcintosh@newark-sherwooddc.gov.uk or fill out a contact form.

This project builds on past discoveryalpha and technical alpha work.

Project presentation at Digital Leaders week 2021

Project timeline

December 2018 to April 2019 - discovery

Previous ‘Housing repairs online’ discovery receives £80,000 from the Local Digital Fund.

‘Housing repairs online’ discovery delivers project outputs, which are published on the Local Digital website.

September 2019 to February 2020 - alpha

MHCLG awards £100,000 to the ‘Developing a better online housing repairs system’ previous alpha from the Local Digital Fund.

Project team delivers agreed outputs from ‘Developing a better online housing repairs system’ alpha, published openly on the Local Digital website.

August 2020 to October 2020 - technical alpha

Project is selected to be funded as part of Local Digital Fund.

Project has an alignment workshop to align the team around:

  • Any work already done
  • Desired outcomes
  • Who we need to speak to
  • Our riskiest assumptions

Project publishes weeknotes about their workshop. 

Project has their 1st sprint:

Hosts 1st show and tell and publishes sprint notes

roject has their 2nd sprint:

  • Interviews suppliers and council IT departments
  • Identifies primary integration point for a product
  • Looks at potential approaches to adopting a common API
  • Reviews the Hackney ‘Raise a Repair’ codebase
  • Hosts 2nd show and tell and publishes sprint notes

Hosts a supplier engagement session with TechUK

Project has their 3rd sprint:

  • Interviews suppliers
  • SoR code analysis
  • Looks at communal and leaseholder repairs
  • Looks into accessing a supplier sandbox environment

Hosts 3rd show and tell and publishes sprint notes

Project has their 4th and final sprint

February 2021 - beta

The project receives £350,000 of follow-on funding from the Local Digital Fund to continue their work.

May 2021 - beta

The project is undergoing procurement activities with the view of kicking off their beta stage in June 2021.

June 2021 - beta

Having closed their supplier opportunity on the Digital Marketplace, the project is now busy shortlisting supplier proposals. Altogether, they received 14 applications from small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The team is also preparing for the THiSTLe Housing IT Group Meeting presentation on 24 June and a roadmapping session on 28 June. At the roadmapping session, the project aims to:

  • revisit the project vision for the project set at alpha stage
  • agree a project vision for the beta stage
  • agree a high level roadmap that shows how the beta vision can be achieved

Fraser Trickett from the City of Lincoln Council also presented at Digital Leaders Week, where he spoke about the project and their plans for Beta. Watch the project’s Digital Leaders week presentation recording on YouTube (skip to 32:10 minutes).

July 2021 - beta

The team are continuing with procurement activities. Committed to making the application process valuable, the team have also worked on providing feedback to the unsuccessful suppliers.

The project presented at the THiSTLe Housing IT Group Meeting which had great engagement and excellent questions. A couple of councils even expressed an interest to follow the project and take part in it after attending.

On Monday 5 July, the project had a road-mapping session where they:

  • revisited the project vision and agreed how they will update it
  • agreed a project vision for the beta stage
  • agreed beta stage goals that will help achieve the beta vision.

December 2021 - beta

The Housing Repairs team has continued to further their knowledge of the DRS scheduling software, incorporating the ability to check appointment availability and book appointments.

The team has successfully integrated the Housing Management API with Universal Housing. Authentication has been added to both the Repairs API and Housing Management API ensuring that API requests are secure and authenticated.

The project team have held a series of user testing sessions to gather feedback from a diverse range of services users, including those who are digitally excluded, and to ensure that a range of accessibility needs were tested.

The team presented at Local Gov Camp 2021 and hosted a series of Show and Share sessions, every fortnight, to demonstrate the project’s progress. Previous sessions can be viewed via the Repairs Online YouTube channel.

 

February 2022

  • create an API layer to integrate with housing management systems
  • allow the option to amend or cancel a repair — importantly, without requiring a login
  • provide the ability to log communal repairs
  • offer valid repair options to leaseholders

March 2022

The project is awarded £350,000 in follow-on funding through the Continuous Funding Model.

The project will use the funding to support the live launch at Lincoln City, as well as onboarding another council to adopt the software.

The next phase of the project will focus on:

  • developing appointment change and cancellation functionality
  • developing the ability to order communal repairs
  • developing the ability to order leaseholder eligible repairs
  • making Schedule of Rates (SOR) codes configurable
  • integration with a Housing Management System

On Tuesday 1 March, the project team held their Sprint 11 Show and Share session.

The team has made fantastic progress during this project and now have a working Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that integrates with the DRS scheduling system. The MVP is freely available, has utilised common components, and has been built and designed entirely on user feedback.

On Tuesday 8 March, Fraser Trickett presented at Public Sector Insight Week to provide an overview of how the team has progressed from discovery, to alpha and through to beta.

Fraser also outlined how the team has shared their lessons learnt from working with multiple councils and suppliers, and the importance of focusing on user needs.

April 2022

As part of Digital Leaders Week 2022, Kristin McIntosh of Newark and Sherwood District Council will deliver a talk on ‘User-led design to deliver housing repairs online service’ on Monday 20 June.

The public beta phase of the project will start on Monday 16 May. During this phase, the project will focus on delivering:

  • appointment amendment and cancellation functionality
  • communal repairs ordering
  • leaseholder eligible repair ordering
  • integration with the housing management system

If you are part of a local authority team or an interested party and would like to find out more about contributing, collaborating and/or the project team’s approach, please get in touch.

May 2022

City of Lincoln Council has become the first to use the open-source Housing Repairs Service — an achievement that’s been covered in an article by UK Authority. The repairs service has been promoted to Lincoln residents, and supplier MadeTech has agreed to publish a case study on the project.

The service was initially opened up to internal staff and has received good feedback from the customer service agents. Lincoln’s representative on the project has reported that staff have used the service to reduce their backlog of cases to around 700 from over 2,000!

Interest in the project is still increasing, and West Northamptonshire Council has started to attend the project’s agile ceremonies with a view to joining the project as a partner. The project team are actively engaging councils to find a replacement for Hounslow for the NEC Housing integration/ease of replication exercise.

The project team is collating a list of tech stacks for engaged councils, as part of their commitment to develop a strategy and action plan to engage local authorities. From this list, Jem Bowen from the Thistle IT Housing Group has identified which councils would potentially be in a good position to work with the project and adopt the service down the line.

The London Borough of Camden has advised that they may be in a position to collaborate on the NEC Housing integration, as they are already using NEC Housing as part of their Housing Repairs service. Camden may be able to provide insight and experience if they also involve members of their development team in the ease of replication activity.

June 2022

The public beta of the Housing Repairs service has hit the ground running. In its first sprint good progress has been made, including:

  • First prototype for Newark created
  • Drafted the phase research plan based on research aims
  • Scheduled and planned the first research days with Newark tenants
  • Second prototype for Newark prepared for the research days
  • Newark have made progress with the technical set up requirements for linking services

The work undertaken by the project team was demonstrated at the sprint 1 show and share session.

Parallel to this Lincoln’s service has now been live for over a month and the initial data collections show the service is being used by both residents and staff with minimal issues reported. 

Promotion of the service started in a controlled way from mid-May and will continue in this manner so the success of different promotion methods can be assessed as much as possible, thereby providing some guidance for future rollouts for other adoptees.

In the second sprint of the public beta, focus shifted a number of different areas which included:

  • First user research sessions completed
  • Insight analysis of first research sessions
  • Updates to text in MVP
  • Incorporate additional SOR’s
  • Terraform tech spike
  • Set up of service elements such as gov.notify for Newark & Sherwood
  • System process investigations for Newark & Sherwood

The work undertaken by the project team was demonstrated at the sprint 2 show and share session.

July 2022

It has been fantastic to hear how the service is helping tenants and staff at Lincoln; in 2 months they have reduced their pandemic backlog of appointments to book by 60%; the number of repairs booked online increased by 83% and the number of repairs booked online outside the 9am to 5pm period increased by 31%.

Key achievements during sprint 3 include:

  • Updating the prototype
  • Defined and workshopped the user journey for communal repairs
  • Preparations for user research with Newark tenants
  • Information gathering on leaseholder repair journeys
  • Provisioned API infrastructure using Terraform
  • Technical prep work with DRS

July marks four years since the launch of the Local Digital Declaration. Newark and Sherwood District Council signed up to the declaration in 2021 and in the sprint 3 show and share session they outlined how the declaration made it possible for them to get involved with the Housing Repairs Service project.

The sprint 4 show and share session focused on the second round of user research concerning the communal repair journey. 

The project team is still looking for another council to partner with them to support the ease of replication with another Housing Management System.If you are part of a local authority team or an interested party and would like to find out more about contributing, collaborating and/or the project team’s approach, please get in touch.

August 2022

The sprint 5 show and share session focused on the Capita Housing Management System integration tech spike and the feedback from the first session of the 3rd round of user research.

The sprint 5 blog had a slightly different focus as the team posted answers to a number of common questions posed by interested authorities about the project, particularly on how councils can get involved.

On Tuesday 16 August, the project team held their Sprint 6 Show and Share session, which was well attended by a number of councils.

During the session, the team were pleased to confirm that the Housing Repairs Service prototype is now publicly available for interested councils. The prototype is password protected, so if you wish to obtain access to the prototype please contact the team.

September 2022

The Housing Repairs Service project team is pleased to announce a partnership with NEC. During the current delivery phase, the development team will work with NEC to deliver integration with their NEC Housing system.

Following a meeting on Monday 12 September with NEC and the London Borough of Newham, NEC agreed to provide the Housing Repairs Service project team with access to their API documentation and their sandbox environment. The project team and NEC also agreed that the API sequence should create a job prior to getting appointment availability.

On Tuesday 13 September, the project team’s Sprint 8 show and share session took place. The session was well attended with representatives from Bromley, Newham, Nottingham, Southwark and the Swan Housing Group present.