Local authorities have a duty to ensure that people can get the information and advice they need to make good decisions about care and support, including preventative measures such as attention to their home circumstances. Yet cost constraints, as well as lack of expertise, make this challenging.
We want to explore whether and how a successful pilot in the small rural South Cambridgeshire district of a Housing Options for Older People (HOOP) website service can be replicated in the larger and more diverse authority areas we represent.
Our main objectives during an alpha phase are to create and pilot HOOP online services in all willing boroughs in Greater Manchester, plus Haringey and Islington in London, in order to establish:
- the extent of localisation required for the tool to work well in these areas, and the appetite of statutory, voluntary and private sector agencies to help populate it, use it and promote it;
- any enhancements to HOOP’s content management system necessary for cost efficient roll-out of local HOOP services;
- any organisational, technical or other obstacles to HOOP’s adoption by local authorities;
- the extent to which HOOP users rate the online HOOP service as of high quality, and what specific benefits they gained from it;
- the level of demand by HOOP users for follow-on, one-to-one, telephone information and guidance from a HOOP Advisor.
In beta, the HOOP service will be available to all over 55s and well publicised. During a 6 month alpha phase we aim to pilot it in up to 12 boroughs and reach a representative sample of at least 500 users.
A HOOP service model that is localisable, at a known cost, is attractive to users and can be readily adopted by other metropolitan authorities.
- positive user views and outcomes achieved;
- positive response by local authorities;
- demand for and cost of providing a HOOP telephone advice service to support users who require this;
demand for a HOOP ‘app’ for use by mobile workers.
There are 3 strands to our plan:
- Intensive engagement with stakeholders
- Early launch of HOOP services in up to 12 locations
- Early launch of a HOOP user support service in these areas
Intensive engagement with stakeholders
- to brief them and bring them on board with the project;
- to learn about the organisational frameworks they operate in, their ability to manage a local HOOP, how HOOP might best integrate into their overall service provision to older people;
- to understand their views on the technical integration of HOOP into their online platforms, and where required, their access to technical resources to help achieve this;
- to establish the extent of user demand for a HOOP user support service (advice line, live chat, peer support, etc), its likely cost, and the privacy, data protection and technical policies and procedures required for handover of HOOP user data to a support service.
Early launch of HOOP services in all 12 locations
We envisage creating and soft launching up to 12 local HOOP services early in the project in order to ensure that we have:
- Sufficiently well developed local HOOPs to deliver good baseline services in all areas;
- Fully developed local HOOPs in 2 areas where project partners are able and willing to contribute resources to achieve this;
- Sufficient, and sufficiently diverse HOOP users to provide data on which to base iterative adjustments to the content of each local HOOP during the course of the alpha project.
Limited launch of HOOP user support service
We will commission EAC to deliver advice line and ‘live chat’ support during the alpha project, primarily as a market research exercise to help us understand the reasons people used HOOP, their views of it, any improvements they would like to see in it, and what ‘added value’ they looked for from the support service.
Our Gantt chart provides a schedule of key tasks over a 6 month alpha project.
The main benefits of this project will be:
- Evidence that a service to older people, hitherto generally regarded as unaffordable, can be provided at a modest cost and good quality;
- Service user evidence of quality, and of the improvements to real people’s lives the service can bring;
- A distillation of pre-existing research evidence of offsetting cost savings that the service can deliver across the combined local and health authority economy;
- Evidence to support the case that there is no need to reinvent, at local expense, a service delivery tool that has been tested and refined to suit a wide range and number of authorities and authority areas;
- A higher profile for the existing free-to-use HOOP website, and stimulation of interest amongst local authorities in adopting it, investing in localising it further and promoting it to older people in their areas.
Recent development of the HOOP website has enabled local authorities to localise its content. This was demonstrated in a South Cambridgeshire pilot/discovery.
The pilot saw:
- Recruitment of a broad and effective stakeholder group;
- Full localisation of HOOP for South Cambs – incorporating grassroots knowledge of small scale and community led services, volunteer support and self-help initiatives;
- Creation of a localised paper version of HOOP for non internet users;
- Launch of a dedicated, free HOOP user Advice Line;
- Development of agreed customer referral protocols involving EAC, 6 major local voluntary organisations and the County Council’s own Adult Early Help Team;
Joined-up working between local authority departments to contribute towards communications and marketing strategies;
- Impressive impact of both social and traditional media on driving up HOOP user volumes;
- Collation of detailed evidence of the pilot’s impact and of user views and experiences.
An evaluation report highlighted key successes of the pilot:
- 176 people used HOOP during the 12 month pilot
- 70% said it provided all the information they needed
- just 16% took up the offer of a one-to-one conversation with a HOOP Advisor
Estimates of the ongoing cost of a county-wide HOOP service were not included in the evaluation, but key cost elements were identified:
- One internal specialist housing advisor
- Annual update of each of 5 District HOOPs
- Ongoing regular service promotion
- Continuing HOOP Advice Line service, triaging to County, District and local voluntary sector agencies
On this basis, EAC has estimated that HOOP users of the county-wide service will peak at around 4,000 per annum, of which c.600 will make use of the associated Advice Line, at an all-in cost to the county authority totalling £32k – or £8 per user.
HOOP-type services are already running in several Greater Manchester (GM) council areas, but these are low volume high intensity services, focused on vulnerable older people. GMCA is keen to work with all GM councils to explore HOOP’s potential to enable them to extend housing options advice to all older people. Our London partners share a similar ambition.
We have also identified 5 LDF alpha applications whose proposers might be interested in closer collaboration, and plan to reach out to these as a matter of priority. And via our delivery partner EAC we will have close observer status as the county-wide roll out of a South Cambs HOOP discovery progresses.
Overall, we will run or have close access to 22 HOOP projects in a diverse range of locations across England, and will provide regular reporting on these on our website – including identifying variations to the standard HOOP model that have been found to work effectively in certain locations or for specific HOOP user types.
By June 2019 we will produce the following outputs:
Business case: Most of the evidence for this will come from the HOOP website, which will capture:
- data (anonymous) on the housing concerns of all users, plus the guidance, resources and signposting they were offered;
- supplementary personal data on users who request contact with the HOOP Advice Line;
- case notes on Advice Line interactions with them, including call recordings;
- customer feedback,
We aim to show that:
- The costs of providing a HOOP service are way lower than the likely costs to public authorities of not doing so, and
- An online HOOP service, even if coupled with an Advice Line service option, can be provided at a very low cost per user.
User research report: We will work collaboratively and continuously with our partners, through the use of Google Docs/Sheets, to produce a comprehensive user report to share by the end of the project.
An accessible product: We will produce a User Guide that includes:
- How to use the free access HOOP website
- How its information and advice content can be further localised
- How it can interface and share customer data with an Advice Line service
- What free data and analyses are available about local use and users
We will also share PDF templates of related materials including a HOOP questionnaire leaflet, comprehensive housing options guide and promotional materials
A conclusion: including:
- an overall, candid assessment of where and how HOOP has worked well, encapsulating both authority and end user perspectives;
- a review of evidence and conclusions about how to overcome any technical barriers to widespread adoption identified during the alpha project;
- the prospects for authorities across England choosing to use HOOP;
- an appraisal of the types of promotion and marketing that would be required to achieve universal coverage, and their cost;
- identification and quantification of what the focus of a beta development phase should be.
HOOP attempts to address the needs of two types of user:
- Local authorities that have a responsibility (and need) to provide information and advice to help older people delay and/or prevent their need for costly heath and social care interventions; and
- Older people and their families who look for independent and authoritative information, guidance and sometimes support to help them appraise their home and living circumstances, juggle with options for the future, reach decisions and act on them.
Our proposed project requires close engagement with both types of user, and is a further reason why we have selected EAC as our delivery partner. EAC brings:
- extensive experience of working with local authorities and understanding their policy drivers and the pressures they face. It has shown itself capable of helping introduce change in ways that complement existing services, support staff and ultimately result in better services to older people.
- 30 years experience of delivering housing options advice to older people and their families, plus a commitment to capturing, distilling and reporting on what its clients disclose about their needs, aspirations and financial means.
The objective of the research, which we will also commission EAC to deliver, is to provide answers to this question:
“How can we as an authority, through the HOOP tool, on the one hand:
- moderate the demand on our services – both expensive forms of information & advice and housing, care & home support services;
and on the other:
- provide the best possible information, advice and guidance to older people, in ways they find attractive and usable, to empower them to find solutions that suit them and are affordable?
At this stage we envisage that an early conversation with the Local Digital Collaboration Unit could be very helpful. We know that success in persuading some authorities to adopt the HOOP tool enthusiastically will depend on whether they see the potential for integrating it into their evolving data and digital technology systems in order to bring benefits over and above what they can gain from simply signposting to it or embedding it into their websites. Based on their knowledge of authority systems, LDCU may be able to offer some broad guidelines to help us maximise integration opportunities, or at least avoid pitfalls.
We have not been granted funding for this phase of the project in the past, and are not receiving funding currently.
Our project partner EAC (Elderly Accommodation Counsel) received funding from Cambridgeshire County Council during 2017-18 for a pilot/ discovery phase.