Exploring the value off outbound communications to citizens based on their life events and situation so that we prevent situations developing into crisis.

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

Residents that are embedded into a community are less likely to have a bad situation develop into crisis and are more able to draw on support from sources other than the council. This has been proven time and again and is the reason behind the desire to develop community resilience. However, we are an increasingly mobile society and one with digital communities as well as physical communities. The problem we wish to tackle is how to accelerate a resident becoming a member of a community that can help provide them with support and mitigate the risk of an issues becoming a crisis.  


We want to understand how we can support people as their lives change and help them drawn on a range of support services that are present in the community and the third sector quickly and easily to stop an escalation of the situation. We believe the problem is caused by two different routes, firstly increased physical mobility either by desire or as a result of housing pressures forcing people to move, this leads to people entering communities where they do not have a tacit knowledge about the location and its support networks. The second is ability for bad situations to escalate rapidly due to the lack of slack in people’s personal circumstances and the social care system.  


The users here are the people on the borderline of needing support from the council where if something small and unexpected happens their lack of knowledge of the system means the situation gets worse rapidly.  

Hypothesis: Long-standing members of long-standing communities are less likely to escalate into crisis when a bad event happens to them than people that are not members of a resilient community.  

Assumption 1: It is possible to determine who is a and who is not a member of a resilient community; 

Assumption 2: We can identify the initial trigger events to understand when there is a risk someone’s situation might escalate; 

Assumption 3: We can accelerate someone’s integration with a community or provide them access to the same support functions of that community; 


We plan to conduct several different strands of user research;  

  1. Identify some generic persona’s that can be used to describe both the parts of the population we are not interested in, and then in more detail describe the parts of the population we are interested in and identity their characteristics within our data sets so they can be identified;  
  1. Develop a library of life events that could occur to these persona’s and map out the possible impacts on these people to determine which are the scenarios that have a risk of leading to crisis; 
  1. Conduct research on resilient communities and the established members of these communities, both physical and distributed to understand the tacit knowledge that members of these communities have and their support network; 
  1. Engage with members of the identified boarder line persona’s to understand how we can both encourage them to tell us about the life events that risk affecting them significantly and then how and when we could communicate to them to help provide them with the tacit knowledge and access to support networks that established members of resilient communities have; 


Other work has focused on the “moving in” life event and creating a single moving in process that covers all different services, ideally crossing the district and county divide. We believe this demonstrates the validity of the idea but wish to target a specific segment of the population and look at a wider range of life events linked with health care needs of a member of the household or income changes of anyone in the household as well as seasonal variation, e.g. increased heating bills or external functions, e.g. changes in petrol prices or food prices.  


Research points 1 and 2 would be conducted by teams within each partner council looking at their own data to try and identify persona’s and life events. The results from these internal reviews would then be combined in a joint session looking to establish the most useful persona’s and life events to investigate further than could be relatively easily identified or would require citizens to provide simple updates.  


Each partner would then look to establish where it has resilient communities and then engage with that community directly via interviews and workshops to understand what makes it resilient and how it helps prevents people slipping into crisis. We would also seek to research where people had and had not fallen into crisis as a result of certain life events happening and try and establish what was different between the two scenarios. Similarly, to points 1 and 2 we would then seek to combine work we have conducted at each partner to create a joined-up perspective that attempts to remove regional bias.  


For the final research point we will focus our efforts in a single partners location to get as much depth as possible on communication preferences, engagement and how to present information about different types of support networks. This will involve further stakeholder interviews and surveys to gather input from citizens. This will then be combined within an internal review of how we hold and present data already via digital and non-digital channels.

One of the clearest examples of a household in crisis is homelessness, which has become an increasing problem across the country with increasing costs as well. Within the district the number of households accommodated by the authority lies at 135 and is growing year on year. A 2017 report by the LGA says “Latest figures show councils are currently housing 77, 240 homelessness households in temporary accommodation, including 120, 540 children. This is a 10 per cent rise on the previous year, with use of temporary accommodation outside London now rising fastest.” This shows this is a national problem with a growing significance. Crisis claims that “If 40,000 people were prevented from becoming homeless for one year in England it would save the public purse £370 million. In 2012 the cost of homelessness in England was reported as being up to £1 billion (gross) a year.” as report commissioned by Crisis shows that “Cost of rough sleeping for 12 months (£20,128) vs cost of successful intervention (£1,426) (At What Cost, 2015)” These figures show that on this one potential type of crisis there is significant national spend and at least in theory the ability to intervene and cost the public purse less. 


Within Huntingdonshire we have seen the net cost of homelessness rise from a previously stable figure of £350,000 a year to a projected total of over £600,000 a year in FY2018/19. Even a 10% reduction in that cost would deliver significant real terms relief to the councils budget. We have forecast a total budget for homelessness related activities to be £1.296m in FY 2019/2020.  


However, this still needs to be a targeted intervention. The aim of this project will be to create targeted prevention or intervention methods and know how to target them. Our work would also seek to generate specific costs for each stage of dealing with a crisis situation in order to understand the true costs of interventions.  

The project will be coordinated and run out of Office 365 where possible, using a dedicated MS Teams site to support access by all partners into a shared collaborative space. Within the Teams space tasks will be collated and tracked using Planner with MI information generated automatically and accessible via a PowerBI dashboard to provide real time progress tracking and business intelligence. MS Teams allows for the sharing of documents and their collaborative authoring between multiple stakeholders, it also supports video conference calls and chat functionality. 


A weekly huddle / checkpoint meeting will be scheduled for all project participants where we can confirm that all tasks are on track and hear about any issues that have occurred in the previous week. The aim of this meeting is to allow for the rapid visibility to risks and issues to allow us to dynamically re-plan as needed within a phase. This is likely to be a virtual meeting. 


Between each phase joint retrospective and re-planning meetings will be held, ideally with key project partners coming together in person to discuss the last phase and the next phase of the project, other participants will be invited to join via Teams video conferencing to enable full participation. This meeting is likely to occur on a 4 –  week period depending on the speed of progress of the project.  


The project will be led by a single project manager who will coordinate all day to day activities and the finances of the project. A board made up of a single senior key stakeholder from each partner will then receive regular (weekly) updates from the project manager on the progress of the project and any issues with resourcing and progress from each of the partners on the project. This key stakeholder will be responsible for ensuring effective delivery from that partners resources and informing the project of future resource shortfalls to allow for re-planning. Each phase will additionally have a nominated technical lead from the partner that is best placed to lead that element of the work, they will coordinate with the project manager on developing the detailed activities that will be undertaken. This joint leadership should keep all partners fully engaged with the project for its duration.  

We would appreciate the support of the Local Digital Collaboration or other functions within MHCLG in providing us details of any conference, events or central government discussion forums that we might benefit from attending / making contact with. We know that the landscape of events and forums within the public sector is disjointed and large and whilst we know of some of these events and forums, we acknowledge that our knowledge is incomplete. Hence the request for timely additional information about useful opportunities to raise the awareness of what we are working on and then support in the publication of the learnings we arrive at, at the end of the process