Case Study: Ongo Homes
Ongo Homes is based in North Lincolnshire and has around 10,000 properties. Ongo was originally a stock transfer from the local council in 2007.
Average UC Arrears Oct 2017: £527 (118 UC Cases)
Average UC Arrears Oct 2018: £386 (1,259 UC Cases)
Officers found their workload was demoralising, it was too long and inaccurate. They weren’t getting through their cases, no matter how hard they worked. And a lot of time and effort was wasted on cases that needed no action, its soul destroying when you put a lot of effort in for no reward.
“RentSense gives us all confidence,” comments Andrea Morley, Income Manager, at Ongo Homes.
For many, income collection is about being confident that the choices being made are the right ones, as that has the biggest impact on performance.
“We are confident we are contacting tenants at the right time. Before (RentSense) officers would waste time going through their caseload from the Housing Management System (HMS) knowing many of those accounts flagged did not need action.”
The flagging of accounts, by the HMS, that needed no contact was highlighted in a service review in 2016 at Ongo, a landlord with around 10,000 homes in and around North Lincolnshire. one of the recommendations was to invest in RentSense to deliver efficiencies, and also help enable their ‘business minded with a social purpose’ approach in income collection.
Improving Staff Morale
“Before (RentSense) officers found their workload was demoralising, it was too long and inaccurate. They weren’t getting through their cases, no matter how hard they worked. And a lot of time and effort was wasted on cases that needed no action, its soul destroying when you put a lot of effort in for no reward,” explains Andrea.
“Now with RentSense there is a sense of achievement, as every call matters. There is also a sense of eagerness at the beginning of every week, as they want to know ‘how many cases I have got this week?’ RentSense helps them invest their time more proactively with better results.” Comments Andrea
Yasmin Lockhart, a Court Enforcement Officer at ONGO, also cites how RentSense helps officers manage more effectively.
“It also helps with job satisfaction as you can see the number of cases you are going through, and you can see you are managing the working week better.”
Mitigating Full-Service Universal Credit
Like all social landlords Ongo has been affected by full-service Universal Credit. The effects of the new benefits system have been well documented in the national media, with social landlords’ arrears spiraling alarmingly and food bank usage on the rise. In October 2017, Scunthorpe transitioned to full-service, at that time Ongo had 118 tenants claiming Universal Credit, and their average arrears were £527. Fast forward to October 2018 and there is now 1,259 tenants claiming Universal Credit, but the average arrears for those claiming UC has fallen to £386. Usually, the reverse is true, full service increases the average UC arrears value, so how has Ongo bucked the trend?
“There is no easy solution to mitigating Universal Credit. We invest in supporting tenants moving on to UC, this is labour intensive and takes a lot of time, but in the longer run it helps. RentSense helps that it gives us the right cases, but it also flags the UC cases that need attention at the earliest opportunity, whether it’s a missed payment or broken arrangement,” comments Andrea.
“Overall, I think there are several pieces to the puzzle. You need to be looking at the right cases, that’s what RentSense has done, and you also need the right staff, processes and culture. We have implemented new processes around arrears management, supporting staff so they know what they need to do and when. We are also now more business minded and are very clear with tenants in terms of what happens at each stage of the arrears process.”
More Insight and More Proactive
With so much time being spent on supporting Universal Credit cases RentSense helps Ongo manage their other cases through the reporting and the ability to refine and filter as needed.
“The reporting means no case gets missed over time. And officers can also review and filter their cases so they can focus on their most important ones. It has become a quality not quantity approach to income collection, making every contact count.”
At present Ongo are reviewing their patches so the workload is evenly balanced. RentSense gives them all information they need to know, about weekly workload, arrears per patch and other performance insight.
The environment in which social landlords operate has changed and collecting rent has become more intensive and onerous for income teams. So many are looking for proven tools that help housing teams maintain collections, support their tenants and mitigate Universal Credit, but also improve the working environment for the income team.
“Through the results the team are seeing in RentSense, they are happier. We see things such as the cases coming down when you action them and you can see the debt balances coming off each week,” comments Yasmin.
“RentSense makes sure we are calling the right tenants when we need to and it has stripped out a lot of wasted time. For us RentSense was part of the solution to the puzzle, it complemented our organisational culture and operational approach and our business approach to collecting rent arrears,” concluded Andrea.