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Income teams are changing the way they operate in the face of Covid-19 and other pressures such as Universal Credit.
The issues and solutions were spoken about during HQN’s Rent Income Excellence Network annual conference, where delegates got a flavour of some of the best approaches to the changing landscape, as well as how to overcome some of the barriers every team is facing.
Heather Mitchell of River Clyde Homes was one speaker who was passionate about early intervention, saying it had brought a whole host of successful outcomes for the organisation.
She also said that with the change in landscape, specifically with a more bedded in Universal Credit system, many specialist staff had now moved to more generic roles, also yielding good results.
The Inclusive Communities Manager said that River Clyde had also benefitted from moving to “smaller patch sizes” meaning that staff were once again able to have a stronger personal relationship with tenants.
Mitchell said this allowed officers to deliver a “higher level of support” than before.
Ilyas Lunat, Senior Income Service Manager, Connect Housing said Covid-19 has changed the way in which income management has to be approached.
He added that culture change in income management is “tough”.
Lunat expanded: “Many have been in post over ten years and so set in their income collection methods. We struggled at first with these conversations about change.
“Staff were placing too much emphasis on enforcement. There is still a place for enforcement, but the tone and language really needs to be away from that.”
The changing nature of the role due to Covid-19 was something that both Jaz Kaur of whg and Suzanne Moore of ClwydAlyn agreed it.
Kaur said “you don't have to argue for engagement, colleagues want it now” with Moore adding that the role has become much more “supportive” than in recent times, especially with the move away from initial Universal Credit claims.
Paul Jones, Senior Lead Income Management at Welsh housing association Trivallis, said they had adapted to make their offer more modern, reducing the number of eviction notices, using social media to interact with those who may be struggling with rents and incorporating income management into all parts of the business, “rather than it being seen as an outside body”.
Another housing association that has taken a fresh approach to income management is Optivo.
Their Head of Income, Mark Walker, also spoke at the event and said the myth of social housing residents not being “digitally savvy” needed to be debunked.
Walker said the organisation recognised not everyone was there, but their change in approach had seen “a 12% reduction in inbound calls and 18% increase in digital engagements”.
This more agile approach has seen arrears fall for Optivo, as well as better engagement from residents.
He said the most important aspect of this change was to make sure it is effective over the long term: “Moving forward, it is about using data innovatively to work better with residents to ensure that we carry on improving.”
The conference delegates also heard from a host of technology companies, from PayPoint and Allpay to MRI and Mobysoft.
These highlighted some of the solutions based approaches that different organisations can take.
There were also presentations from those representing credit unions on how to work in better partnerships and how to take the lead on debts.
The RIEN annual conference was put on by the Rent Income Excellent Network. If you would like to find out more about how your organisation can get involved in the network and take advantage of the benefits, please click here.