12/12/2019 - Permalink

Shropshire Council develops app to help the homeless

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Shropshire Council’s housing Services and ICT teams have developed an app to help arrange support for the people who are homeless.

The app allows housing outreach workers add information about a person’s situation (in real time) when they encounter them rough sleeping on the streets: a central team then use the information to seek support.

The previous method for supporting those in need relied on two outreach staff recording details of the homeless person on paper, with that piece of paper then returned to the office at the end of their shift for another team to find support. The previous process was far slower than the new, with the main and most important difference being the time taken to provide a package of support – which can be as little as 10 minutes.

Andy Begley and the homelessness app

Andy Begley and the homeslessness app

Andy Begley, Shropshire Council’s director of adult social care and housing, said;-

“Our new homelessness app gives our team the information they need to support people, helping the homeless into a warm, safe environment wherever possible in a timely way. This tool also helps us to think more strategically about the support we need and where we should provide it, as the data is far more accessible for service planning.

“It’s great that our teams are innovating so passionately to help those we serve, with plans to develop this further with partner organisations over the coming year.”

Andy Begley and the homeslessness app

Andy Begley and the homeslessness app

The app has been developed internally using Microsoft’s PowerApps platform, making it a bespoke creation using a low-code solution that is part of the Microsoft package many councils already buy into. By utilising this technology, the council have been able to create a fully bespoke app, with the specialist features that benefit those needing support, using internal resource alone – with estimates for development of less than £2,000 of existing staff time.

Michele Leith, Shropshire Council’s director of workforce and transformation, said:-

“We have been driving digital change throughout the council for three years now, working across the organisation to transform the way we work. Adult social care, which at our council includes our housing services teams, is under extreme financial pressure, and it’s great when we find a service-improving digital solution to supporting those who need help in our community.”

The app allows staff to add all the information needed to allocate support using the homelessness officer’s mobile phone or tablet. The data is stored securely in the Microsoft UK cloud infrastructure and presented using the Microsoft Business Intelligence Tool PowerBI. This gives a bespoke view for staff, which helps them rapidly find appropriate support. Alongside this, the tool automatically triggers alerts in some circumstances, quickly seeking help in the event of an emergency.

The development of this tool is part of the council’s digital transformation programme, which has seen the delivery of several key systems and an extensive upskilling programme to help staff get the most from the digital capabilities at our disposal.

Andrew Boxall, Shropshire Council’s head of technology, said:-

“Developing line of business apps that solve specific problems is a great way of working in local government as our services are broad and complex, making end-to-end IT systems expensive and quite cumbersome. The products we have at our disposal allow for rapid development of bespoke solutions, giving us the opportunity to transform services and ultimately deliver better solutions for those we serve – whether that be residents, businesses or partner organisations.”

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