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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Downloads milestone for versatile Home Group app


A digital service for tenants of one of the UK’s biggest housing providers – that, alongside housing services, offers welfare and other advice - has just passed a landmark 3,000 downloads.

The Home Group app - available on televisions and games consoles, as well as smartphones and the web – is a single source for everything from requests for repairs to finding a new home. 

The app provides tenants access to the CBL home finder, news updates, tenant participation activities and a feedback function.  It also offers financial advice, guiding tenants through welfare reform, giving access to information from Universal Credit, benefit and financial budgeting support from the Money Advice Service, employment opportunities from Universal Job Match, as well as local transport information.

It was created by public sector-owned technology developer, LookingLocal, working with Home Group staff and customers.

Since it was launched in June 2014 Home Group have promoted the app strongly and it has seen rapid uptake: in January 2015 alone it was the channel for more than 1,400 repairs requests – an average of 45 a day.

The app is part of a strategy seeking to let customers contact Home Group using the most convenient and efficient way for them, reducing telephone or face-to-face contact.  A key requirement in Home Group’s brief for the product was to promote inclusion for all its tenants: to this end, in addition to the app, their service is accessible via a range of digital channels and platforms inc. Sky and Virgin television, Wii games console and Facebook.

LookingLocal Managing Director, Guy Giles, said: “As a major housing provider managing 55,000 homes, it was important that Home Group had a digital platform that offered streamlined access to their repairs service - and to the wider information and advice that their tenants need. The number of apps downloaded and repairs requested in so short a period of time indicate that tenants are finding it user-friendly and accessible. “



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Universal Credit roll-out - helping LAs deliver key information


With the national roll-out of Universal Credit under way this week, public sector-owned tech developer, LookingLocal is helping local authorities and housing providers deliver key benefits and jobs information – and give the widest possible digital access to claimants who will be moving across to the new system.

LookingLocal is developing platforms for more than 100 local authorities and housing associations that give multi-channel access to the details of Universal Credit as well as supporting content and services, which is shown to effectively inform people about the changes. 

LookingLocal’s solutions provide front-line council staff with tools to encourage self-service, offer financial advice and help people find employment locally; they give claimants access to a UC eligibility checker, the Money Advice Service and jobs information on the widest range of digital devices: smartphone apps, mobile, social media, Sky, Virgin, games consoles and online. The ability to log time spent job-hunting – a basic requirement of the new claimant commitment – is also available on our mobile offering and smartphone apps.

In 2014 885,000 jobs were searched across LookingLocal channels, with more than 150,000 visits to Universal Credit pages.  So far this year, close to 80,000 jobs have been searched with 21,200 pages of Universal Credit content served.  In addition content from The Money Advice Service has generated 26,000 page-hits.                                                              
Managing Director of LookingLocal, Guy Giles, said:  “With such a pivotal piece of welfare reform coming on-stream nationwide, it is important that organisations like councils and housing associations are able to provide claimants with current, high quality information on Universal Credit and associated advice while minimising their contact management overhead.  Our solutions are designed to help customers self-serve in a way that is most convenient to them.”

More information on how LookingLocal is helping local authorities and housing associations deliver Universal Credit advice and information is available on 0845 434 8540.

The location and dates for the first phase of national rollout (Feb-Jul) are here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/404368/universal-credit-national-expansion.pdf 



A short video explaining Universal Credit can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7GUu7Xa7Nw&feature=youtu.be

Thursday, January 29, 2015

PARENTS GIVE THUMBS-UP TO LOCAL OFFER INNOVATION

An innovative approach to delivering the “Local Offer” of services and information for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has been rolled out by Worcestershire County Council, working with public sector-owned technology developer, LookingLocal.

In addition to providing advice about SEND-related services and advice maintained by Worcestershire County Council , LookingLocal’s MyLocalOffer platform also incorporates a search capability that pulls in a wealth of content – much of it in multimedia form - beyond the council’s website, gaining insight from other organisations and communities and providing a much wider source of information and support, reflecting the complex needs of the SEND community.

The Children & Families Act 2014 required local authorities in England to deliver their Local Offer by making services and information accessible to parents and carers.  LookingLocal achieves this by making MyLocalOffer available across a range of mobile platforms and devices - PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones - 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 
It has received strong endorsement from local users in Worcestershire.   

During a development session with the Kirklees team, parents said:  “It’s brilliant. We can't believe how much has been achieved in such a short time.” As a group they are looking forward to working together to continue to develop and improve the site.

The County Council’s SEND team can curate their site by controlling and accrediting what content is offered by the Worcestershire Local Offer platform.  Its search facility dynamically pulls in content from local voluntary, health and other support organizations, as well as global resources, based on criteria set by users. This cuts down on duplication and means that information is as up to date as possible. 

If, for example, a user searches for “autism”' the results lists local and regional organisations that specialise in autism, together with autism-related information from the NHS, video content from YouTube, Facebook communities focused on autism, national and international autism support groups, and more.  Content is available in video or audio form and resources, such as online forums and chatrooms, are also easily accessible and local online communities can be created.    

The LookingLocal solution was attractive to Worcestershire County Council for a number of reasons: value for money, security, the ability to offer up-to-date, accurate listings from local partners without needing to manage content and a flexible approach to design that enables partners to customise and make changes in line with customer and organisational needs. 

Councillor Liz Eyre, Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet member for children and families said: “Worcestershire had a comprehensive website of information and resources around SEND, but needed to respond to the requirements of the Local Offer. The approach allowed us to plug our website into the LookingLocal solution, add related NHS content and create a valuable tool informed by the needs of parents and young people.”

 “The SEN Code of Practice is clear about the information that needs to be included in the Local Offer, and it was great to see that LookingLocal  had designed a product with the code in mind; it really helped not to start with a blank canvas.

“Working with LookingLocal around the Local Offer has given us an opportunity to engage with specific customer groups, communicate with partners, schools and everyone involved at a local level. The partnership has resulted in increased engagement and a fuller understanding of what is available for children, young people and their families. This work will continue.”

LookingLocal Director, Guy Giles, said: “We are delighted that the MyLocalOffer solution is working so well for Worcestershire County Council.  Working in close partnership meant that we could draw on their knowledge of local needs, take soundings from their stakeholders and ensure a flexible approach to product design. We have produced a Local Offer platform of which we are both very proud and our work with Worcestershire will inform the future development of MyLocalOffer.”

Other users of LookingLocal’s MyLocalOffer solution include Kirklees and Leeds Councils.





Wednesday, January 28, 2015

RENT-A-ROOM - HELPING TENANTS STAY IN THEIR HOMES


A digital room-renting solution, that is designed to make it easier for housing tenants and homeowners to afford their rents and mortgages, is being rolled out after a successful pilot saw its host platform used by more than 2,300 landlords and 35,000 tenants.

RentARoom puts people who are keen to let out a room in their property in touch with individuals who are just looking for a room to rent. This helps reduce time-consuming and costly customer contact for housing associations and local authorities. 

The system is designed to help public sector housing tenants who are struggling to pay increased rents - through, for example, under-occupation (the “bedroom tax”) - or homeowners who want to make mortgage repayments easier to meet. It is especially beneficial for people under-35 – the group most impacted by welfare reforms – who are looking for somewhere to live. A Government initiative means that individual homeowners can earn up to £4,250 a year, tax-free.

Built by Kirklees Council-owned technology developer, LookingLocal, LetsHelpYou is a free service that was piloted by five local authorities in West Yorkshire, including Kirklees, in 2012. Outcomes indicated properties standing vacant for shorter periods, and because all advertised rents are compared to the relevant housing benefit amount, those in receipt of the benefit can find a place they can afford, resulting in lower eviction rates.

Programme Director of LookingLocal, Guy Giles said: “LookingLocal has pioneered the push to helping people rent through self-serve, digital solutions as they search for affordable accommodation.  By removing intermediaries RentARoom offers a more streamlined service by bringing the two sides together, saving time and money for hosts, lodgers housing associations and local authorities.”

RentARoom’s development has been part-funded by the Department for Work and Pensions to aid the transition to Universal Credit and the Local Housing Allowance.  LookingLocal solutions promote inclusion by being accessible across devices, including digital TV (through Virgin and Sky) and smartphone apps, allowing users to look for property from the comfort of their own sofas.  

More information on RentARoom is available from Irene Zdziebko - irene.zdziebko@letshelpyou.co.uk .




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A "GRAND" NEW YEAR FOR DUDLEY'S LOOKING LOCAL APP

A mobile app that allows Dudley residents to quickly and easily report problems, such as flytipping, potholes and faulty streetlights - and lets tenants submit requests for housing repairs - has kicked off 2015 by passing a landmark 1,000 downloads.

The Dudley Council mobile app, built by public sector-owned technology developer Looking Local, is available to local residents and tenants for free on iOS and Android smartphones.  It was launched in November 2014.

Commissioned as part of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council’s ‘Love Your Community’ campaign the app allows residents to send in pictures of problems, including roads in need of repair, dumped rubbish, faulty street lights and graffiti, which are then forwarded to the appropriate council department. The app pinpoints the exact location of the report to aid a speedy resolution. Dudley’s housing tenants can also send in pictures to request housing repairs. 

Of the 1,000 downloads since the November go-live, more than 550 street issues and more than 250 housing repairs have been reported.

LookingLocal Director, Guy Giles, said:  “We are delighted that Dudley’s app has been taken up with such enthusiasm by local residents.  In common with all our clients we worked with the Dudley Council team to develop a versatile, bespoke solution based, in this case, on our MyLandlord platform.  Our aim is to create a product that residents find easy to navigate and convenient to use – and that cuts down on time-consuming and costly face-to-face and telephone contact with council staff.” 

Councillor Stuart Turner, cabinet member for finance and ICT at Dudley Council, said: “The Looking Local app is already proving popular with Dudley residents as it offers quick and easy access to council services, and a convenient route to reporting street issues and requesting housing repairs.  It also allows our busy customer advisers to maximise the time they have to help more residents. We’re very pleased that it has been so well received and we hope even more people will continue to download it and make the most of the services it offers.”    

The app is available on the i-phone and other smartphones and is free to download from the iphone app store and from the Google Playstore on android phones. People should simply search for Dudley Council to get the app on their phone.

More information on the LookingLocal range of products is available at:
https://lookinglocal.gov.uk/site/products 

Dudley residents can find out more and download the app at http://www.dudley.gov.uk/report-it/mobile-app/ .  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

LOOKING LOCAL STEPS UP TO THE PRIME MINISTER'S CHALLENGE

As part of their innovative approach to the future of healthcare provision, West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing Federation in partnership with Looking Local has developed a new solution to health information and service delivery in their work funded by the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.
 

The new directory delivers local health, wellbeing and support information and services to 63,000 patients across West Yorkshire and is integrated with Looking Local’s social search engine, enabling users to access relevant supplementary multi-media content from sites such as Facebook, Yelp and MeetUp.

“A stated aim of West Wakefield’s successful Prime Minister’s Challenge bid is ‘improving access through better use of digital technology’”, said Dr Chris Jones, Programme Director at West Wakefield Heath & Wellbeing Federation.

“By working with Looking Local we are able to offer our patients an innovative information and service directory, presenting valuable services from across our local healthcare, council and voluntary sector partners, as well as bringing in relevant global content.

“Looking Local’s solution offers a far greater digital capability than we could provide or support locally, meeting our patients’ digital expectations and really harnessing the power of the web.”


The added ‘social search’ capability enabled by Looking Local’s engine has real value in terms
of accessibility, as it lowers the barriers of entry to complex digital social platforms for people who
might not otherwise engage in online social media.

Not only can patients tap into local support and community groups, find providers of specialist
equipment and care, they can connect with people with similar health issues globally, share their
experiences and gain insight.

West Wakefield is one of a growing number of partners who have used the solution for specific
customer groups, policies or initiatives. 
Other instances have seen the flexible search engine
addressing the Local Offer, jobs, economic resilience and the Over 55s
. The search criteria can
be adapted for specific content areas and audience types. 

 
For West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing the focus is on long-term conditions, encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their own health and promote services designed to assist people in staying healthy and independent for longer.

If you are working on a directory project or your organisation could benefit from improved search capabilities, lower content management overheads or if you want to combine local and global resources for the benefit of your customers, please contact us.

Visit the West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing site here.
Kirklees Local Offer



Thursday, October 23, 2014

CELEBRATING FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF PARTNERING WITH THE MONEY ADVICE SERVICE

This week marks the first anniversary of working with The Money Advice Service on a national level, extending access to their independent financial and consumer advice - specifically around welfare reform and Universal Credit - to people on a range of digital devices and channels.

The Money Advice Service has a remit to support local authorities and housing associations with the key advice they offer on a wide range of subjects. And in these difficult economic times, this free advice is helping thousands of people keep out of debt and make their money go further.

By working with Looking Local, The Money Advice Service can extend digital access to the six million people without internet access, by delivering the content on interactive TV, 60+ local authority and housing apps, the national 'My Council' smartphone app as well as games consoles, mobile and tablet devices.


After a successful first year, with over 250,000 hits on The Money Advice Service content and tools (such as the Debt Advice Locator tool) across Looking Local channels, new areas of partnership have been identified for the coming year, particularly around advice for care, carers and paying for care.

Long may the partnership continue.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

RENT A ROOM SOLUTION LAUNCHES AS PART LHY

Feedback from LetsHelpYou local authority partners shows there is a growing demand to introduce a Rent a Room scheme as a new way of reducing householder liability under the over-occupancy rule to safeguard homes and tenancies, and at the same time offer more choice - especially to Under 35 singles. 

Rent a Room - What is it?
Utilising the existing LetsHelpYou platform, Rent a Room is a dedicated solution that introduces people (Lodgers) searching for a room, to people (Hosts) with a spare room to rent out.


Rent a Room is free to the end user and works in both the social and private

rented sectors. It also adheres to the Government’s Rent a Room Scheme practical guidance.


Core Audiences
- Those most affected by welfare reform e.g. under 35 singles  
- Housing providers with a shortage of one/two bed properties
- Housing Association tenants facing benefit cuts due to under-occupancy
- Owner occupiers/rental tenants (with permissions) with a spare room to rent

Key Benefits
- Offers those seeking affordable accommodation self-service and more choice

- Reduces waiting lists and demand for smaller units

- Safeguarding tenancies by reducing tenancy failures and rent arrears

- Reduces homelessness and temporary accommodation costs

- Householders can advertise for free

- Searching tenants can place a ‘room wanted’ advert for free


Want to know more contact irene.zdziebko@letshelpyou.co.uk 

Monday, September 29, 2014

GET COMMS INVOLVED AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR LOOKING LOCAL (OR ANY IT) PROJECT

Having a communications strategy for your new channels or app is key to it's ultimate success. Knowing who, why & what it is for, having an understanding how it will help, change and improve your organisation and how to communicate those messages from start to finish (and ongoing) is critical.

Top 10 comms ideas as inspired by the recent 'Comms for Transformation' event: 
  • Build comms in right from the start; don't let it be a last minute panic (see success rates below) 
  • Don't underestimate the importance of customer insight
  • Comms is not just an external exercise; internal comms is just as important
  • Balance your comms - give consideration to those who want to find their own answers and those who will need leading/spoon-feeding
  • Talk to the people you are targeting, take time to see what devices people are using, when, wh, what they want and build this into messages
  • Challenge misconceptions 
  • Understand the differences of digital immigrants (people to whom digital devices are relatively new) & digital natives (people who have grown up with technology and know how it works/can help them) and prepare different approaches for these two groups 
  • Email is the oldest form of digital marketing - but is still the most powerful. Amazon do 90% of their marketing/advertising by email rather than other digital channels as it is more likely to be seen than social media
  • Tell your story; feedback the success of the comms strategy internally
  • All marketing has a place and purpose; but no one-size fits all...

A recent Comms 2.0 survey shows that the earlier the comms team gets involved the higher the chance of success is: 



Monday, September 8, 2014

NEW: PRIORITISATION FOR MY LANDLORD REPORTS

Following customer feedback on the features and capabilities of the My Landlord management portal, we have just launched the ability for partners to flag housing reports in terms of their priority.

So if a tenant is vulnerable, the housing repair is critical in terms of household safety or the issue is causing harm or offence, the new priority flagging  system ensures that the issue is dealt with more quickly.

Part of the ongoing development and improvement of My Landlord, this feature is now live and available to the 30+ housing associations that use My Landlord as their tenant focused smartphone app.

Click here to find out more about My Landlord.


© 2010 Looking Local - Owned and managed by Kirklees Council