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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Learn about tenant directories that go far beyond Housing

A new generation of online Tenant Information and Community Hubs are providing far more than access to housing services.  


As part of a housing provider’s main website, they are now offering opportunities to grow skills, find work, manage money or improve health.


The Tenant Information and Community Hubs have been built by Kirklees Council-owned technology developer, LookingLocal who are offering housing associations one-to-one briefings on this exciting new platform that creates an online community focal point - and opens up resources vital to the tenants’ wealth and well-being.


Services and advice available on the hubs span jobs, benefits, financial planning, training, transport, community information and NHS portals.The Tenant Information and Community Hubs are designed for easy access across a range of platforms, maximising inclusion of all users


And as an online community resource, the hubs promote and support local businesses, charities, neighbourhood groups and other organisations, putting them at tenants’ fingertips.

Please get in touch if you would like to learn more.  Email helpdesk@lookinglocal.gov.uk or call 0845 434 8540.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Front line savings on advice to make claimants BetterOff

With £12 billion in welfare savings projected for the life of this Parliament, it is increasingly important that local councils and other advisory bodies find smarter and less costly ways of advising the majority of claimants - and demonstrating how much better off they would be in employment.
The often lengthy and expensive process of guiding claimants through a benefits application is being streamlined with BetterOff, a new digital solution that removes the need for face-to-face advice for the large majority of benefits claimants, delivering major savings for local authorities.

BetterOff has been developed by Kirklees Council, who estimate that the system will save them around £1.3 million over the next three years. It is predicted that around 70% of claimants will be able to self-serve using BetterOff, whilst maintaining their current 80% success rate at tribunals.

Available on smartphone and mobile devices, as well as via the web, BetterOff frees up benefits advisers – whether in local authorities or advice agencies – to deal with more complex claims or claimants who encounter difficulties.

Kirklees Council is looking to share this technology with other authorities and are keen to hear from anyone looking to tackle similar challenges in their own local area.
Founded on the principle that people in full receipt of their entitled benefits are more likely to find employment, BetterOff helps claimants back into the workplace by maximising their income, as well as increasing their contribution to the local economy.
Other key benefits of BetterOff include:


  • 70% of claimants will be able to self-serve
  • makes claimants aware of the benefits they are entitled to
  • guides them through the application and any appeals process
  • reduces the likelihood of sanctions by up to 80%
  • multiple job databases integrated with a job seeking journal
  • highlights how much better off a claimant would be in employment
  • optimised for mobile and web
Kirklees Council is partnering with entitledto, the UK’s leading provider of online benefits calculators, to deliver the service. We are looking to share this technology with other authorities and are keen to hear from anyone looking to tackle similar challenges in their own local area.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Health professionals positive about Self-Care Hub

The Self-Care Hub, the new online tool that empowers people with long-term health issues to better understand and self-manage their conditions, has had an excellent response from health professionals from across the UK who attended a preview at the Library of Birmingham.

Feedback from the day was overwhelmingly positive – with attendees describing it as “patient-centred”, “a great tool” that “works really well”, has “huge applicability” and is “an exciting way of involving people in the design of their own health care.”

Presentations and collaborative group sessions generated lively discussion - and valuable input into the Hub's development - as representatives from diverse areas of the health sector fed in their expertise. Areas discussed were wide-ranging and covered how the Hub might be perceived by patients, the use of social media to create a ‘circle of care’, how well the confidence self-assessment tracker worked, and additional features that users would find useful or engaging. 

Underpinned by proven Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, the Self-Care Hub encourages behavioural change by supporting users to achieve measurable goals. It takes a ‘whole-person’ approach that promotes independent decision-taking – and users can also engage the support of a circle of formal and informal carers.

The Self-Care Hub is being built by Kirklees Council-owned technology developer, LookingLocal, working with long-term care clinicians and public health professionals.

Attendees at the Birmingham preview heard from Sarah Muckle, Public Health Consultant at Kirklees Council, on the Kirklees self-care landscape; Dr Steve Ollerton, Chair of the North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group, on working differently with patients, and LookingLocal's Chief Technology Officer, John Latham, who outlined the challenge of digitising offline healthcare techniques. It was hosted by LookingLocal's Managing Director, Guy Giles. 

The Self-Care Hub is being rolled out by Kirklees Council’s Public Health Directorate, working with the Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) under the title, MyHeathTools. Patient trials have been taking place through March and April focusing on breathing problems and anxiety.

LookingLocal Managing Director, Guy Giles said: “It is clear from the very stimulating discussions at the Library of Birmingham preview that there is clearly a space for the Self-Care Hub in the area of the self-management of long-term conditions.  The enthusiasm and insight of those who attended will be invaluable in helping us further refine the Self-Care Hub and the many benefits it brings - to both patients and the clinicians responsible for their care.”

Further information on the Self-Care Hub is available from Irene Zdziebko on 0845 434 8540, or 01757 638154 or email selfcarehub@lookinglocal.gov.uk.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

Self-Care Hub previewed

The Self-Care Hub, the new online tool that empowers people with long-term health issues to better understand and self-manage their conditions, was previewed to health professionals from across the UK at an event at the Library of Birmingham yesterday (Thursday 23 April).


Presentations and collaborative group sessions generated lively discussion and valuable input into the Hub's development as representatives, from diverse areas of the health sector, fed in their expertise. 



Attendees heard from Sarah Muckle, Public Health Consultant at Kirklees Council, on the Kirklees self-care landscape; Dr Steve Ollerton, Chair of the North Kirklees CCG spoke on working differently with patients, and LookingLocal's Chief Technologist, John Latham who outlined the challenge of digitising offline healthcare techniques. It was hosted by LookingLocal's Managing Director, Guy Giles. 




Underpinned by proven Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, the Self-Care Hub encourages behavioural change by supporting users to achieve measurable goals. It takes a ‘whole-person’ approach that promotes independent decision-taking – and users can also engage the support of a circle of formal and informal carers.
It is being rolled out by Kirklees Council’s Public Health Directorate, working with the Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) under the title, My Heath Tools.












Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Health Tools starts patient trials in West Yorkshire

A new online tool that empowers people with long-term health issues to better understand and self-manage their conditions - and take day-to-day control of their well-being - has started patient trials in West Yorkshire.  And professionals in the long-term health care field are being invited to an event next month to share their experience and contribute to its ongoing development.

Underpinned by proven Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, the new platform encourages behavioural change by supporting users to achieve measurable goals. It takes a ‘whole-person’ approach that promotes independent decision-taking – and users can also engage the support of a circle of formal and informal carers. 

It is being rolled out by Kirklees Council’s Public Health Directorate, working with the Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) under the title, My Heath Tools.

Recently, the two CCGs appealed to patients experiencing chronic pain, breathing problems or anxiety to take part in trialling the platform.  They highlighted the aims of the tool which, broadly, are to help users feel more in control of their lives; to increase their confidence in managing their condition; inspire new ideas and provide the support and skills they need.

My Health Tools is based on the Self-Care Hub platform, which is being built by Kirklees Council-owned technology developer, Looking Local; they are keen to involve other health organisations in its development and show them how the system can be tailored to help meet their local health priorities.

Feedback from users’ experience in the Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees CCG Areas through March and April will be used by LookingLocal to further shape the Self-Care Hub and My Health Tools.

A presentation and open forum in Birmingham towards on Thursday 23 April will give public health professionals and clinicians an opportunity to hear more about the Self-Care Hub and feed into its ongoing development.

Consultant in Public Health, Sarah Muckle, who leads the My Health Tools project for Kirklees Council, and who will be speaking at the event in Birmingham, said: “At Kirklees we are really excited about My Health Tools as an example of working with our citizens in a different way and supporting them to take more responsibility for their health. We’re keen that professionals in the field of long-term care share their own experiences and contribute to the further development of this tool. Its ongoing development is a collaborative effort - working with clinicians, cognitive behavioural therapists, health psychologists,  people with long term conditions and voluntary sector who have been invited to help ‘co-produce’ this important innovation.”


Guy Giles, Managing Director of LookingLocal, said:  “We believe that our Self-Care Hub, with its basis in CBT techniques and focus on real behavioural change, represents a significant step forward in enabling the self-management of long-term conditions.  The LookingLocal team would be pleased to brief other interested health bodies on the hub’s potential for their patients.”


Research indicates that self-management of care works: it reduces the need for face-to-face consultation with clinicians as users can draw on a diverse range of support and advice whenever they need it, 24-hours a day. Levels of patient satisfaction are higher, there is a reduced need for medicines and significant cost savings are achieved. 


The preview of the Self-Care Hub takes place at the Library of Birmingham on Thursday 23 April, from 10am to 3pm.  Numbers are limited but health development professionals or practitioners specialising in long—term conditions, who are interested in attending, are invited to contact selfcarehub@lookinglocal.gov.uk.  





Thursday, March 19, 2015

Boosting employment prospects across all LookingLocal products


With employment figures high on the agenda following this week’s budget, unemployed end-users of LookingLocal’s products are being given instant access to a digital service that aims to improve their chances of landing a job.
Sourced from The Daily Job-Seeker and developed in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) the service offers a comprehensive range of help and advice tools designed to help job-hunters do as well as possible throughout the application process.
It has been embedded free of charge in all LookingLocal channels and apps, such as MyCouncil and My Landlord, for all 130 content partners.
Advice on completing a killer CV, planning a job search and refining your interviewing skills can be found, together with tips on boosting your chances by managing your online profile, standing out from other candidates and gaining valuable work experience by volunteering.
And because LookingLocal’s channels and apps integrate with Universal Jobmatch, the latest real-time information about job vacancies can also be accessed.   Last year 660,000 jobs were searched through LookingLocal products, which also contain features that help users deliver on their claimant commitment.
Money and benefits advice is also available on most LookingLocal platforms – and with the nationwide roll-out of Universal Credit under way, more users than ever are using these digital channels to find out how the changes will affect them.
The service is available through Sky and Virgin digital TV, smartphone apps and mobile for customers of all local authorities, housing associations and health and care organisations that subscribe to LookingLocal’s platforms and channels.
More information on LookingLocal products is available from info@lookinglocal.gov.uk , phone 0845 434 8540.

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

RentARoom - 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 .




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