Policy briefings: The future of housing advice

By: Elizabeth O'Hara  Published: April 2012


Research shows that 1.1 million people a year aged over 16 in England and Wales experience some form of civil legal housing problem. Some people are more likely to experience a housing problem than others. The number of people with housing problems is likely to increase in the medium. These briefings explore the key issues facing the advice sector.

Summary

Shifting channels: Housing advice and the growth of digitisation

Digital services can and already do play a role in offering a range of services to people with housing problems, although these tend to be in the form of information rather than personalised advice. However, the most vulnerable housing advice clients are likely to be among the most digitally excluded.

An analysis of Shelter’s own web services reveals that we have more visits from those less likely to be vulnerable. This suggests that rather than shifting clients from one channel to another, we may be simply reaching into a new audience. As such, this may even be increasing the demand for face to face services, rather than reducing it. Shelter believes that a multi-channel approach will be needed beyond the short term.

 

Payment by Results: What does it mean for housing advice?

This briefing considers payment by results in relation to housing advice. Shelter supports an approach to commissioning which emphasises the beneficial outcomes of housing advice services. With payment by results, commissioners would need to identify appropriate outcomes at the commencement of a contract. Careful consideration must be given to the period over which outcomes are measured and whether proxy outcomes might be appropriate.

Commissioners need to be aware that particularly vulnerable clients and particularly urgent problems are more likely to be associated with face to face than telephone services. Furthermore, research shows that there are significant differences in outcomes achieved by telephone and face to face advice. It is essential for commissioners to understand how choice of delivery channels relates to outcomes.

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