A team of neighbourhood officers provides support for Sheffield City Council’s housing tenants, helping to address issues of concern. This approach has helped to reduce ASB reports from tenants from around 5,000 to less than 3,000 within four years.
Sheffield City Council introduced Housing+ in 2016 during a restructure of its Housing and Neighbourhoods service. The offer to council housing tenants is a more proactive approach to housing management, with support to help people sustain their tenancy and enjoy their home.
Each group of properties has a dedicated neighbourhood officer who is a named point of contact for the housing service. All tenants are offered an annual visit, which provides a useful opportunity for the neighbourhood officer to pick up on any issues of concern. The officers deliver a range of functions alongside these annual visits including dealing with ASB, tenancy management, rehousing advice/assessment and community engagement.
Sheffield’s Housing+ approach has a focus on increasing preventative intervention with tenants and their families, dealing with or signposting people to support for everything from ASB to health and wellbeing, social isolation, mental health, employment, training and volunteering.
Impact and outcomes
The number of ASB reports for council housing tenants in Sheffield has decreased year-on-year from approximately 5,000 in 2016/17 (the year that Housing+ was implemented) to under 3,000 in 2019/20. A contributing factor for this is the early intervention. Staff work together across council services, and with partner agencies and the voluntary sector, to support tenants and their families. This is driving more streamlined, better integrated, tailored support.
The neighbourhood officers have contributed to this reduction in ASB through increased contact with tenants and making clear the expectations of managing and conducting a tenancy right from the outset. Housing+ has enabled them to detect issues earlier and build effective relationships with local policing teams. Working in partnership with both the police and the council’s ASB and Community Safety team, they have responded to incidents and taken positive action.
One example of this is tackling ASB within the Foxhill area, which resulted in arrests and an anti-social behaviour order being issued. This activity has had a positive impact on the community and reduced incidents of ASB. The neighbourhood officer played a key role in gathering information with the local policing team, and in reassuring the community that action was being taken.
The offer of an annual visit provides tenants with a chance to discuss tenancy concerns and access support to enjoy and sustain their home. In 2019/20, 89 per cent of tenants took this opportunity. By working with tenants in their own homes the neighbourhood officers have improved access to council housing services, other council services and partner organisations.
Performance data shows that Housing+ has had a positive impact on sustaining tenancies. In 2016/17 the total number of tenancy terminations was 4,769. This fell to 3,902 in 2018/19 and to 3,498 in 2019/2020. There has been a particularly significant reduction in the number of tenancies terminating within two years. Neighbourhood officers have also had a positive impact on the amount of rent collected.
Stronger partnership working in local communities has helped to meet the objective of preventative intervention. An example of this is joint work with partners including the wider council, NHS, clinical commissioning group, the police and a range of local services to jointly commission a locality based neighbourhood hub in the south east of the city, to improve the support offer and the resilience of local communities in that area. Here, the neighbourhood officers are co-located with other services, which enables multi-agency working and effective ‘team around the person’ support.
The Housing+ service is currently under review to assess whether any improvements could increase efficiency and improve outcomes for tenants. Data from tenants, including an annual customer satisfaction survey and informal feedback, demonstrates that Housing+ is helping tenants to enjoy their homes and neighbourhoods.
Dean Fearon, Sheffield City Council’s Head of Neighbourhood Services, said Housing+ is an expensive service when the housing management costs are compared to other social housing providers, but early intervention prevents problems from escalating. “What is difficult to measure is the impact it has on other services. Our approach is all about early intervention before cases progress to high-cost support or enforcement. Both the social value and savings to other services such as adult social care, the NHS, early years and the police are difficult to evidence or quantify.”
The universal offer to customers of an annual visit may be reviewed moving forward. The information now held on each household will allow the council to tailor its approach, targeting resources towards those customers who are more likely to need regular support to live independently and sustain their tenancy.
The neighbourhood officer visits and referrals have greatly improved the data Sheffield holds on its housing tenants. Dean Fearon said:
The information we have obtained over the last four years regarding tenants and their households is invaluable in helping to understand their needs, and will shape any future decisions on service delivery.
- Support needs can differ greatly in different parts of the city, so a local response is key in ensuring stakeholders are providing that support at a locally accessed level.
- As a result of COVID-19 the team has delivered services remotely, which is an option that may continue going forward.
- Collaborative working is key to making the offer work. Support needs identified through the annual visit can be complex. A joined-up approach to supporting the customer requires stakeholders to buy in to the whole ‘support around the household’ ethos.
- Finding unmet need through proactively asking customers about their health, home and finances can impact on other services – such as an increase in repairs requests or referrals to mental health services.