Nick Atkin, Chief Executive of Halton Housing Trust / January 5, 2018

Halton Housing demonstrate an innovative response to Universal Credit

In June 2013, Halton Housing faced a dilemma. We knew Universal Credit (UC) was heading our way and that we would need to collect from individual customers up to 65% of the income that had previously been paid directly to us.

But how many more people would we need to employ to collect what would be at very best the same income? The projected additional numbers of staff required were frightening.

The solution was our Digital First Programme. The stated aim was that 90% of all our customer generated transactions will be completed via an online self-service route by 2018, coinciding with the full rollout of UC.

We introduced Digital First in 2014 for two main reasons.

Firstly, to release the internal resources required to collect this income. This meant we needed to shift our service model from one based on in-person contact for all, to one which enabled the majority of customers to access services via a self-service route.

The second reason is linked to what we have termed as ‘the Housing Graph of Doom’.

The average cost of an in-person transaction (phone or face-to-face) is approximately £15.00. The average cost of the same transaction via a digital self-service route is £0.10.

As the number of transactions increases, if the overall cost is to remain unchanged then the proportion of lower cost transactions needs to increase. This can only be achieved by encouraging more customers to switch to these online self-service routes.

As the financial tsunami of UC hits, we need to ensure our customers can survive this massive change in their environment. We cannot do this on an intensive basis for everyone. The latest figures from Halton Housing after 15 months on Full Service UC highlight the huge impact this is having.

Consequently, we need to provide much more intensive help and support than has previously been offered, especially to those customers who lead really complex lives and whose tenancies will be at risk.

Our original focus was to support customers to get online. However, our in depth qualitative research has led to a fundamental rethink in our approach. As nine out of 10 households already have access to the Internet, our strategy has shifted to one which provides an online experience so good that customers actually choose to use this over other service access routes. For those with no access, we offer a device and data through the O2 Open Digital Deal.

The impact has been significant, as shown in this latest monthly summary infographic.

So does our Digital First strategy work?

Well the figures tell the story. 80%+ of all customer generated transactions are being delivered via online self-serve with a satisfaction rate between 92-95%.

So the answer would appear to be absolutely, yes.


By Nick Atkin, Chief Executive of Halton Housing Trust.

Housing associations have always turned society’s challenges into opportunities to improve people’s lives. Creating our Future taps into the energy and enthusiasm of the entire sector to better understand the trends shaping the future and co-create groundbreaking ideas in response. You can see more examples here.

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  1. Martin Curtis

    Great to hear of this good practice and definitely an example I’ll share with colleagues if they’re already aware.

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