Housing Proactive

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  • #285939
    tjq
    Participant

    Has anyone come across “Housing Proactive” – Eligible service Charge?
    A housing and tenancy management service enhancement called “Housing Proactive”.
    This Housing Proactive service has been designed specifically to assist social landlords to manage older persons housing taking into account the nature of the accommodation type.
    Housing Proactive is a service that comprises a fully maintained touchscreen (with multi-network SIM card and 2 days battery backup) with an interface and suite of tools designed for landlords to meet their obligations to the tenant.
    Housing Proactive relates solely to the management of the property, tenancy, communal facilities and systems within the building. It was established over 15 years ago and has evolved continuously to ensure that the service meets the statutory obligations and digital requirements of social landlords and their tenants.
    Thanks

    #285954
    Tina L
    Participant

    I came across this for the first time last week. Perhaps a standard email has been sent out? My initial thoughts are that it would be eligible. They have been at pains to point out:

    ‘It is important to note that absolutely no care and support related costs are included within the Housing Proactive charge. Housing Proactive is not currently, nor ever has been, a Social Care funded service nor is it a personal service……’

    But I am very open to different opinions ….

    #285958
    flanwen
    Participant

    Also received same email. I can’t see any way of not paying it, though if anyone has found anything I’d be very interested!

    #285960
    Andy Thurman
    Keymaster

    I would advise this is properly queried – what is it actually achieving? To the extent this is ‘sold’ as an efficient, modern approach to housing management, has it reduced required staff levels/other costs? Are the functions entirely necessary or appropriate? (Requiring residents to ‘sign in’ each day, for example, would be an imposition unless their support needs required it.)

    #285966
    sportman
    Participant

    I would agree must be properly queried, Housing Proactive was suggested to landlords in our area by Support Solutions in 2019 but none actually pursued after being questioned what exactly it was for or what it would achieve –
    Alarms systems to activate either warden or support services are ineligible, Housing Management functions may be eligible for Housing Benefit but we require information as to what service the customers will actually receive via the system, what the charges actually are, and are they reasonable in relation to the service provided.

    #285967
    tjq
    Participant

    A quick google, shows a company called ‘alertacall’ on their website it states:

    Housing Proactive, an Alertacall service, is a housing management tool used by over 40 housing providers in the UK. Individual residents are provided with specialised equipment installed at their properties to improve daily contact with non-intrusive property checks. The equipment is also used to access the repairs team of their respective housing provider and other services. Additionally, Housing Proactive makes it easy to communicate details of when work is to take place on-site or when there are meetings about housing related issues, and gives housing providers access to detailed management information in real time, such as occupancy tracking.

    The Housing Proactive service is eligible for housing benefit funding and can be provided at little or zero additional cost for residents.

    #285973
    barryb
    Participant

    I got an email from Support Solutions about this last week, on behalf of a landlord who is considering having it but wanting to check in advance if it would be eligible. I emailed back that i wasn’t even sure that the landlord had any properties in our area.

    #285993
    Peter Barker
    Keymaster

    Before answering this, I’ll declare an interest: I do occasional bits of work for Alertacall. So you won’t be surprised that I think it perfectly eligible and shouldn’t really be controversial at all.

    The customers who sign up to this are exclusively registered housing associations providing sheltered accommodation.

    One of the posts in this thread mentions alarm/warden call. Housing Proactive is NOT in any way integrated with an emergency alarm. Alertacall make alarms as well, and they could have integrated everything into an all-in-one system, but they decided to keep it separate precisely because it maintains a bright line between ineligible alarm systems and eligible activities like repairs and fire safety and so on. They wanted to offer a product that would not raise complicated problems around apportionment of cost between eligible/ineligible activities. It can be integrated with compatible video entry systems if required, but that’s all.

    It is a portable Android tablet with a few apps installed to support communication between tenants and housing management staff. These can be messages from staff to tenants (eg meeting reminders), messages from tenants to staff (eg reporting repairs) or two-way communications including video calls. The OK Each Day feature is optional – tenants aren’t obliged to participate but for those who opt in it is a useful way to confirm they are well and not in need of any intervention. If someone doesn’t respond to a prompt during the day that will of course trigger some follow-up work which might then stray into the realms of support, but the Alertcall system isn’t involved in that follow-up work so the charge wouldn’t be funding the home visit, call to social services or whatever they end up having to do.

    I did have some doubts/questions at first:

    1. Should it not be funded out of the core rent?

    The charge is not very much, and if it is marketed as making the job more efficient ought the cost not to be absorbed in the regulated core rent? Well, the regulator’s standards are becoming more rigorous in areas such as tenant engagement, consumer satisfaction, proactively preventing disrepair. You can read all about this on the English social housing regulator’s website and you can read the enhanced legal powers in the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2003. In simple terms, providers are going to have to do more to maintain compliance with standards and it’s going to cost them more. Something like Housing Proactive can help them to do that more effectively.

    I’d be cautious about trespassing on the regulator’s territory: if there was a problem levying a service charge for this, then the regulator would have had something to say about it but it’s not something HB should be policing really. There is a well-established line of case law about core rent items specified as service charges: if it’s something that could just as easily have been funded by core rent, there’s no problem paying it through HB. The important thing is that it’s not an *ineligible* service, which Housing Proactive is not. Regs 12 and 12B say the eligible rent for HB is the aggregate of payments including rent and service charges, minus service charges that are ineligible under Schedule 1. The distinction between core rent and eligible charges is somewhat academic.

    2. Is the charge unreasonably high?

    It’s not that much and I don’t think anyone is offering a rival product for significantly less. The only other one I’ve seen was developed for challenging environments and has a toughened case – it costs about double the charge for Housing Proactive.

    There is a tortuous line of reasoning that if the product has replaced work that staff were previously doing, and if staff roles have become redundant, but there has been no corresponding reduction in core rent, then it is unreasonable to make a service charge. But you would need evidence that those things had actually happened and that there was a causal link. I’m not aware of any providers using this to get rid of existing staff: as I said above, it’s a way of meeting new challenges that would otherwise require even more staff to be recruited.

    3. Is the service in any way ineligible?

    No it really isn’t. It is not integrated with the alarm and even if the tenant has opted into OK Each Day, the human follow-up to a missed response is not funded by the charge.

    I would recommend accepting this as eligible.

    I know that LAs are cautious about approving things in principle before they exist. The landlords who are considering ordering Housing proactive obviously want reassurance that HB will cover it. This isn’t like supported accommodation providers asking for approval in advance, when you don’t know whether the individual tenants will all require more than minimal support etc. This is a flat rate charge for the same service across the board – if it’s eligible for one tenant, it’s eligible for all of them.

    #286018
    tjq
    Participant

    Thanks Peter – I’m sold!

    #286146
    Jo Hagger
    Participant

    Hi everyone, sorry to be late to the party but would you consider this to be eligible for individual properties or just for sheltered accommodation such as Flats? We have a provider who wants to install it on all their properties including houses & bungalows? Why would houses & Bungalows require door entry intercoms? Or am I being pedantic here

    #286191
    Janillou
    Participant

    very interesting thread. I am meeting with Support Solutions tomorrow – they too want to know if HB eligible. It’s all going on, eh!

    #286192
    Peter Barker
    Keymaster

    Jo – it can have a door entry function added if the building has a compatible system but that’s not predominantly what HP is for. There’s no reason why the other functions could not be used in individual properties though: reporting repairs, receiving messages about tenant participation events, management information etc. It is still predominantly aimed at older tenants, but not exclusively those living in sheltered housing schemes.

    #286918
    mrs banner
    Participant

    We have a HA within our district who use Housing Proactive in their properties which we deemed as eligible. However, they are subsidising their tenants who are not on Housing Benefit to cover the charge. The charge is only made to those tenants who have HB payments direct. Those who get HB but receive it themselves, are receiving the subsidy and anyone not in receipt of HB. Allegedly it is to protect tenants in these difficult times.
    The HA say they have sought guidance from HB specialists who say this is all above board but isn’t it taking advantage of the HB scheme?
    When asked, this is part of the response “We are simply trying to protect people in an equitable way with regards disposable income, and in a way that has no impact on the public purse”. Surely, this is having a direct impact on the public purse, isn’t it?
    Any thoughts or advice welcome.

    #286919
    Peter Barker
    Keymaster

    See my declaration of interest above, but I cannot see how it is having an effect on the public purse? The charge is the same everywhere for all customers, so it’s not as if the HA is charging the HB claimants more in order to subsidise the self-funders. If the self-funders paid the charge, it wouldn’t be reduced across the board: the HA is using its reserves to subsidise it for self-funders. The subsidy is not causing more public funds to be paid than would otherwise be the case (quite the opposite actually because the charge would probably bring one or two into a small amount of HB entitlement where they are currently just over the income limit).

    The only alternative approach that would mitigate the effect on the public purse would be if Alertacall gave it away free, which they obviously can’t do

    My understanding is that this is a temporary phasing measure: as existing self-funders move on, any new self-funding tenants will have this as a charge from the outset. It’s just the existing cohort who are being protected. Without wishing to be macabre, turnover in sheltered housing is higher than general needs so it won’t be too long before the subsidised cohort has worked its way through the system.

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