We spoke to our support partner PA Housing and heard from members of their Tenancy Sustainment Team about their experience working with Lightning Reach and how they have benefited from being on the portal.
PA Housing is a registered provider of social housing offering more than 23,000 homes across the Midlands, London and the South East. PA Housing offers a support fund which residents can apply for through the Lightning Reach portal, and also assist tenants in applying for other support they may be eligible for.
The Lightning Reach portal has transformed PA Housing's ability to administer support to their residents, freeing up over 50% of staff time while offering access to a broader range of support. Within the first few months of working together, PA Housing has already seen hundreds of residents sign up to Lightning Reach.
Life before Lightning Reach meant processing applications was frustrating and incredibly time consuming
Previous PA Housing Support Fund applications relied on a traditional paper based process which led to severe delays in processing time due to incomplete forms, quality of supporting evidence and team bandwidth. Justine Hogg, Tenancy Sustainment Team Manager, reflects:
“It was very labour intensive, we didn’t have proper admin support so as Managers we had to do a lot of chasing for follow up information. I would probably be spending 3-4 hours a day managing and chasing up evidence on top of my day to day duties.”
While financial circumstances were considered, the information provided was frequently incomplete and illegible. Often, these were in the form of blurry pictures of statements taken on phones, missing relevant evidence. Justine continues:
“We looked at bank statements but the quality of evidence being provided made it difficult to do so.”
With an increase in demand the PA Housing team searched for a more efficient process
With the support fund expanded and an increase in residents seeking support, things got worse before they got better. A new more efficient process was needed, so PA Housing went live on the Lightning Reach portal in July. Nikki, Grants and Funding Officer, describes the great results so far:
“It's so much more time effective and it's easier to keep track [of applications]. With the Lightning Reach application form you get far more details, you get the specifics, the little bits that you can't expect an officer on the phone to go through because it takes so long…it puts everything you need in one place which leads to better customer service as you are giving them all round support.”
Another major time saver has been the reviewing of financial information enabled by the applicant's ability to securely connect their bank accounts through open banking. Nikki continues:
“Having open banking is amazing! I wish everyone had to use open banking.... It's so secure, data protection and data security for us means we're not having to store bank statements, which is a big issue with us with our systems. So that takes out a whole level that we don't have to worry about as a company as well.”
The team can now better understand residents' situations, enabling efficient signposting to prevent people from falling through the cracks
By consolidating all relevant information into a single, comprehensive application form, alongwith the time savings of processing applications, the team is now better equipped to understand a resident's circumstances and provide more all round holistic support.
“By filling out the [Lightning Reach] application, you get all the household details, who their energy supplies are, what they need help with and because they're filling out sections, it actually makes them think; Do I need help with that? So it's definitely a more thorough way of getting the help they need at one point. - Nikki
“It’s taking time back which has enabled the team to expand the support offering into income maximisation, not just benefits advice, but ways to save money on bills and whether they are getting the best utility deals etc - we have time to concentrate on the wider picture of a residents situation.” - Justine
Not only are the team able to offer support and signpost to other internal teams within PA Housing, residents are also able to access further support from elsewhere on the portal:
“You are not offering just one service, you are offering a multitude of services which gives people the opportunity to apply for several areas of support which they might otherwise not get.”
“It's nice to see that they are actually applying to other charities and organisations as well, not just to us. You can actually see all the support they've also applied to on the portal.” - Dawn, Grants and Funding Officer, describes
Helping with Governance - audit process, decision making and a standardised framework
The Lightning Reach portal has helped develop and shape internal processes, as Justine explains:
“As a decision maker and as somebody within the business that realises that there is a lot around risk and governance, what Lightning Reach is giving us is a very clear audit process which contributes very significantly into our decision making process - in particular the financial information. We have all the same information in the same format from every applicant so can treat and assess everyone the same.“
Working in partnership with Lightning Reach is highly recommended
We endeavour to build strong, fulfilling and lasting relationships with our support partners. It’s always rewarding to hear the impact the Lightning Reach portal is having both on our partners and the clients they serve, Justine’s closing remarks:
“With Lightning Reach we now have a sophisticated, slick application process. You are doing all the things we want to do but don’t have the capacity to do ourselves. It’s allowed us to free up our time to allow us to do other things including signposting. I’m amazed at how far we have come in a short period of time and it’s been really enjoyable working with a company that fits our ethos and what we want to do at PA Housing.”
If you are interested in discussing how the Lightning Reach portal could support your organisation in streamlining and accelerating the delivery of financial support to your service users, while reaching a wider range of potential clients to access support from your organisation quickly and easily, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org