A Community Investment Officer at Link tells us how Community Insight has helped colleagues from across the business, from strategic decision makers to frontline staff.
Link is one of the largest social landlords in Scotland, serving around 15,000 households. Housing association partners within the Link Group of companies are spread across the country, from the west highlands to Glasgow and across the central belt, and some also cater for specialist needs, such as providing adapted housing for people with disabilities.
We spoke to Sheila Maxwell, Community Investment Officer at Link, about how Community Insight has helped colleagues from across the business, from strategic decision makers to frontline staff, in their day-to-day work of helping social housing tenants and responding to their needs.
How does Link normally use Community Insight?
On a day-to-day basis many colleagues use Community Insight to identify where we have stock. Colleagues in customer services regularly use the map function on Community Insight to focus on a particular area and visualise how many properties we have there, as well as what other stock is located nearby.
We’ve also used Community Insight to inform urban regeneration projects that we’ve been involved with, such as a recent scheme in Edinburgh. The council wanted to work with local partners to map and understand estate management issues in a neighbourhood. I suggested that we use Community Insight Scotland to show where our properties were, to clarify land and stock ownership, and to highlight what problems the local community were experiencing. A neighbourhood profile report was also created and shared with partners to help us understand current needs and issues in the community.
How has Community Insight supported your partnership working?
Community Insight is a powerful neighbourhood profiling tool. So, when we were contacted by the Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust, who were trying to better understand their area, we could immediately respond to their enquiry of how many houses we had in that area, but also using Community Insight, I could draw around their defined local area and send them a local area profile with a wide range of up-to-date information about the local population. This information will help the Community Trust to make their case, evidence the local area’s needs, and inform community planning.
For another community organisation, who wanted to add growing space around bike sheds that we had helped them install, we used Community Insight to give them a statistically backed neighbourhood profile that augmented what they already knew about the area. This also provided them with up to date, reliable information that can be used to help them secure funding in support of the project.
We also often use Community Insight when working with development contractors, especially if they’re not familiar with the area surrounding a new development. Community Insight gives the developer a better understanding of what the issues are in that neighbourhood and helps them to target their community benefits more effectively. They might look at data in Community Insight and recognise that, for example, the local population is elderly, and issues of isolation are more acute than issues of employment and training in that community.
What aspect of the tool do you find the most useful?
The dashboard is especially helpful as it is a quick and visually simple way to illustrate why we need to focus on an area, so it can make a point in a funding application or report much better than a long paragraph listing statistics. For example, we can compare trends in DWP Universal Credit uptake rates across different local authorities, office localities or officer patches helping us to understand where employability or advice services need to be targeted.
Recently we’ve been using the dashboard to help us identify protected characteristics. Sometimes that information can be hard to obtain and keep up to date for housing associations, given GDPR regulations. But using the dashboard tool on Community Insight I’ve been able to group together data that aligns with the protected characteristics so we have an overview across local authorities of where there might be different local demands and issues.
We’ve created another dashboard around sustainability. We will develop this as the sustainability strategy is delivered and it will help us when we come to ESG reporting. I have also been working with senior housing colleagues across the Link group to map housing officer patches so they can be refined and reviewed based on potential demands, needs and issues identified through heat maps, the dashboard and profile reports based on stock allocated to an officer.
How has Community Insight changed the way you deliver services and target resources?
Since the Link group of companies have a big geographical coverage, it can be tempting to focus delivery of services near local offices However, Community Insight has given us the confidence to direct resources to where they’re most needed as well as boosting the business case across Link, and to external funders, for the expansion or retargeting of a service.
For example, I’ve recently been working with colleagues on a money and wellbeing project supported by the Scottish legal aid board (SLAB), which combines cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) based self-help coaching with money and debt advice. Using Community Insight, we created a dashboard that mapped areas with high unsecured personal debt or showed hotspots where benefit claims relating to mental health are higher. This indicates where we would expect the demand for the service to be greater, as well as identifying which housing officers would be our key referral routes.
The tool has also helped us to design services so that they responded to identified need rather than only by which local partner was most engaged. Community Insight’s multiple datasets have given us a much fuller picture of the character of communities especially when you consider different combinations of indicators. For example, while an area might have few issues with youth unemployment, it might rank badly for older people unemployment or have high levels of disability benefit claimants. The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation tables in the profile reports also help to highlight which proportion of residents in your stock group (officer patch, local authority, office locality) live in the 10% most deprived data zones in Scotland. This means you can identify where there may be hidden pockets of deprivation.
Has Community Insight changed the way you work?
Previously, if I was writing a funding application, I would have looked for evidence of need through lots of different sources or sought evidence from colleagues that was more anecdotal. Other processes would’ve taken months. Community Insight has made business intelligence much easier to gather and share and has enabled us to see where we need to focus our attention and channel resources to gain the maximum positive impact for Link communities.
If you’d like to find out more about Community Insight or book a free demo, please get in touch with Lara Phelps.