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Brent Council's Online System (2019)

This report presents the findings from a peer research led project by Crisis Brent. It explores the experience and impact of Brent council’s digital by default approach to housing and homelessness support and advice.

Key findings

  • Almost three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed who had used the online systems could not meet their needs via them
  • 38 per cent found it mostly hard or very hard to use
  • Users experienced a range of technical barriers including the system crashing and being logged out. Having to upload documents and navigate the system can be problematic. Support for users was also limited
  • Personal barriers including age, language and lack of IT skills alongside learning difficulties and other vulnerabilities can hinder the effectiveness of the online systems
  • The difficulties with the online system could have serious impacts on various aspects of people lives including housing and financial stability; personal wellbeing and relationships with others
  • There were also consequences for creating inefficiencies within the council as they dealt problems and delays while it also caused further work for other organisations supporting people who could not use or struggled with the online systems.
  • A number of recommendations were made to improve the online systems based around four areas:
    • The technical usability of the system​ - Ensuring the system works better and enables people to do what they need to do
    • Support for people using the services​ - Better in-person support and sufficient IT equipment where people access the system in the community
    • User informed design and testing​ - Broaden the definition of vulnerability the council uses to ensure it better monitors problems and issues with the system
    • Council good practice and offer​ - Raise standards and commit to the government’s ‘digital service strategy’ while promoting the system more and providing community-based IT training.

Reference

Co-authored by Beulah Williams, Devon Clarke and Ismael Yusuf (2019) Brent Council’s online systems A Crisis Brent Peer Research project. London: Crisis.