Social housing providers include Housing Associations, Registered Social Landlords and Local Authority Housing Teams and all need to consider the role of digital inclusion and skills (pdf) in the services they provide. Whilst almost half of those who are digitally excluded live in social housing, digital inclusion potentially gives tenants more choice and control and better access to lower-cost, improved services.

Housing providers can look to save money through transforming and improving customer services and efficiency. The nationwide roll-out of Universal Credit has introduced an added impetus towards greater digital inclusion, with residents expected to claim and manage their benefits (including housing benefits) online.

Frontline staff can act as Digital Champions, showing residents how they can find what they need online. Many staff may need training to improve their own digital skills. Staff can also signpost to other sources of support, access and training for digital skills. Training can also be provided in-house, which is effective when informal settings are found, at times to suit residents and weaving in other positive benefits such as job seeking or reducing isolation.

The digital inclusion agenda is of relevance to many teams within a housing provider (pdf) (for example the service transformation team, social and financial inclusion teams and those focused on rental income). Developing a robust digital inclusion action plan across a housing group needs to play to the strengths of the teams involved, as well as drawing from current strategies of the housing provider. Value will be added by bringing together a wider partnership.

Citizens Online have experience and expertise in guiding social housing providers to develop strategies and action plans for digital inclusion. We have worked with: Glasgow Housing Association, Clarion Housing Group, Paragon and Sanctuary Housing, Plymouth Community, North Hertfordshire, Staffordshire Rural Homes, and Viridian.

Please contact us if you want support to tackle digital inclusion in your housing group.

Image shows a block of social-rented flats in Clapham Terrace, Leamington Spa. Creative Commons licensed image by Lydia.