The London Borough of Harrow has installed a central database to help improve the way it runs council housing services.
The main objective of the project, which began in 2003 and went live in May, was to introduce processes to implement the Supporting People and Fairer Charging initiatives from the Department of Health and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Harrow set up a central database from supplier Illy Computer Systems which runs on Windows servers connected to the council’s existing systems. The system includes a portal to capture and process data on council services.
The database, which includes reporting software, stores information on more than 100 housing services provided by 48 service providers. It will help staff monitor council spending.
To secure government funding for projects to make council services more accessible, Harrow needed to prove it had up-to-date information on its diverse offerings.
"The Illy system has been central to our approach to delivering [the Supporting People initiative] locally. It has worked well from day one and we have never had
to rely on contingency plans," said Christopher Holley, the council’s Supporting People manager.
Supporting People is part of the government’s programme to promote housing-related services which are cost-effective, reliable, and complement existing care services. The £1.4bn government initiative aims to help councils tailor their services to the needs of different sectors of the community, such as ethnic minorities and the elderly.
Regular meetings and workshops were used to share ideas and understand the requirements of the project. These included representatives from social services, housing, finance, procurement, suppliers and the IT department.
Harrow used internet-based software called Envoy, also from Illy, to share information and data between all the project’s partners and suppliers. This allowed service providers, such as housing associations, to complete forms online.
"Where information and assistance was requested this could be made available instantly. Additionally by having all the data centralised any charge or discrepancy could be quickly identified and managed," said Holley.