“We are always looking for better ways to communicate with our residents, for whom accurate information about local activities and services is an essential lifeline,” explains Catherine Nicholson, Managing director of Fortunatus Housing Solutions. “Capita’s app platform is a great way of helping us do that. Not only does it offer us a great deal of choice about what information we give and how we pass it on to our residents, it also tells them how they can find out more from us and how to access services”.
Fortunatus Housing Solutions, a registered charity housing vulnerable adults in the north west, held a launch event on Friday, May 1, for the launch of their app Engage, which was developed in conjunction with Capita Software Services.
The launch day also focused on their Unity Lottery to raise awareness and donations to support their tenants living with mental illness and learning disabilities.
The App was highly commended in the Excellence in Innovation category of the annual Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation Performance Awards last week.
The free app, created in Capita’s Engage platform helps tenants, their families and the wider community to communicate with Fortunatus at any time.
It allows users to report a fault or request a repair through a simple interface or access news, benefits advice, as well as information on mental health support agencies and local events.
“We wanted something that looked simple and colourful and we wanted to make it easy to use”, says Founder and Managing Director Catherine Nicholson.
The app also offers an easy route to Fortunatus for tenants’ families and supporting services. For example, social workers and community mental health teams can refer vulnerable adults in need of housing via the app, and within the ‘can you help?’ feature, donors can send money directly to Fortunatus.
How the Fortunatus Housing App supports Tenants & their Families
While a Housing Support Officer assists each tenant to resolve problems related to their tenancy, such as paying the bills, they only work during office hours. Out-of-hours help is offered but, due to the sometimes complex nature of tenants’ illnesses, many reported that they felt too anxious to call the service. According to Fortunatus, for some, it was too overwhelming.
The knock-on effects were potentially very damaging. If left unreported, a small problem such as a leaking roof could escalate into a collapsed ceiling.
The organisation continued to thrive but engagement between tenants and the organisation remained limited. As demand on Fortunatus grew, so did the need to provide a better way to communicate with the organisation.
Now, the app lets tenants and their families request a repair or ask for help, even in the middle of the night, with no need to speak to anyone.
“The motive was to encourage our tenants with mental health problems to engage with us”, Nicholson says. “Recent research shows that individuals with mental health problems find using social media and apps makes them feel ‘normal’. This was our main driver”.
Other housing organisations and charities have recently begun to approach Fortunatus to know more about the app and improving customer engagement. Nicholson has some tips:
- understand who your market is
- set out clear objectives
- make sure that someone in the organisation takes ownership of the project
- once live, mailshot customers to encourage them to download and use App
She says the greatest lesson learned however is “to work with someone who knows what they are doing, rather than try and do it yourself. The app is a great way of communicating with our residents for whom accurate information about local activities and services is a lifeline”.