Link - Analogue to Digital Journey
INTRODUCTION - MEET MAUREEN
Maureen Richardson, Link Digital Transformation Officer, has over 20 years’ experience working in telecare Alarm Receiving Centres, Housing Associations and Local Authorities. Maureen joined Link in July 2022 with a specific remit to utilise her existing telecare sector experience to progress the digital transformation of analogue warden call systems.
Maureen is responsible for working with Link colleagues, the Digital Office for Scottish Local Government, and suppliers to specify a sustainable replacement system for Link tenants. Recognising the importance of tenant engagement in this transformation journey, Maureen places a primary focus on working hand in hand with the tenants. Regularly seeking their participation, she actively involves them in testing various telecare devices, ensuring that the new solutions are user-friendly and provide optimal support and safety for the residents.
Link is a group of award-winning social enterprise companies serving more than 15,000 customers – making them one of the largest social landlords in Scotland. They work together to provide affordable housing, property management, regulation, advice, financial inclusion, and employability services. Since 1962, Link has become a leader in developing and delivering innovative homes and services for those in need. United within their group structure, each company shares a common purpose of enhancing the lives of individuals across diverse communities.
One of Link’s primary endeavours is the management of social rented accommodation, catering to over 10,000 tenants with a diverse range of needs, encompassing both general requirements and sheltered housing. Additionally, the organisation has developed 11 housing projects tailored to older people, demonstrating their commitment to addressing the specific needs of this demographic.
Looking forward, Link is eagerly exploring new possibilities to enhance the living experiences of their tenants. Particularly, they are enthusiastic about embracing the digital transition, which will involve transforming their Sheltered and Retirement Plus developments. Link provides support to 324 tenancies within their Sheltered and Retirement Plus housing developments, located within five council areas, namely Falkirk, Glasgow, Renfrewshire, North Lanarkshire, and South Lanarkshire.
At each housing development, a dedicated staff member is present throughout the week. Full-time staff members serve the Sheltered developments, while Retirement Plus developments have the support of part-time staff. These personnel are available during regular office hours from Monday to Friday. Additionally, the sheltered service provided by Link is officially registered with the Care Inspectorate, ensuring high-quality care and support for residents.
Currently, the warden call system in use is the Legrand XT, which has faithfully served the community for over a decade. However, with the analogue to digital transition well underway, Link is exploring potential upgrades and digital solutions that align with the evolving needs and expectations of the residents.
The primary focus of this case study revolves around the transition from traditional analogue warden call systems to state-of-the-art, digitally ready telecare solutions by 2025. With this transformation, Link aims to embrace cutting-edge technology to further empower and safeguard their tenants while elevating the overall standard of living within their housing communities.
JOURNEY TO DIGITAL - ROADMAP
BUILDING THE TEAM
In 2020, Link started upgrading the warden call system by adding a Digital Communicator. This ensures some service will continue in the event of a migration to digital for BT lines takes place before Link has upgraded their full system. By 2025, the switch to digital will be complete, and the old analogue systems and telecare devices won't work anymore. So, Link is looking at different options to find a sustainable digital solution for the future service. The analogue to digital transformation of the warden call system is part of a bigger plan to improve how Link serves older people.
Before July 2022, Elaine O'Hanlon, the Tenancy Sustainment & Support Manager, oversaw the analogue to digital transition project. However, this responsibility was added to her existing role, making it challenging for her to handle effectively. She realised that she had a lot to learn about the intricacies of the project and soon discovered that she couldn't dedicate enough time to manage such a complex endeavour on top of her regular duties. Since Maureen joined the team, the project has made significant progress and has now reached a stage where a preferred solution has been identified.
Testing of this solution has commenced with customers. Elaine expressed her appreciation, stating, “The benefits of having a dedicated staff member cannot be understated. Without Maureen’s skills, experience and knowledge, our project would not have reached the point that it has today”.
At each development, a comprehensive scoping exercise was conducted to identify the telecare devices currently integrated with the warden call system. This step was essential to obtain accurate and detailed quotes for the project.
To guarantee high-quality service and cyber security standards, Link approached contractors listed on the Digital Telecare Assessed Suppliers List and the Scotland Excel framework. This approach guarantees that the chosen contractors have undergone thorough cyber security testing, giving Link the confidence in the reliability and safety of their services.
To ensure the Alarm Receiving Centres Link collaborate with, namely Hanover & Bield, have access to the most current and accurate information about their service users and developments, they conducted a comprehensive data cleanse. This process ensures that all data exchanged between the centres is up-to-date and reliable, enhancing the quality of our services and communication.
Sheltered and Retirement Housing Officers, along with managers, were offered the opportunity to visit an Alarm Receiving Centre to observe how calls are managed when they are away from the housing sites. This experience provided valuable insights into the significance of accurate information for the call handling staff at the Alarm Receiving Centres.
Considering this, training sessions about Alarm Receiving Centres have been integrated into the induction training for all new staff members. This ensures that every new team member gains a comprehensive understanding of the operations and importance of accurate information in the call handling process. By doing so, Link aim to further enhance our communication and service quality for the benefit of our residents.
DEVICE TESTING & TEST FOR CHANGE
Link has taken significant steps to test potential changes by establishing "Test for Change" pilots, actively involving their customers in the process of testing different devices. The feedback received from these trials will play a crucial role in determining the preferred replacement system.
Currently, Link is in the process of testing individual dispersed alarm units. To facilitate this testing across their various developments, Link has purchased 15 dispersed alarm units. These units have been installed in each flat, as well as in communal areas. By acquiring these dispersed alarm units, Link aims to enable as many service users as possible to participate in the testing phase. The system allows service users to check in with staff daily through the convenient "I'm Ok" service. The insights gained from this trial will contribute to the decision-making process regarding the best telecare solution to adopt for our valued service users.
Throughout all our "Test for Change" pilots, we have maintained the current warden call system alongside the new systems being tested. This approach serves two important purposes:
- It provides a level of comfort and reassurance to service users during the testing phase, ensuring their safety and well-being are not compromised.
- It allows Link to assess whether an "I'm OK" facility can serve as a suitable alternative for the current morning call system.
To conduct these trials, we rely on the valuable support of our service user volunteers and dedicated staff. Their feedback, both before and throughout the trial period, is carefully collected and analysed. Additionally, regular catch-up meetings are held at the developments to monitor the outcomes closely. This collaborative approach ensures that our service users' perspectives are at the heart of the decision-making process, ultimately leading to the implementation of the most effective and user-friendly telecare solution.
In an effort to enhance communication with our service users, families, carers, and contractors, Link has taken a proactive step by installing digital screens in the foyers of three developments. With the inclusion of these digital screens, Link can now eliminate traditional noticeboards and display essential information, such as how to contact their Customer Service Centre, emergency contact numbers, and other useful details. The digital screens also feature a designated area for service users to access information about upcoming events and activities.
The success of this initiative has prompted Link to allocate additional funding for the expansion of digital screens to four more developments. This extension will further amplify our ability to provide important and timely updates, ensuring that our valued stakeholders remain well-informed and connected with the latest happenings within their community.
The involvement of service users in testing digital equipment has proven to be invaluable. Their feedback has been instrumental in identifying and promptly resolving any initial issues that could have jeopardised the success of the pilot. The service users are enthusiastic about being part of the testing process, as they feel that their opinions truly matter.
Recognising the importance of staff training in ensuring a seamless transition to digital, Link has taken a proactive approach. Staff members are actively learning about the digital devices alongside the service users. This hands-on training has enabled staff to troubleshoot, provide support to service users, and gain vital insights into the practical functioning of the equipment.
As part of service redesign, Link is exploring innovative ways to enhance the service users' experience and well-being with the digital solution. This approach seeks to optimise the benefits of the new technology, aligning it with the unique needs of service users for a more enriching experience.
In response to the challenges faced by telecare service providers during this transformative period, Link is collaborating with other Housing Associations and Local Authorities to share their experiences. By learning from each other's best practices, the aim is to ensure the delivery of sustainable and effective telecare services for the future. This collective effort underscores Link's commitment to continuous improvement and better service provision for all.