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Bridgewater Housing Association shares experience of using Near Me video appointments

Bridgewater Housing Association is one of the Near Me in Housing pathfinder organisations. Lorraine Kay, the association's Housing Support Co-ordinator, discusses its early experiences of using the secure video appointment platform and the benefits that it is already bringing to tenants and staff.

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By Lorraine Kay, Housing Support Co-ordinator, Bridgewater Housing Association

In February, SFHA introduced the housing sector to Near Me, a secure, web-based video appointments service that is available for use by all social landlords, large and small.

The public sector license made available through the Scottish Government enables local authorities, housing associations and co-operatives to use Near Me for free until at least 2023. This means that landlords can now offer their tenants an additional, video call option for accessing services e.g., housing management, viewings/assessing reported repairs, welfare benefit advice etc.

We decided to trial Near Me in our Housing Support Service (sheltered housing) to engage with our sheltered tenants through face-to-face calls initially to reduce isolation and loneliness. During the pandemic, staff have been working from home and have been carrying out enhanced welfare calls via the telephone to tenants. Having now experienced the platform, video calls will enable us also to have a visual check in whilst carrying out welfare calls. We will also be able to use if for support plan reviews which are currently being carried out over the phone. Having the video call option will enable family members to be involved in reviews, too.

While we are working towards returning to the office, the video calling platform will become a valuable part of the service for those who wish to communicate by this method.

Bridgewater is committed to providing opportunities for tenants to maximise the opportunities that digital technologies can bring – which was why we were one of the first social landlords to sign up to the TEC in Housing Charter.

Recently, we were successful in securing several devices through Connecting Scotland for our sheltered tenants. Having the chance to use Near Me will help further develop their skills and confidence. It will also offer an additional means of communication with those who are already digitally active.

The housing support staff and I have been trialling the platform and having some fun along the way.

It is still early days, but we have already carried out six video calls to tenants. Feedback from the tenants has been very positive. There were no complications, they felt that it was easy to join the call, and they would be interested in more video calls.

As such, we have put an article into our sheltered and extra care newsletter that will be delivered to all tenants to raise awareness of the platform.

Initial reactions from staff are that it is easy to join a call with no need to set up an account, however, we are still learning all the aspects of hosting calls.

I can also see wider benefits for staff – I carried out the video calls, and it was a pleasure to be engaging with our tenants through this format as during covid there have been few face to face visits.

This is an ideal tool for us and, as such, our intention is to roll it out to our welfare rights and housing management services too.

Applying for Near Me access  

Near Me is easy to set up within your organisation. In the first instance, please arrange a demonstration session with the National Near Me team. Please contact nss.nearme@nhs.scot to set up a session.   

When you are ready to set get started, you will find technical information, training videos and an application form here. Further information is available here:  

NearMe.scot  

Detailed information for staff 

TEC in Housing Community

SFHA would encourage any landlord that decides to augment their delivery of tenancy sustainment, welfare rights, care, or support services through Near Me to consider signing up to joining the TEC in Housing Community. To find out more contact GBegg@sfha.co.uk

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