Housing providers more open to technology post-COVID-19, survey finds

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Most housing associations are more open to using technology to support residents’ wellbeing than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report has found.

The research, undertaken by the technology-enabled care service (TECS) provider Apello and the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (HLIN), found that 85% of housing providers’ impressions of using technology to support their residents have improved during the crisis.

74% of housing providers surveyed said their requirements for wellbeing technology have changed because of COVID-19, while 90% plan to use technology further to support residents who have had to self-isolate or shield as a result of the crisis.

The findings suggest that COVID-19 may be the catalyst for housing providers making greater use of technology to support their tenants.

Tim Barclay, CEO at Appello, said: “Technology and innovation can have a significant benefit on the lives of vulnerable residents, and it is evident that during COVID-19 there has been disparity between those with, and those without, access to modern technology.”

“From video bingo to music being played over the emergency call system, we have seen customers really embracing technology when it has been well designed, is easy to use and is focussed on their needs.

“Communication is incredibly important for wellbeing, and we have been pleased that we have enabled residents to maintain their social networks and keep in contact with staff working remotely.”

The findings come from a survey of 120 senior executives of supported, sheltered and retirement housing providers, the results of which Apello is publishing in a series of reports.

The results hint that housing providers are set to invest in better communication with residents in the future, as a huge 97% of respondents believed that their use of technology to communicate with residents will increase following COVID-19.

Housing providers are especially looking to embrace the benefits of video communication, as eight out of 10 housing providers felt that video communication between staff and residents is becoming increasingly important.

The survey also found that housing providers will look to prioritise during their drive for greater technology usage. Respondents listed enabling staff to work from home as their biggest priority, followed by maintaining visibility of property and customers, and supporting residents to maintain their social networks.

Jeremy Porteus, chief executive of HLIN, said that 2020 has ‘put to bed’ any debate of the greater use of digital technology in supported housing.

“Where access to technology has been available, we have seen stories of embracement and empowerment that have helped older adults and people with support needs sustain their care and support services and remain connected with the outside world in challenging times,” Porteus commented.

“Housing providers are realising it is time to invest in technology for the benefits of their customers, staff and organisation.”

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