Etive expands into new offices in Edinburgh

We’re delighted to say that we’ve moved into our new offices in Edinburgh, supporting our further growth plans.   We’ve got a great space, lots of light and not bad views of Edinburgh’s sky line.  Main thing is, when visiting the postcode is still not recognised by the likes of Google maps or sat nav so search for Westfield Avenue.


Tenants move into Home Group’s Mill O’ Mains Dundee development

Home Group’s Mill O’ Mains development, phase 2, is now complete enabling tenants to move into and live in a more sustainable neighbourhood, a place that is desirable to live in Dundee.   As part of this sustainability, Mill O’ Mains is part of the Water Efficiency Trial where we have recruited tenants and installed water monitors and Home Log Books to better understand water and energy consumption patterns.  Once the base line has been established our partners will then work with tenants to better understand what types of interventions work for different kinds of people to help them better manage their water and energy consumption.


Digital Log Book joins Open Identity Exchange

We are delighted to have become members of the Open Identity Exchange (OIX).  We feel that this is an important step in the development of the Digital Log Book and working to build further confidence in the objectives and security of the Digital Log Book.  As the OIX works to build trust for online security and set standards, we felt that it was imortant to be transparent in what the Digital Log Book does and ensuring our customers see the standards we are working towards.  Membership of the OIX has aided us in networking with other members and working on a joint Government Digital Service (GDS) Discovery project with Birmingham City Council.  Working with Digital Birmigham we are working on a project with the aim  to track a customer’s housing journey from start to finish, making improvements along the way. The key objective is to ensure digital and financial inclusion strategies and tools for tenants preparing for the imtroduction of Universal Credit (UC). Tenants are given their own personalised Digital Log Book, an online portal that helps tenants to manage every aspect of their tenancies online.


Getting Ready for Universal Credit Conference

Etive hosted a Universal Credit conference at our Birmingham office on the 22nd January with guest speakers from DWP, Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Social Housing Partnership.

Ian Smith and Stephen Whitehorn from DWP emphasised the importance of landlords getting to know their tenants and to review processes and systems to be prepared to collect the extra rent from their tenants who are in receipt of Universal Credit (UC) whilst continuing to manage the legacy systems. They also shared some of the learning from a north west based housing association and their UC pilot, stating they had to rethink how they operate as an organisation to be more agile and responsive to changes in order to adapt quickly.

Martin O’Neil, Head of Benefits at BCC, stated how important the Welfare Reform Multi Agency Committee has been in the preparation of UC implementation and reassured attendees that BCC will do everything possible to maintain the currently high standards of service. Guy Chaundy, who is heading up the UC implementation for BCC, highlighted the importance of having a clearly mapped out journey that works for the UC recipients to ensure they do not get lost in the system. Kofi Ackah, from Digital Birmingham, demonstrated the seamless customer journey to support unemployed people using ‘My Work Journey’ within the Digital Log Book to identify and the GBAS Service Directory Referral System to help remove barriers to work.

There were many other speakers contributors to the day, all the discussions, thoughts, fears, ideas and suggestions were captured and will be used at a follow up event to be announced. If you would like further information please send us an email to


Scottish Water win UK Water Efficiency Award

Scottish Water worked in partnership with the Scottish Government Building Standards Division (SGBSD,) to develop and introduce a mandatory minimum level of water efficiency into building standards for all new and refurbished housing in Scotland.

The Water Industry Commission Scotland provided funding for Scottish Water to explore ways of ‘incentivising’ the development community to adopt water efficiency as a standard consideration for domestic housing, with the intention of this becoming a  standard requirement within Scottish homes.

In addition to a number of practical projects being implemented, it was agreed that an immediate, sustainable and resilient solution should be explored to deliver efficiency in the new build and refurbishment sectors in the short term, based upon widely considered findings from other water efficiency studies.

A clear and practical water efficiency requirement was devised which built upon previous water efficiency considerations, often overlooked in favour of other sustainability measures. Direct collaboration with SGBSD ensured that water efficiency measures are now a mandatory requirement in Scotland to a Bronze standard but with Silver and Gold Standards being an available option for developers wishing to add further sustainability value and recognition.

These standards were approved by Scottish Ministers and launched on October 2013.


DLB working to get unemployed people back into work

“The project team would like to extend its thanks to the impressive and dedicated work done by the team in Landlord Services in not only exceeding its targets on both Digital Log Books issued, but also helping over 298 back into Employment, Training, Education or Volunteering. Well done!!” ESF Project Leader

We are delighted to be working on a European Social Fund / DWP project with Birmingham City Council to identify barriers preventing people from working and providing appropriate levels of support and sign posting that can help unemployed people in their quest for work or into work related activities such as volunteering or apprenticeships.   The project will work with 5,000 people who meet certain criteria, typically not on an existing work programme, to be given a Digital Log Book to support them through their own My Work Journey.  The Digital Log Book My Work Journey will enable people to record their work search activities on their journey back into work and this information can be used to support employment related benefit claims i.e. currently JSA. 


Learning the hard way – facing the provision of training & apprenticeships

We were delighted to host a round table discussion at the beginning of December with Midlands Business Insider on the provision of training and apprenticeships to people across the Midlands.  We discussed a number of topics, such as, about how do we attract more students into apprenticeships and whether we are selling them in the right way.  Getting employers on board doesn’t seem to be an issue, what has proved more of an issue is filling these positions.  Henrietta Brealey, Birmingham Chamber, pointed out that in many cases schools were just not geared up for delivering the right advice.

In discussing what challenges employers might face in covering the costs and running of an apprenticeship there was a strong view that when the funding is moved from the providers to the employers it is going to become more difficult, especially for SMEs to manage, said Gary Woodman of Worcestershire LEP.  It is likely that employers will be expected to pay for the training up front which could potentially be quite a large up front cost before the SME gets any money back.. For some SMEs this might be a step too far.

Read more on this fascinating topic from all 10 contributors at PDF.


Birmingham’s Universal Credit Project team wins Chamberlain Award 2014

Birmingham City Council Digital and Financial inclusion team won the 2014 Chamberlain Award for Innovation.

The introduction of universal credit meant Birmingham City Council, the largest landlord in the country, had to rethink the way it delivered its services to tenants.

As one of 12 local authority-led universal credit pilots, the team identified innovative approaches that would support tenants. One of the main challenges of the welfare reforms was that most new tenants would be expected to apply for universal credit online.

The team addressed this by developing self-help tools and systems to ensure that new tenants had right level of digital literacy and financial capability skills, delivered from four lettings suites that were developed to support the new approach.

All were given their own digital personalised portal called the Digital Log Book (DLB), which provides tenancy-related information, links to other organisations, video content, access to council services such as their online rent account, rent statements, budgeting and employment tools, all of which enable tenants to manage their information in one place.

The tools were warmly welcomed by tenants, whose feedback included: “I like this as everything is in one place”; “It’s quick and easy to use”.

The project ensured that new tenants received housing and council tax benefits totalling £27.5 million using the council’s online HB form, as well as £2 million worth of welfare benefits to which they were not aware they were entitled.

Four hundred people were referred for employment support, of whom 6% gained work, and the council reduced its rent arrears by £117,000 among new tenants. Evictions were also down.

Nominator Raj said the pilot, which reached the finals of the Municipal Journal Awards, has worked so well that more than 75 local authorities, housing associations and Scottish and Welsh Governments, as well as delegation of interested parties from 13 EU countries, have looked at it.

“In these austere times this pilot has been a fantastic example of council staff rising above the issues and the problems to drive through a series of innovations by changing the way the council delivers its services in a way that has positively benefited new council tenants,” adds Raj.


The Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) Conference 2014

TPAS Scotland held their annual conference in St. Andrews last month bringing together over 350 tenants and housing professionals to consider some of the biggest challenges facing communities, including welfare reform, digital inclusion and tackling fuel poverty.  We were delighted to support the event by speaking in one of the plenary sessions on digital and financial inclusion.  We discussed our experiences of digital and financial inclusion and the challenges faced by RSLs to not only get their tenants on-line but to get them to stay there and transact online.  What was interesting was that the objections to not being able to get online are the exact same challenges as everyone else faces.  A few tenants highlighted their frustrations at not being able to get physical access to the Internet and were worried about security.

A more worrying issue was the lack of awareness of the introduction of Universal Credits and potential impacts from welfare reform and the Government’s introduction of digital identities for citizens.

Lesley Baird, CE, highlighted that this year the focus would be on some of the key challenges faced by our local communities including the  introduction of universal credit and how it might affect tenants, how to get more people in social housing neighbourhoods online and how residents, landlords and energy providers can work together to tackle fuel poverty.

This was a great event with great feedback from tenants and hearing directly from them their issues and concerns.  Look forward to next years conference.



Attending World Smart Cities Congress in Barcelona with BCC

We’re at the World Smart Cities Congress, on the UKTI  Pavilion, with Birmingham City Council (BCC), who are 1 of the key UK Smart City exemplars.  The Congress, being held in Barcelona, has brought together cities from all round the world, suppliers, solutions and innovations to demonstrate examples of what is happening on the whole agenda of smart cities.  There are a range of solutions ranging from mobility, waste management, connectivity right through to the innovations around the use of drones, citizen engagement to retail and leisure.  What’s been really educational is learning about the innovations of the likes of Bristol, Manchester and Milton Keynes and what they have been doing as part of their focus for Smart Cities.  What has also been interesting is trying to understand what a ‘smart city’ actually means and how different people interpret it in so many different ways.  What is clear is that there are a wide variety of opportunities that are being brought together and the sharing of ideas and experiences, what’s worked and not worked.  Attached is Raj Mack discussing Birmingham’s Smart City Road Map in one of the breakout sessions and I was kindly able to present how BCC are using the Digital Log Book for citizen engagement.

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