Company: Shelter NI
Shelter Northern Ireland was formed in 1980. Its Memorandum and Articles states that it is established to play a creative part in the life of Northern Ireland by relieving human suffering irrespective of colour, creed or class or religion and for the following 3 purposes:—
1. To relieve hardship and distress among the homeless and among those in need who are living in adverse housing conditions.
2. To make moneys available to housing associations and other bodies (whether corporate or not) whose aims being charitable are the relief of such hardship and distress.
3. To relieve poverty and distress.
We design and develop websites, branding, print, illustration, collateral / signage and take photographs.
Many people today are living in accommodation which for various reasons no longer suits their physical and social needs. Their homes require modifications to enable them to remain independent, safe and secure there for as long as possible. Unfortunately, for some, not even major adaptations to their properties will address their needs and they will need to move, but this is always the last resort for most.
For people in Northern Ireland living in the private sector (owner/occupiers & private tenants) whose homes can be adapted to suit their needs, there is very little practical support available when it comes to engaging the right people to do the work. In some situations, an Occupational Therapist will make recommendations on the works necessary and the NIHE will pay for the work if the person meets the eligibility criteria, through a grant, but when it comes to getting the works completed there is no information that helps the householder to find, select and engage an appropriate trade.
Shelter NI identified there was a real issue, years ago when we witnessed vulnerable people suffering at the hands of rogue traders. The problems they experienced included:
- Being overcharged for work
- Paying for work they did not need but were convinced was necessary
- Bad workmanship
- Unfinished work
We know this is a more general problem for older people from the research done by the Joseph Rountree Foundation around the UK.
To address this need, Shelter NI developed a process approximately 7 years ago and has been delivering it since. It is currently all done through email, post and telephone, is administratively cumbersome and takes many hours to resource it properly. It includes:
- Vetting traders to ensure they are bonafide
- Monitoring them against performance indicators our users have told us are important to them
- Collecting customer feedback
- Comparing like for like prices
Using this process we can now demonstrate that
- People are empowered to select a trade that will complete the works they need
- The process is fair and transparent
- It provides safeguarding measures for users that did not already exist
- It is well monitored
- It produces consistently high satisfaction rates
Through the TiR programme, as our project developed we recognised the need to be absolutely clear and precise about the processes that are essential to ensuring that basic software will deliver a workable product. Through discussing the best way for users to search for trades, and the algorithm best suited to produce and display search results to the user we began to develop the idea of building in a map feature to display tradespeople in terms of proximity to the user. This feature is planned for our next phase of development. Throughout the process we also developed our ideas regarding monitoring and reporting, and recognized how crucial this would be to us in managing the scheme effectively. Subsequently, going forwards we plan to develop enhanced reporting systems. Many of our original ideas were able to be successfully realized, or improved due to frequent and open communication and collaboration with the Techies.
We are firmly convinced our Trusted Trader Scheme platform has huge potential to create a safe place for our clients to select a Builder or Trade specialist and be very certain that they will not be ripped off or harmed. Our easy to understand and user-friendly tool will help vulnerable people in particular to obtain the information they need to choose trades that best suit their requirements, thus empowering them to make the right choices for themselves, and live fulfilled lives. This will reduce strains on the health and social care sector too, as entirely preventable falls, injuries, hospitalizations and early entry into care or residential homes will be reduced through making people’s homes safe and suitable for them.