Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre

Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre

Company: Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre



The Challenge

In recent years the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre (BURC) has become an access point for many adult foreign nationals (including migrants, refugees and asylum seekers) for their orientation, inclusion and integration as they seek to make a successful transition and to build new lives for themselves and their families. We want to design and deliver an app in several languages, plus related podcasts, which will help them to understand as quickly as possible the practicalities of day to day life in a new country:

The Solution

Ideas developed

  • A website with a substantial bank of first thoughts, guidance and links to relevant statutory bodies, communities, groups and charities, that can provide up to date information on areas of interest to foreign nationals coming to live in our community

  • A community of practice in which both providers and beneficiaries can share knowledge, understanding and experiences in three different languages (currently Arabic, Polish and Somali)


The model that has been developed as a prototype and proof of concept in the Belfast environment is being recognised as one that has potential for use in other geographical areas:

  • Locally in Northern Ireland
  • Nationally in the British Isles
  • Internationally, especially in countries where there are significant numbers of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

The concept can be disseminated through the development of online resources, related face to face training and mentoring so that other organisations can become aware of what has been done in Belfast and can design, document and deliver localised solutions to similar challenges that they encounter in the community where they work.

In addition, the BARTER concept has been identified as a possible model for further development. Based on an amalgam of the TIMEPEACE concept under development in London and TIMEBANKING developed by Volunteer Now in Belfast, there is an opportunity to create an App through which individuals can exchange skills, experience and knowledge; for example, English Language practice in exchange for music lessons, Cooking in exchange for help with the garden. Preliminary discussions have indicated that an innovation of this type has considerable potential to build harmonious and sustainable relationships among members of both local and migrant communities.


Housing Rights

Housing Rights

Company: Housing Rights


Zoo Creative
We design and develop websites, branding, print, illustration, collateral / signage and take photographs.

The Challenge

Homelessness in Northern Ireland is estimated to cost £15,470 per household. In 2016/17, 18,573 households presented as homeless to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. The top three reasons for presenting are loss of rented accommodation, unsuitable accommodation and relationship breakdown. A home is the foundation which allows people to not only develop important family and social relationships, but also gain an education, employment and access to other important services such as health and social care. Conversely, the lack of a home can lead to other problems including poor physical and mental health, disrupted education, inability to secure employment and offending behaviour. There are now over 125,000 (16%) households in Northern Ireland living in the private rented sector, more than those who live in social housing. Our concern is that many homes in this sector do not provide
the security, affordability and safety in the home that would be afforded to those living in other housing tenures.

Because of problems in the supply of social housing and home ownership becoming unattainable for many, more people are renting privately and often do so for long periods of time. In recent years, housing policy has shifted towards making greater use of privately rented housing to accommodate people who are homeless or who would otherwise have been provided a lifetime social tenancy. While this move to reduce homelessness by making better use of private housing is understandable, we are concerned that practices in the private sector aren’t sufficiently developed to meet the needs of many types of households. This is the social problem we wish to address via the Techies in Residence programme.

In the last nine months, 45% of people who called our helpline for housing advice lived in the private rented sector. The main issues we have identified include:

  • Paying for and keeping the home
  •  Deposits and letting fees
  •  Finding a suitable place to live
  •  Dealing with harassment or threats of illegal eviction
  •  Finding out how to can get help to solve their housing problems

Many tenants have little to no knowledge or understanding of their rights or their responsibilities. This lack of awareness can exacerbate existing problems and can eventually lead to homelessness. We believe that raising awareness of the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords and finding a way to simplify or aid communication between landlords and tenants in the private sector would really help to alleviate some of the difficulties that people experience. We feel that the time is right to look at how technology can assist tenants to better understand their housing rights, options and routes to redress should things go wrong in their home. An innovative solution would increase confidence, communication and relationships between tenants and landlords, and prevent disputes arising during the tenancy.

Ultimately, a safe and secure home prevents homelessness and enables people to make a positive contribution to society. Our hope is that the private rented sector will become and safe and secure place where people will choose to make their home.

The Solution

Housing Rights  original idea developed from an app into a web based platform following advice from ZooCreative.  We sought feedback from Housing Rights front-line advisers and working with ZooCreative, we’ve developed content and functionality that will help private renters in NI.

Written content

The written content on the site informs tenants about their rights and responsibilities. The user can search for content by topic, or by what stage of the tenancy journey they are in. It is complimented by Smart Renter tips and calls to action for how the private tenant can help themselves. The content is written in clear, concise and understandable formats.


Functionality we’ve developed include:

The checklists guide tenants on what questions they should ask. They are:

  • Before you take on a tenancy – 12 things to check
  • Viewing a property – external
  • Viewing a property – internal
  • Your tenancy agreement – what to check for
  • Questions for your new landlord

The tools will help tenants prepare for the different stages throughout their rental journey. There is:

  • Housing Benefit calculator – Calculate how much housing benefit you could receive
  • Contact your landlord – email/letter template generator
  • Make an inventory – track the items in your house and their condition

The potential for private tenants

The knowledge provided by the written content will help increase tenants confidence. The checklists will encourage tenants to try and spot issues that could arise for them further down the line, thus reducing instances of tenants finding themselves locked into unsuitable tenancies. Tools such as the letter generator will encourage a record of written communication between landlord and tenant should a more serious situation arise further down the line.  The inventory will help clear up any disputes around repaying deposits.


Private tenants who use the innovative Smart Renter platform will be empowered to help themselves sustain a safe and secure home in the private rented sector, avoiding potential homelessness.