Create transformative innovation

Five ways technology empowers social change

  • About 60,000 people apply for public housing in NSW every year.
  • Family and Community Services has condensed an onerous 45-page paper form into a 15-minute online experience.
  • Within 30 minutes of go-live, FACS had it’s first applicant and 13 more within just a few hours.

It’s no secret that technology can improve individual lives, but on a larger scale it can be a positive force helping those who need it most.

Time, money, access – these are just a few of the challenges many people in Australia face in their quest for housing security.

As one of the largest providers of social housing in the world, the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) processes more than 60,000 applications for housing each year.

Group of people raising hands

FACS Housing, responsible for social housing, sought to transform its 45-page application form into a 15-minute digital workflow due to this demand. The vision was also to make it accessible from smartphoens, tablets and computers, as well as over the phone.

Here are just five ways the technology is informing positive social change:

Improving access for all

Applicants can access online services, such as the FACS digital form, at any time. Clients looking to file an application don’t have to make an appointment, travel to an office, queue up or cram all of this into office hours; they can access the application at a time that suits them.

This ease of access has already had an impact on Housing NSW, allowing a 20 per cent increase in applications, the Director of Customer Service and Business Improvement at FACS, Lance Carden, says.

Serving the needs of many

Online services can be planned around a “user-centric” design that takes an applicant’s particular needs into account, providing a more positive experience.

The service then deploys analytics to respond to a client’s input with questions focused on their specific request, ensuring FACS only collects information relevant to that particular request. Sticking to pertinent information allows the client to finish their task faster, making it easier for staff to process requests. It also reduces the amount of data storage required. 

Fulfilling expectations

The success of FACS Housing’s digital form shows that online solutions aren’t just what the public wants in the future – they’re looking for it right now. “What is really exciting is that without any advertising, within the first 30 minutes FACS had their first applicant. By lunchtime that day they’d had 13 applicants,” the Director of Enterprise Mobility at Telstra, Agnes Sheehan, says.

Carden adds: “Our online applications overtook both our paper and our phone applications from day one, week one, and that trend has continued ever since.”

Making processing more efficient

An online service can act as a single mobile stream in the back end, coordinating multiple platforms instantly. This means less administration, less redundant information, and fewer errors from copying the same information between platforms.

“We’ve taken 45 pages and condensed them into a single online experience which we’re having people complete in 15 minutes, instead of a number of hours,” Carden says. “We’re then able to process within a couple of hours instead of three months to get our clients an outcome much faster.”

Providing relief to those who need it 

Many people making a social housing application are at “the last port of call”, says Sheehan. But an online platform providing faster turnaround on outcomes offers a drop of relief on this hard journey.

“We’re tracking with a 96 per cent satisfaction rating for the ease of use the form provides,” Carden says. Applicants can also receive a response within 24 hours. What a difference a day makes. 

“We have to be able to reach people using the technology and the mediums that they have access to.”

Lance Carden, Director of Customer Service and Business Improvement, NSW Department of Family and Community Services

[Video transcript]

  1. Name: Lance Carden
    Title: Director of Customer Service and Business Improvement at FACS
  2. Name: Agnes Sheehan
    Title: Director of Enterprise Mobility at Telstra
  3. Name: Stoddard Lance
    Title: Mobile Business Development Manager at Telstra

Lance: We know that about 85 per cent of people sleeping rough in the City of Sydney have access to a smartphone. We have to be able to reach people using the technology and the mediums that they have access to.

FACS is one of the largest providers of social housing in the world. We manage about 120,000 tenancies. We assess about 60,000 applications every year.

Forty-five pages condensed into a single online experience which we’re having people complete in 15 minutes, instead of a number of hours – that we’re receiving at the business end and being able to process within a couple of hours instead of three months and getting an outcome to our clients much faster. That’s what I’m most proud of. 

Agnes: We are bringing to life a promise around digitalisation and mobilisation that’s making a difference.

The caseworkers who traditionally were spending their time on a very manual, paper-based process, now can do what they really enjoy, which is making a difference to the clients in their community, really empowering them to not only, you know, not manage disadvantage, but actually break the disadvantage.

Stoddard: You’re dealing with sensitive information. Personal information. That information has to be stored securely. 

You have to be sensitive about the way you ask questions and the way that they are captured. That user-centric design helped us uncover that and develop that in the right way. 

It's always great to deliver innovative solutions.  But when you do that at the same time and make a real change in the community, that’s very, very rewarding.

Lance: Fifty-five per cent of people that have submitted an online form so far have used a mobile phone.

The most amazing thing about that is that we are reaching more people than we ever have before. 

This is about trying to help people get a step up.

To find out more, please contact Stoddard Lance, Telstra Business Development Specialist, Business Development and Programs on +61 418 674 693.

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