Buying insurance is one of most unsatisfying purchases to make – unless you need to make a claim. Depending on the circumstances, the premium can become the most astute spend of your year, or seem an even bigger waste of money! Trying to save a buck or two can end up costing you much much more. An insurance policy is like so many things in life – the devil is in the detail. Have you got the right level of cover for your needs? Did you purchase ‘third-party fire and theft’ when you really needed ‘fully comprehensive’? When is comes to giving housing advice, providing the right level of cover is also important.

“The provision of up to date, comprehensive, tailored advice and information will play an important part in delivering the housing authority’s strategy for preventing homelessness

Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities

I have discussed in a previous blog why good advice as a means of prevention is far better than the higher cost alternatives. Unless the information given is suitably comprehensive, we will find the recipients cycling back around. The goal is enabling customers to be able to resolve their own issues. If our advice is in any way lacking, then we are likely to create more, not less dependency on our services.

What is comprehensive?

Homelessness Code of Guidance is clear on what comprehensive advice should cover:

  • preventing homelessness
  • securing accommodation (when homeless)
  • rights of those at risk of or who are homeless
  • the duties of the local authority
  • the offer of help from the local authority and/or other services
  • details on how to access that help

It should be specific and provide useful information (e.g. telephone numbers for local services, or drop-in times). It should cover all the main circumstances which customers find themselves in. 

Less is more

The danger in trying to achieve a comprehensive advice offer is that we provide too much information. This is where traditional advice web pages fall down. Trying to pick out relevant bits amongst the mass of information is a daunting task. Comprehensive means providing the right advice, to the right person, at the right time. A tailored approach.

Comprehensive also doesn’t mean complicated. There is an art to writing advice that is not only easy to read but also easy to act upon too. If customers don’t understand or feel that they can enact the advice given, we are failing in our prevention duty. The car crash beckons!

Developing a comprehensive advice service requires considerable resource and effort. Advice doesn’t write itself, and a lot of information is required to cover the range of presenting issues.

Making a claim

Is your advice offer ‘fully comprehensive’, or are you only offering ‘third party fire and theft’? Either way AdviceAid can help:

  • self-service tool for your website
  • written by legal experts
  • easy to read and understand
  • always up-to-date
  • tailored to the customer’s needs and circumstances
  • covers all major topics including: tenant rights, benefits, harassment, S21 notices, mortgage arrears, domestic abuse, rights of occupation, welfare reform, illegal eviction, rent arrears, and housing disrepair

Find out more 

Peter McGuire is Co-Founder and CEO of AdviceAid. He has worked in housing services for over 15 years in the private, voluntary and public sectors. He is an incessant problem-solver and has been at the forefront of leading a number of innovative local authority programmes to improve the quality of advice services. Peter usefully has a degree in computer science.

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