Manage arrears for non-secure rent accounts, major works and service charges BETA

Project details:

Organisation London Borough of Hackney
Department Housing
Collaboration Level Share Ideas
Budget £100k > £250k
Key Contact Jasmeen Sangha
Phase start 24 September 2018
Phase Estimated end 31 January 2019



Manage-arrears (beta) has been launched with a small subset of caseworkers. We want to make key improvements raised during beta testing. Moreover, to roll-out the service, the ability to handle rent arrears for non-tenancy accounts, garage, non-secure and introductory tenancies, and temporary accommodations should be added. In addition, the service should include managing leasehold arrears for major works and service charges. Hackney needs to improve its coordination and efficiency in managing arrears across business areas with the aims of reducing overall arrears liability and maximising social benefit from its housing stock.




Status Updates

11 October 2019

  • Soraya Clarke
    Week Notes: Manage Arrears
    w.c. 7/10/2019
    Phase 3, Sprint 3

    The Manage Arrears team is keen to start delivering value as soon as possible. We are making good progress towards achieving Phase three's objectives.

    Highlights of the week:

    *Our Dev Team completed all Jira cards assigned for Sprint 2. :)

    *Dermot and I had a great sharing session with Islington Council’s Integrated Service Manager and Head of Income Collection. They were intrigued by our Agile project management approach and impressed by the way were are iterating our product to meet users need. It was an insightful meeting that ended with them agreeing to be assessors for Manage Arrears' next service assessment which is due to take place in late November.

    *Usability testing with the income collection team. Joe and Richard created a really good prototype which will add value to the Manage Arrears worktray before we even complete working on the prioritisation adjustments. The testers liked it and it is so effective and easy to use that even our guests from Islington Council were asking each other ‘Can our system to that!’ Our developers are implementing this sprint.


    *Resolving the view for caseworkers to access transaction and the action diary is proving to be tricky. This is a very important feature for caseworkers and our team want to get it right to encourage and support their usability needs. We are due to deploy the most recent adjustment today.

    Next week:

    *The developers will be converting Leasehold Service ‘Letter before action’ into HTML.
    *The developers will be working on integrating the fields from UH into the letter so it can be generated within the Manage Arrears system.
    *Patches are due to be embedded in the system. This is exciting because it moves us closer to getting the income team using the Live system.

07 October 2019

  • Soraya Clarke

    *Week Notes: Manage Arrears*

    w.c. 30/9/2019

    Phase 3, Sprint 2


    Last week, the Manage Arrears team focused on delivering our Sprint two objectives. This included adjusting the prioritisation scoring. They will continue to work on this most of this week. 


    Highlights of the week included;

    • A very productive meeting, with the Product Owner and key Leasehold Services stakeholders. During this meeting, we reviewed the objectives of our current phase (phase 3), discussed and agreed on the prioritised backlog for sprint 3. Sprint 3 is set to be an exciting sprint because the tasks due to be introduced move us closer to getting more caseworkers using the Manage arrears system. We also started discussions about features for the next phase.

    • Working with the team from Made Tech’s office and attending a Learn Tech session hosted by Barry Anderson was the second highlight of the week. As a non-techie, I was slightly wary at first. But, it was great to have an opportunity to learn something new with the team. The session I attended was "How to measure team happiness". I learned why it is important to have a happy team, a few techniques on how to measure happiness and factors we have control over verses those we can influence to encourage a healthy, happy team.

    Next week:

    *The Product Owner and I will be meeting with Islington Council’s Income Manager to talk about our project and lessons learned etc.

    *Show and Tell (Thursday 10th Oct @10:30, 4th-floor HSC, in the standup area)

27 September 2019

  • Soraya Clarke

    Week Notes: Manage Arrears

    w.c. 23/9/2019

    Phase 3, Sprint 2

    This week’s highlights:

    The Team

    I am really proud of the Manage Arrears team this week. We have had a few challenges to overcome both internally as a project team and with stakeholders. I would like to thank everyone for their dedication, support and for handling constructive criticism well. I can see that the whole team have a genuine passion and an invested desire to deliver the best product possible. A special well done, also goes to +Miles Alford and +Maysa Kanoni for their achievements this week.


    Roles, Permissions and Patches Workshop

    Earlier in the week, we brought the Income Collection team together with the Leasehold Services team in a workshop, to understand the differences and similarities between their roles. The purpose was to help the developers get some insight into how they will approach this part of the build. We now have a clear and simple structure to work from. This part of the development will be a Corporate benefit as it will allow multiple service areas including Leasehold Services to be easily embedded with the Manage Arrears system for future phases.



    +Elaine Geeves has done a great job, gathering potential efficiency savings that Phase 3 will offer. Each saving identified can be supported with evidence. The biggest value that Manage Arrears can demonstrate once delivered in phase 3 will comes from the automation of income collection's letter 2. Letter 2 is the second letters sent as part of the escalation policy.


    Next week:

    *Usability Testing of the priority scoring adjustments

    *Starting to work on the backend of the system to adjust the priority scoring.

22 September 2019

  • Soraya Clarke

    *Week Notes: Manage Arrears

    Project: Manage Arrears

    w.c. 16/9/2019*

    Phase 3, Sprint 1:


    This week’s highlights:


    • Discussion around patches and it value

    We have a consensus that we can build patches into the system for the income collection team. It is important however that we think about how we can measure it, e.g. collection rates, activities around NOSPs served, no. of visits etc. It is also important that we build in flexibility so patches can be adapted in the future, these will be addressed during our workshop next week. + Rob Miller thank you for facilitating this week’s meeting.


    • Development

    Our developers started working on some ‘Layout’ cards to get familiar with the Manage Arrears code and API integrations. Our developers have shown confidence, capability and a lot great initiative this week, especially + George Schena, one of our junior devs, +Elena Vilmite and +Kyle Chapman. Next week more complex cards will be introduced into Sprint 2.


    • Google Authentication 

    Our tech lead, +Ben Pirt, began discussions with +Keith Gatt around authenticating our application against Google. The findings were that we need to use it for identity authentication and that although it is not mandatory for authorisation, we will need to use it for authorisation within the Manage Arrears system. We will continue our investigation into this. If anyone is interested in this, feel free to send us a message in slack #income collection.


    Next week:

    • There will be an exciting workshop on roles, permissions and patches with users

    • Show and Tell (Thursday 26th Sept @10:30, 4th-floor HSC, in the standup area)

    • Sprint 2 begins on Thursday, where we will be introducing more complex tasks into the next sprint around prioritisation

13 September 2019

  • Soraya Clarke
    Week Notes: Manage Arrears
    Project: Manage Arrears
    w.c. 9/9/2019
    Phase 3, Sprint 0:
    This week has been quite intense. It started with an Inception workshop attended by key stakeholders. It covered what Phase 3 is about, what the Manage Arrears product currently does, the roadmap and how we plan to work together in an agile way. 
    The developers spent a few days familiarizing themselves with the product and its code. They ‘Mobbed’, which is a software development approach, where the whole team works on the same thing, at the same time, in the same space, and at the same computer.
    As a group, we also went over two of the six epics in the backlog, ‘Prioritisation’ and ‘Layout’. This provided the developers with a deeper insight into user needs. Our developers also met and shadowed some frontline users in both the Income Collection (Rents) and Leasehold areas to get some context around the theory explained to them and how users operate in the field.   
    Towards the end of the week, we had our show and tell, we looked at the Risks, Issues, Assumptions and Dependencies of the project and had our first planning session.
    Some of the risks highlighted were:
    *Decision on patches
    *Additional API requirements
    *Gov Notifies -  limitation on the number of pages it can print 

    The aim is to remove all dependencies as soon as possible.
    Next week, we will start our sprint by addressing some of the layout tasks, we also plan to run a workshop on roles and permissions and a meeting has been set up to discuss patches.

30 August 2019

  • Soraya Clarke
    Week Notes: Manage Arrears
    Project: Manage Arrears
    w.c. 26/8/2019
    This week’s summary:
    The Newly Awarded contract
    Made Tech has won the tendering bid to extend the MVP for Manage Arrears. This week, we met to discuss the objectives, resourcing and planned our Inception workshop which will be taking place on the 9th September.
    Over the past few months, we have been preparing the backlog ahead of the newly contracted team joining. During Made Tech’s first week with us in September, we will be bringing them up-to-date with backlog and projects development.
    User Testing feedback (Case Details page)
    We summarised last week’s user feedback. The testing re-highlighted the users' passion, “As an income collection caseworker, I need to see the Payment history and Arrears Actions diary on the same page so I can assess and understand what is going on with a case at a glance and initiate the appropriate action.” The users all listed their preference in order which we will share with the developer in a couple of weeks. They all had very similar preferences. 
    GOV.UK Notify
    This week we discovered that GOV.UK Notify invoice by Organisation rather than by service area. I’ve started looking into if they will be changing this in the long term and how/if other Councils recharge individual service areas.  
    Show and Tells
    Manage Arrears show and tells, will recommencing from 11th Sept 2019 and will continue fortnightly through to December with updates on the project's progress.
    Up next:
    1. Inception workshop 9/9/19
    2. Show and Tell 11/9/19

23 August 2019

  • Soraya Clarke

    Week Notes: Manage Arrears

    Project: Manage Arrears

    w.c. 12.8.2019

    This week we welcomed +Lia Tarar to our team, by inviting her along to our RAG (Red, Amber and Green) rating and priority scoring workshop. Lia is a Junior Developer, with Ruby skills and is a lovely addition to the team.

    The outcome of the RAG rating and priority scoring workshop was interesting. The aim of the session was to show the product owner and the rents team how the different aspects of the scoring fitted with the RAG and the message flow. We found that our Product Owner would like Red cases to reflect top priorities P1s. Amber cases to reflect P2s. And the Green cases to remain as they are which is to reflect lower arrears cases which will generally be handled through automation. The outcome was interesting because this approach simplifies the existing rules for Red and Amber cases in the system.

    This week, we also user-tested, the improved case details layout designs with the Income Collection team. Testers generally shared the same comments. Based on their feedback we have a clear idea of how features can be adjusted to increase the usability of the system. We plan to amalgamate the preferences into one design which will be shared with our UX/UI consultants and the developers joining in September.

    Next week we will be:

    1. Collating the User testing, case details layout designs feedback.
    2. Updating the message flow based on the workshop feedback and preparing the automation stories in the backlog.
    3. Continuing to find solutions to the Hackney API/ Hackney action diary bug.

16 August 2019

  • Soraya Clarke

    Week Notes: Manage Arrears

    Project: Manage Arrears

    w.c. 12.8.2019

    This week has been a positive and productive week, for Manage Arrears. We have;

    *Shortlisted Digitalmarket place bidders, and reviewed their proposals for Phase three. The outcome will be published shortly.

    *+Trish Hadden shared some positive feedback relating to service charge arrears. Last month the team saw a huge reduction, approximately by 10%, in their arrears which is a result of their arrears letters being sent. Contributing factors from our project include;

    • The improved content redesign of the letters
    • The improved accuracy which comes from the bulk sending feature providing the ability to provide and send accurate and timely information.

    *Many thanks to +Cate McLaurin for assisting with discussions around the Letter before action (LBA) and Ministry of Justice (MOJ) conversations. The Letter before action is a 14 paged letter sent to Lessee has part of the Service Charge escalation policy. We are investigating the possibility of an alternative solution to enclosing paper forms. Which will determine how these letters will be handled e.g. via Gov Notify.

    *Also many thanks to +Carolina Gaspari for providing +Elaine Geeves and I with advice and guidance on UI and UX design. We learnt a lot. Particularly relating to simple tips about making use of lines and space and grouping text. We have since adjusted the layout of our wireframes to reflect the advice. Our Product owner was shown the example of these and he is in full support of us user testing these with his team next week.

    Next week we will be:

    1. User testing case details layout designs with the Income Collection team
    2. Working to resolve the Hackney API/ Hackney action diary bug.
    3. Continuing to finalise LBA stories.

09 August 2019

  • Soraya Clarke

    Week Notes: Manage Arrears

    Project: Manage Arrears

    w.c. 5.8.2019

    This week +Elaine Geeves and I aligned the new Manage Arrears prioritisation scoring adjustments up with the Manage Arrears Message Flow which will be used to automate communications and the RAG which categorises the cases. We will be sharing this with the wider income collection team shortly, to ensure everyone has a shared understanding of how the three fit together. Many thanks to +Elaine Geeves we needed this! The important cases with high priorities will be correctly positioned and no cases will fall through the gaps. The good thing that came out of this exercise was that no major changes are required to make the three elements work together.

    We also shortlisted the Digital marketplace applicants for Phase 3’s business case this week and last week we said thanked and goodbye to +Guy Whitfield, the Senior Delivery Manager on our project.

    What's Next... As mentioned in the previous week notes, the business case for Phase 3 includes a few key workstreams. Our focus for next week will be finalising the finer details in the two areas below:

    1. Letter Before Action

    2. Case Details Layout

    Letter Before Action (Leasehold Services Team's arrears letter)

    Amending the ‘Letter before action’ and adding it into the system will benefit both the Lessees and caseworkers. We will be meeting with Team leads to discuss options and agree its format for the next phase.

    Case Details Layout

    We will be working on prototypes to capture the layout improvements in the backlog with the aim to obtain feedback from the users in the following week. The outcomes of both will be attached to existing cards in our backlog helping to ensure they are clear and stories are ready for the new team for Phase 3 join.

19 July 2019

  • Week Notes: Manage Arrears

    Project: Manage Arrears

    w.c. 15.7.2019

    As we're between build phases of Manage Arrears this week was comparable to last week in terms of being a quiet status update.

    A high point of the week was that our Business Case for phase three was put before the Steering Group by Femi - our Product Owner - and it has been approved.

    We have posted the opportunity for Phase three up on Digital Marketplace. It can be found here: Extend MVP for Manage Arrears Product

    Areas of focus for Phase three will therefore be as follows:

    Case Prioritisation workstream


    To enable Collection Agents caseloads to be further refined to suit the needs of the Income Collection team allowing optimisation of the Agent Work process.


    • Reduction in Agent time spent sorting or prioritising cases
    • Pre-agreed priorities and actions ensure a standard collection is based on fairness and without bias in line with team escalation policy
    • Increase in Secure Tenancy payments 
    • Escalation policy is fully compiled e.g. 5/7 cases contain errors or omissions in UH.

    Automation workstream


    To allow automation of Green in Arrears (Letter 1) and Amber in Arrears (Letter 2) for the Income Collection team.


    • Improved tenant experience by ensuring they received timely information
    • Ensuring tenant in arrears are signposted to advice and/or support agencies
    • Agent time saved via automation as they are not manually processing and sending letters
    • Allows auditing of sent letters correlated via action diary and tracked through a Government tool (GOV.UK Notify)
    • Will reduce failure demand e.g. 70 emails were sent in the last year to resolve letter failures. This takes up a lot of officer time.The manage arrears system has a low fail rate as letters have been set up and tested in line with GOV.UK Notify’s requirements.

    Letter workstream


    The introduction of a new letter template - Letter Before Action (LBA) - for use by the Leasehold team.


    • This will free up officer time due to less time required to complete the LBA process.

    Layout workstream


    Allows for iterative improvement and adjustments of the application interface delivered in phase two and includes the introduction of new features


    • Internal users will spend more time within the application
    • Satisfaction of internal users with the app is increased as the user experience is upgraded to match expectations
    • More information can be added to some sections of the app than was available in the initial delivery

    Roles and Responsibilities workstream


    To future proof the product and incorporate flexibility to easily expand and extend the service to other departments.


    • Customised views/access for different user types
    • Flexibility this allows us to implement different features/views for different teams
    • Security - this allows scoping of app items

    Patch workstream - To be determined by internal stakeholders.

    Next week: We will be working to ensure we had the backlog and project documentation in a state which will allow the next phase to commence easily. We'll also be working with colleagues in other teams to help our API team diagnose some peculiarities in writing to our legacy system (UH). 

12 July 2019

  • Soraya Clarke

    Week Notes: Manage Arrears

    Project: Manage Arrears

    w.c. 8.7.2019

    This week has been quiet for Manage Arrears. 

    The Leasehold team continue to use the bulk sending tool. They run another batch of letters this week. No bugs or concerns were reported or highlighted during the runs. It is rewarding to see the snags settling, the team independently using the system and less support required to process letters.

    Over 1000 service charge letters, with a value of over £1,000,000, were put through the system in 3 minutes!!!! Of the 1000 letters, only 4 failed to meet Gov Notifies validations and were manually printed and posted. We already have a task in our backlog to rectify this, by moving the address lines up slightly.  

    The Income Collection team were shown how to set up templates within Gov Notify so they can make use of Gov Notify for SMS rent campaigns. Feedback was that it is easy to use.

    Next week: We plan to investigate how entries recorded in the arrears action diary via the APIs effect Universal Housing.

05 July 2019

  • *Week Notes: Manage Arrears

    Project: Manage Arrears

    w.c. 01.07.2019*

    Key items of focus this week have been:

    • Preparation of Business Case for Phase 3
    • Case prioritisation workshop with the Income Collection team leads

    Business Case

    This week the Manage Arrears team has been focusing on supporting our Product Owner in the creation of a Business Case for Phase 3, the next phase of our project. We spent time curating the high-level themes to focus on and the priority in which to do so. Some of the decisions around direction were taken as a direct response to the deep dive we held on Manage Arrears last week. The business case will be presented to the Steering Group within the next two weeks.

    Case Prioritisation Workshop