As part of the ongoing recovery from COVID-19, Calderdale Council continues to reshape its services to ensure they are fit-for-purpose, protect the most vulnerable people and help deliver a more sustainable financial position for the Future Council.
The pandemic has brought many challenges, but also opportunities to transform the way the Council meets local people’s needs in a changing world. An increase in digital services and a new housing support facility in Halifax are just some examples of how customer services are adapting.
For most of the pandemic, the Council has not been able to provide face-to-face services to customers for safety reasons, as part of its ongoing commitment to protecting people and reducing the spread of the virus.
Many people have embraced the move to more digital services, preferring to access services remotely over the phone, on the Council’s website or via live chat, at times to suit them. Based on this positive feedback, the Council will continue to develop its online services and has introduced customer service support at Halifax Central Library for those that need help with online applications and other simple service enquiries. This will extend to Todmorden Library later this month, with other hub libraries offering support by appointment as demand requires.
Even before COVID-19, the number of face-to-face services provided by the Council’s Customer First teams had reduced significantly, and a wider range of support had started to be provided in libraries and neighbourhood offices within local communities.
Customer First at Horton Street in Halifax closed on 24 March 2020 due to the pandemic, and will remain closed to customers and staff as part of the Future Council and the office accommodation strategy. Frontline customer access teams are continuing to work remotely and have shown resilience and responsiveness. Support that was previously offered face-to-face is still available on the phone and through digital channels, and support for the most vulnerable people has continued.
The Council is aware that the pandemic has increased the inequalities that people face. There are some services where people may be disadvantaged by the absence of face-to-face arrangements, such as those with multiple and complex needs who are seeking support with housing issues.
Therefore, the Council has introduced a new Calderdale Housing Support facility in Halifax town centre, which opened at No. 42 Market Street (formerly a social care hub) on Monday 12 July.
This housing and homelessness prevention service provides face-to-face support to people who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness. It is open from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm and measures are in place to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Providing housing support and addressing homelessness are longstanding priorities for the Council. Calderdale Safeguarding Adults Board recently published its ‘Burnt Bridges?’ review of the tragic deaths of five men who lived on the streets of Halifax. The review aimed to identify action that could be taken to reduce the chance of similar things happening again.
The new Calderdale Housing Support facility is one of the responses to the review and aims to deliver a fuller and more inclusive and supportive service in partnership with organisations across the borough, increasing responsiveness to people who live street-based lives.
The review also emphasised the need to reach out to those who need support by going to the heart of the community and offering more personalised help. Basing the new Housing Support service in Halifax town centre helps to achieve this.
Cllr Jenny Lynn, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, said:
“We want all local people to reach their potential and live the fullest possible life, which is at the heart of our Vision2024 for Calderdale. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to look at how we can best support our residents, especially those who are most vulnerable.
“Although our significant shift to digital services in 2020 was initially driven by COVID-19 restrictions, we’ve learned that some services work better this way, are welcomed by customers, save money and help tackle the climate emergency.
“We now know we can provide an improved service without needing to operate from Customer First offices, but we do offer the option of face-to-face contact where necessary through our hub libraries.
“We understand that some people rely on face-to-face services, and we are taking this into account when reshaping the role of the Future Council as part of our focus on protecting the most vulnerable people. Opening the new Calderdale Housing Support facility in Halifax town centre is a really positive step forward in our commitment to reducing inequalities and supporting homeless people to live longer and fuller lives.”