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Birmingham reports savings from digital logbooks



Council begins to increase use of personalised portals and extends from housing to education and training

Birmingham City Council has begun to issue digital logbooks to more of its residents after identifying significant savings from a pilot project in which they were used to manage housing tenancies as part of the early implementation of Universal Credit.

The council has increased the number of logbooks in circulation from 5,500 to about 9,000, and extended them into the effort to help more people into employment through further education and training.

It is a part of a gradual growth in the use of the logbooks, which the supplier has said are being picked up by other local authorities and could be used for other types of services.

Digital logbooks are personalised portals in which users provide their individual details then share them as much as needed with service organisations. These can use the data to assess the users' needs and input relevant information about how to obtain a service and take up opportunities.

Birmingham began to use the logbooks in 2013 in one of the pilots, working with supplier Etive and backed by the Department of Work and Pensions, for the implementation of Universal Credit. The pilot involved issuing the logbooks to about 5,500 council housing tenants, so they could provide necessary information, including financial, and receive the council's guidance to managing their tenancies.

Source of savings

Stuart Young, managing director of Etive, told UKAuthority that an evaluation showed that this saved £125,000 from using online rather than paper forms, £110,000 from not having to issue handbooks to the tenants, and £399,000 from preventing evictions (estimated at 57 costing £7,000 each) as people managed their payments better and did not fall into excessive arrears. The pilot also helped to identify £2.2 million of extra benefits that the tenants could claim.

Annette King, Birmingham's innovation manager, said: "We can do things such as, if it is a debt issue, refer people through the logbook to a third sector agency that can help them deal with the problem." She added: It's provided savings and brought a lot of benefits to people."

The council has now given the logbooks to more people, bringing the total to about 9,000, and has begun to use them to provide education and training information for people who are unemployed. It is aiming to get 750 people back into work through the initiative.

Solihull project

Young said that Solihull Borough Council has also been using the logbooks but is at an earlier stage and so far there has been no evaluation of the results. Discussions have also been taking place with two other local authorities and a number of housing associations.

He added that the company is also working with a group of colleges in the Midlands and the Skills Funding Agency to further develop the logbooks' capabilities in that field, and they have the potential to be used in other service areas. Etive is planning to hold its first workshops on how they might be used by healthcare organisations later this month.

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