The Covid-19 lockdown presents local authorities and housing associations with challenges never encountered before. While they have been through huge upheavals to change, withdraw and re-prioritise services, provision of statutory and essential activities has to continue. Feedback from users of The Noise App clearly demonstrates that effective management of noise pollution and ASB problems is possible at a time when social distancing restrictions need to be observed. Such working practices have and will continue to ensure that officers avoid being exposed to potential health risks.
Sandwell MBC has been utilising TNA for nearly four years and has been channelling an increasing number of users to submit service requests through this route. Nik Wooldridge, the Town Lead Anti-Social Behaviour Officer for Oldbury, said:
“As we’d already made progress in getting clients to submit complaints via The Noise App, the impact of Covid-19 highlighted the benefits of the changes in working practices. The progressive changes have resulted in a huge reduction in the use of the traditional logging sheets and given us the ability to focus on the highest priority cases. Even though home working has been the rule for the majority of staff since the lockdown provisions came into force, we’ve still been able to triage cases remotely, assess the scale and nature of the problem and identify consistent and appropriate solutions. This often involves a dialogue with the complainant to manage expectations and, when necessary and practical, remote mediation between parties.
“We’ve also been able to support the corporate effort by covering some work areas normally dealt with by the Environmental Health colleagues, who’ve been redeployed to Covid-19 related responses. One of the challenges has been explaining to people that we’re going through unusual times. With children away from school, people home working and traditional norms being tested, some behaviours are not unreasonable, even though they may think so!
“On the whole, the use of TNA has meant that our noise service has not been disrupted by the lockdown arrangements. In fact, it is likely that greater reliance will be placed on remote working in the future as it’s proved its worth.”
Over the last two years, TNA has become an integral part of the City of Stoke-on-Trent Council’s arrangements for dealing with ASB issues – to such an extent that even with the Covid-19 restrictions, things have continued virtually on a business-as-usual basis. Jim Nixon, the ASB Manager, confirmed that it has been invaluable in dealing with some safeguarding cases, with information being fed into multi-agency ‘threat and grip’ reviews of emerging and new cases. The team is dealing with one such case at present, where neighbours on either side of the property have submitted records via TNA. This is a key component of the case being constructed by the police. During the Covid-19 period, the council’s noise pollution team recognised the challenges they faced in dealing with domestic noise complaints and are also now using TNA to great effect. It has streamlined cases; users like the easy-to-follow menus and the almost-instant submission of case information and complaint details. It also gives a slicker and more professional appearance to the service. During the lockdown, the authority has seen a 25% increase in cases, of which between 80–90% are noise-related. Some of the cases are due to lockdown fever – creeping intolerance and frustrations at being cooped up – but TNA helps in the management of such complaints.
Shared Regulatory Services (comprising the Public Protection Services of Cardiff City, Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend Councils) has been a user of TNA for a year: Sian James, Team Manager – Neighbourhood Services, confirmed during that limited time, it has been invaluable during the Covid-19 period. With commercial and industrial activity sharply reduced, the majority of complaint cases relate to residential disturbances. Operating arrangements have been reshaped to facilitate home working, but the ability to receive case details and triage them means that responses can still be provided. Information is shared with partner agencies so that appropriate responses and interventions are initiated. Stronger relationships have been developed, in particular with South Wales Police, and the lessons learnt will be used to refine and shape service delivery arrangements when a degree of normality returns.
If you would like further details about The Noise App or an online demonstration of how it operates, then please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01174 033584.