Bolton University

Tenancy Fraud Campaign 

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

This initiative was set as a challenge for the University of Bolton Graphic Design students, where the result would be mutually beneficial for all participants including those tackling tenancy fraud. Students in year’s two and three of the course were asked to design a print campaign to raise public awareness of Tenancy Fraud.

In part, the project had a goal to educate and support people to understand, what Tenancy Fraud is and why it should matter to them? It also had to fulfil its purpose as a call to action i.e. is it happening next door? Report it!

Social housing fraud costs the UK public purse up to £1billion a year. That is a staggering amount, especially in times where authorities and social housing providers are facing cuts, housing stock is low and the cost of living crisis is pushing more and more people to desperately seek affordable housing.

In addition to this, we consider the cost of temporary accommodation, which a Local Authority must fund and where there is no housing available to meet the demand, this also leaves vulnerable people open to homelessness.

It is forecast that the hardship created by the cost of living crisis will have a significant impact on tenancy and other types of fraud, as people struggle to find ways to make ends meet.

The work that Social Housing Counter Fraud teams do is an important step in detecting and preventing fraud and ultimately  returning essential housing stock to those who need it the most.

 The most common types of Social housing fraud are; Illegal Subletting (Parting with Possession); Fraudulent Application for Housing (Fraudulent Succession Application for Housing) and Fraudulent Right to Buy.

The aim of the project was to share posters and flyers with (1,600) Housing Associations/Social Landlords and (over 300) Local Authorities to display in Housing offices nationally, as well as in public spaces such as libraries and leisure centres. In addition, digital content would be uploaded to local authority and social housing provider’s and other public bodies’ websites, social media, intranets and email footers.

It was essential that all content be made available to download from one central source, namely the National Anti-Fraud Network and that all content must be customisable by each organisation to display their individual logos and contact information. In order to raise awareness of the partnership, we also ensured each asset discreetly displayed the collaboration logos of NAFN, Onward, the Tenancy Fraud Forum and University of Bolton. This was key to our messaging that a partnership brought these materials to the tenancy fraud community and the results of working with partners can save on costs, deliver wider benefits and deliver quality materials.


What are the key achievements?

This project has successfully brought together the National Anti-Fraud Network, Bolton University, Onward Homes and the Tenancy Fraud Forum. All parties have supported the project and will ensure the product of the partnership/collaboration reaches as many organisations and individuals as possible. Together we seek to target the 1,600 social housing providers and over 300 local authorities, all of which will have further links in to the community. By engaging the key organisations, this partnership has ensured the maximum possibility of successfully reaching people nationwide.

The tenancy fraud campaign materials have been shared at no cost to recipients and therefore the financial burden of paying for design and print in-house for each organisation has been removed. The cost can often be around £100 (in-house) therefore we can estimate a saving of approximately £200k if all relevant organisations created just one campaign. This project offers four different designs, which can easily be updated to carry individual, local or regionalised messaging.

Thanks to this project, the University of Bolton Graphic Design students in years two and three have secured work experience on a live project which can be referred to in CVs and job references. As we took the time to see them face to face to provide feedback, they also have the ability to take constructive feedback and apply it to improve their work. This was a high impact project for the students and provided additional inspiration on their career path.

Upon entering in to the partnership, we expected the outcome to provide some useable materials; however the quality of the work submitted has exceeded all expectations. The students have thought outside of the box and delivered some designs that are imaginative, creative and thought provoking.

The additional support for students to meet the brief was provided by the University of Bolton course leaders; therefore beyond the initial submission of the brief, no further guidance was required. This saved time and resources for all parties involved and will save the time for all those benefitting from the free campaign materials. if the cost of developing such a campaign (or multiple campaigns) in house is prohibitive, this project has removed a barrier to allow organisations to tackle tenancy fraud and reduce the £1b lost to it each year.


How Innovative is your initiative?

Any partnership relies on all parties sharing the same goals and having the same commitment to delivering the project in good time with positive outcomes for all. This project had a number of goals including, work experience; the ability for students in the second and third year of their course at the University of Bolton to work with real employers on a live project which would be used nationwide. These are rare opportunities with employers willing to invest the time as we did. NAFN sought to raise awareness of tenancy fraud and reduce the sums lost to fraudsters year upon year. Onward, as housing association, knows first-hand the challenge of tackling tenancy fraud and working with those seeking social housing with ever growing waiting lists and the Tenancy Fraud Forum is a collective of professionals with the skills to tackle fraud and the desire to share messaging to help prevent it. Whilst we work together on various matters to lobby government or share good practice, a collaboration to develop shareable campaign materials was very new. Adding to this an education provider and young people, it was a risk but one that has sincerely paid off.

We have not engaged in a partnership of this nature previously and specifically, never engaged with a higher education learning provider. It is easy to commission a campaign in-house; however this would not have the impact of the collaboration and the added value of each of these students having the opportunity to participate. Rather than take the standard approach, this project meets the objective of producing materials, whilst going above and beyond tackling tenancy fraud. Instead of providing a brief to Design and Print, the details were shared with the course leader at the University of Bolton. The time often taken to review and revise each submission was replaced with a course work review by qualified Graphic Designers on the University of Bolton staff. Finally, the presentation day, which involved all students provided the opportunity to really understand the thought process behind each submission and opened our eyes to additional possibilities, which we may not have noted upon just reviewing the design.

Whilst any organisation can produce its own materials, we believed the impact of a joint campaign used nationwide would be extremely impactful. We work to often in silos, use much needed funds to replicate activities carried out in neighbouring authorities and can at times take a disjointed approach to working together. The aim of this project (through the partnership) is to foster a tenancy fraud community, bring everyone together to deliver a single message using the same campaign materials. This one clear message delivered by so many voices will support raising awareness in communities and deter those tempted to commit fraud through hardship or involvement in other criminal activities.


What are the key learning points?

This is the first time NAFN has partnered with an education provider and while goals were aligned, there were different markers of success for each party involved. The University of Bolton deemed the project a success when the students had completed the work to the brief set out by NAFN (and collaborators). Upon the presentation of the pieces, each student had the relevant experience and were all winners for having participated and gathered the work experience which could be added to their CVs.

The success for the students was paramount in this partnership but a key mark of success for the project was also the distribution of the materials in the agreed formats, such that awareness could be raised to a very real threat to the public purse. Following the presentation, the momentum for the project slowed due to changes in staff, third year students moving on and course enrolment periods. Resources within the university were understandably stretched during enrolment and all parties had to re-group and reset the agenda in order to ensure the project came to its true conclusion. There is no doubt as to the benefits of this partnership, however, in learning from this initiative, in future we will program the activities to commence in October/November, seeking to avoid enrolment periods and ensuring completion well in advance of June/July within the same academic year.

The details of students, particularly those in the third year, will be captured in future to ensure they can be given a prize or first-hand recognition of the their success. Whilst the University of Bolton can make contact with students, contact from the businesses would have added value to the project and greater weight to a CV or employment reference.

The project sought to include all students and as such, each one had the opportunity to present their work to the collaborators. It was extremely rewarding to see each of the students face-to-face and provide constructive feedback. It served to improve their resilience and develop their presentation and communication skills. Whilst this was beneficial for the students to have this experience and receive live feedback, it would increase efficiency to limit the entries to third year students or have a preliminary judging phase where the number to be presented is reduced. This would be a more efficient and cost effective use of time for all parties and still provides much needed feedback to students.

This project did include second and third year students. Two of the second year submissions were excellent and have been added to the campaign distribution. In being able to share so many designs, which were not the standard public sector design and print creations, we now have some really thought provoking materials. We have essentially tapped in to young, fresh minds and successfully sought their ‘take’ on tenancy fraud and how we could raise awareness. Their understanding of the challenge and brief was excellent and really showed in the work they created.

The social value element of this project should not be underestimated. Whilst we have not paid for the materials, the University of Bolton has described this work experience opportunity as “invaluable” and the students have expressed their gratitude for being asked to take part. Giving young people, the opportunity to enter the world of work and gather an understanding of how they may apply the studies in their course to employment, has been extremely rewarding and provided NAFN with an opportunity to give back.

This model is easily scalable and we hope it encourages more organisations to collaborate with education providers. Not only does it support and nurture future talent, it provides real savings in the delivery of editable materials to organisations nationwide. This is all before we can seek to truly understand the impact of this specific campaign on the public and those tempted to commit tenancy fraud. If public sector organisations consider the various departments within their organisations and the campaigns developed corporately or commissioned by outsourced providers, we can all make savings whilst providing opportunities.