Using GIS to chart our way through change

23 May 2016 | 23 May 2016

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We’ve been doing some interesting work with our Sovereign Electronic Mapping System (SEMS), using mapping to help understand, interpret and respond to various government policies, such as the benefit cap and the new Voluntary Right to Buy scheme.

Through this Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, we’re also able to better understand the affordability of our homes.

Last week I was at Esri UK’s national Geographic Information System (GIS) conference in London. Along with my colleague and GIS Analyst Alice Rhodes, we shared some of what we’ve learned.

Benefit cap

One of the main topics we’ve spoken about is the geographical variation of the new – and lower – benefit cap across all local authorities.

The new cap was announced as part of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill and comes into effect this autumn. Under this new legislation, the existing cap of £26,000 is being reduced to £23,000 in Greater London and £20,000 elsewhere.

We wanted to identify which local authorities are likely to be most impacted so we can focus our efforts in those areas.

To do this, our Strategic Data Analyst, Audrey Lloyd, performed some analysis on a typical two-bedroom property for a family of two adults and two children, with the adults out of work and relying on benefits. Then we applied the new lower cap.

Using SEMS we were quickly able to identify and visualise which local authorities are most likely to be impacted, and by how much.

Once mapped it was easy to see the patterns, and we saw that the local authorities surrounding London and to the south are likely to be most affected. That’s because in these areas the rents are still high, like in London, but they don’t benefit from the extra £3,000 in benefits that Greater London does.

Blog 1

Average social rents for a two-bedroom home

Blog 2

Benefit cap impact: remaining income or shortfall before 2+2 family reaches cap.


While this analysis isn’t perfect, because it relies on averages, it’s a powerful data-driven approach that we can use as evidence to better plan and prepare for the impact of this policy.

Other tools

We also presented some of the other great mapping tools available to Sovereign in our new SEMS system.

There are tools to help managers optimise their team’s patches by looking at all the properties they manage on a map, and we even have tools specifically for our Property Services teams to help them plan their annual work plans more efficiently.


And finally, we were delighted last week to win a national Esri UK Customer Success Award in recognition of our work on creating maps for the business and our use of cartography.

The judges were particularly impressed with the maps we’ve created for things like grounds maintenance contracts, and the tools we’ve given employees to make their own maps.

What do you think?

If you’d like to know more about how we’re using GIS technology to better respond to government policy and other changes in social housing, please get in touch.


This blog appears in the June issue of Sovereign News, our newsletter to stakeholders.