Community Housing | Corporate Plan 2021-2024: Update
We have recently undertaken a midterm review of our Corporate Plan and we are really pleased with the progress that has been made since it was agreed in March 2021. Most of our targets have either been achieved or are well on their way to being completed.
Since we agreed the Corporate Plan, things have changed for the worse in the economy and there are negative impacts on everyone but especially those on low incomes. We have gone from a pandemic to a cost-of-living crisis and, while there are similarities in what we need to do as a landlord, we feel that we need to set new priorities to help our customers and improve the resilience of our business.
Since the publication of the Corporate Plan, we have also seen many residents struggle with the effects of damp and mould, and we need to "step-up" as a landlord to work with our residents to prevent these problems.
Since we agreed the Corporate Plan, we have invested time in considering our operating culture and tone of voice with customers. We engaged colleagues and stakeholders in the development of our new RESPECT Values.
The development of these Values was based on extensive discussions with colleagues and customers, and they are the foundation of a new customer orientated operating culture that we are working hard to develop. We know that we still have work to do to improve services and the quality of customers' homes and we now have a strong set of service improvement plans that and we are making good progress against.
When the Corporate Plan was originally devised, CPI inflation was below 1%, it is now 11.1% and many of our customers are struggling with their household bills. In recognition of this, a national rent increase cap of 7% has been applied to protect social housing general needs tenants from a 11.1% increase from April 2023. This measure was supported by Community Housing, but it means that the business must absorb inflation costs due to the lost income.
We are also seeing a national rise in cases of harmful damp and mould, and Community Housing is not exempt from this. We have seen the number of cases increase and we need to radically change the way that we respond so that we work in partnership with our customers and remain in contact with them, rather than assuming that our first fix has resolved the problem.
We need to be careful with our finances, but we also need to take extra measures to help customers cope with the Cost-of-Living crisis. This updated Corporate Plan explains how we will reduce spending on non-essential actions and pursue 4 priorities
- Looking after our Customers
- Looking after our Colleagues
- Making sure that the Company remains viable
- Looking after our Homes
Matt Cooney - Chief Executive
Our Corporate Plan 2021-24, sets out an exciting vision of the development of Community Housing. We have much to be proud of in terms of what we have delivered in the past to our residents, customers and local communities, but also know that we must do more and provide effective support and well delivered services to all of our customers. We know that they need that more than ever as we emerge from a difficult pandemic into what will be a challenging period of national rebuilding and recovery.
The plan has been developed from an extensive consultation process with customers, staff and key stakeholders and the Board is therefore confident that it focusses on the areas that matter most to them.
Our updated plan below reflects how the cost of living crisis has had an economic impact on our customers and our business and the priorities we have agreed for 2023-24.
The Board is confident that this plan will enable us to continue to be fit for the future, with a renewed focus on being an excellent landlord, focussing its efforts and resources on serving and supporting its customers.
Ann Bennett - Chair of Community Housing Board
WHO WE ARE
Community Housing was formed in 2000 through a stock transfer from Wyre Forest Council. We are a social business and one of Worcestershire’s largest Registered Providers of social housing. The Company provides and manages 6000 homes and is an exempt charity and registered society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014. We mainly operate in the Wyre Forest area and the office headquarters are in Kidderminster.
We are proud of what we have achieved for the people and communities we support over the past 20 years. Over the coming years we want to become a more significant social housebuilder in Worcestershire, focused on helping people to thrive and to live independently, knowing that they have a secure home that they can afford with a landlord who cares about them.
FOCUSING ON OUR CORE BUSINESS
We recognise that providing contracts to other organisations can distract us from our own core business. We will reduce non social housing activity and concentrate on our core business going forward.
We will achieve this by
- Exiting all 3rd party contracts when they expire (except Technology Enabled Care Services)
- Exploring training and employment opportunities with partner organisations and contractors to replace those previously provided directly by us
- Developing closer working relationships between Care Services and Technology Enabled Care Services to deliver seamless Independent Living services
- Looking at further opportunities to provide extra care schemes and support wider housing needs through our existing Independent Living schemes
- Only competing for local telecare & Technology Enabled Care contracts.
REMAINING CORPORATE PLAN TARGETS
Customer satisfaction: 2023-24 will be the first year of Tenant Satisfaction Measures which are perception, rather than transaction based (after work has been carried out or a service delivered). We are aiming to achieve an improvement in our customer satisfaction scores throughout the remaining life of the plan, as well as develop a deeper understanding of customer satisfaction.
Grow our Technologically Enabled Care (TEC) Service: We want to continue to compete for viable local contracts for Telecare and TEC through to March 2024 with the aim of helping people to remain living independently in their own homes. We have already invested in digital technology to be 'digitally ready' for the switch-off of the analogue service in December 2025.
Employment Support: We want to continue to work with long-term unemployed people and those farthest from the jobs market to help get them into employment or training.
Customer Engagement Plan: We want to increase the level of customer engagement by introducing a vibrant network of panels, discussion forums and general feedback to help us gain greater customer insight and help us improve as a business.
Estate Regeneration Plans: We recognise that some of our homes and neighbourhoods need to be improved and upgraded but we know that we cannot afford to make far reaching radical changes in a short time scale. With the help of customers, we are developing plans for improvements in the following areas:
- Hurcott Road, high-rise blocks
- Borrington Road Flats
- The Walshes
- Foley Park Estate
Independent Living: We are considering how we can upgrade our Independent Living Schemes to meet the needs of today's older people.
Customer engagement in building safety: We will take steps to work with customers in the way we provide and manage building safety arrangements.
OUR COST-OF-LIVING PLAN
This updated Corporate Plan explains how we will reduce spending on non-essential actions and pursue 4 priorities.
Looking after our Customers
- We will continue to offer a Customer Well-Being Fund and use a £100k budget to help customers who are experiencing hardship.
- Maximising the incomes of customers: We will work with customers to make sure that they claim the benefits that they are entitled to.
- We will operate three Warm Centres (at Purcell House, Neville Court and Drumart House) throughout the coldest winter months to ensure residents who cannot afford to use their heating are kept warm.
- Contacting most vulnerable customers: We will build on our experience in the Covid-19 pandemic of contacting vulnerable customers to check on their well-being and deliver extra services where necessary.
- Cost of Living Advice Campaign: We will work with partners agencies to make sure that our customers are made aware of the help and advice that they can receive to help them make ends meet.
- Community events and pop-ups: Our skilled teams will host regular events to talk to customers so that they can understand what type of help is needed and make referrals to other agencies where necessary.
- Working with local community partners: We will apply for funding from other agencies where it helps to provide extra help to customers, and we will aid other organisations who can help in our quest of alleviating poverty.
- Energy Advice for customers: We will train our colleagues to provide energy advice to customers to help them manage their bills and keep their homes warm in the most affordable ways possible.
- Employment Support: We want to continue to work with long-term unemployed people and those farthest from the jobs market to help get them into employment or training.
LOOKING AFTER OUR COLLEAGUES
- Provide the fairest possible cost of living increase for our people: We cannot match inflation, but we can provide a fair pay increase for our people and agree an approach that protects the lowest paid the most.
- Provide flexibility and help in cases of hardship. We will work with colleagues to provide practical help and advice and refer them for specialist help and advice when needed.
- Monitor the engagement levels of our colleagues: We want to run a healthy business and provide the best environment possible for our people to succeed. We will monitor how people are getting on and work with management and leadership to make changes that are necessary for people to succeed.
- Provide a strong employment offer: We want our people to be happy and to continue working for us. We also want to attract new people by having a competitive employment offer. We will continue to explore benefits to help our existing and future colleagues
- Provide the most flexible working arrangements possible: We want our people to do the best job possible for our customers, without the restrictions of how or where this is done. With the help of our colleagues, we will monitor how well our Hybrid Working Policy is allowing this to happen.
LOOKING AFTER THE VIABILITY OF OUR COMPANY
- Keep our Financial Golden Rules and Interest Cover Targets in clear view of all budget holders: We are working with our managers to make sure that they can justify the spending required for their service. We are also making it easier for them to manage their budgets.
- Reduce employment of agency staff and interim managers: We will only use agency staff and interim managers for TECs and Care service provision. Where there are other staff vacancies, we will explore how we can utilise our existing colleagues first.
- Maintaining cash-flow: We will pay our bills on time, but look at all measures to slow spending. This may include a delay in recruiting new colleagues to certain posts.
- Boost income with low-risk sales: Where we identify homes that require works exceeding the cost of more than 5 years rental income, we will convert the empty home for sale as shared ownership. We will look to sell up to 20 homes of this type each year.
- Push back Non-Repair Investments: Our priority for spending is "repairs and maintenance" that benefits customers. Any non-essential investment such as some new computer systems or spending on offices will be delayed and reviewed in 2024-25.
- Implement tighter spend controls: We are introducing new decision-making processes for managers to make sure we are making value for money decisions when spending budgets.
LOOKING AFTER OUR HOMES
- Create a specialist damp and mould team: In the past, we have offered one-way advice rather than working in partnership with customers. We believe that the best way forward is to create a specialist damp and mould team. This will provide more consistent outcomes and will improve our accountability to customers.
- Reducing emergency repairs to create more capacity: 30% of our repairs each month are reported as emergencies and completed in 24 hours. We believe this is unnecessary and if we can reduce the number of emergencies by half, it will release more capacity to offer appointments for routine and planned repairs.
- Improving diagnostics and how we categorise works: Working with customers, we are aiming to agree new categories of "Emergency, Routine or Planned" for response repairs. This will make the service more efficient and resilient.
- Improving the productivity of our Repairs & Maintenance Service: We are looking at how we can plan our work more effectively and rely less on back-up & expensive contractors to cover gaps. We will improve how we recruit skilled workers, and we will boost the number of apprentices to make sure that we can deliver the best outcomes for customers.
- Programme of works (that we stick to), to be published. We will deliver a more transparent and efficient approach to planned works so that customers are kept informed and we avoid unnecessary repairs.