Highlights of the last 12 months:
Customer voice is about BCHG hearing a diverse set of resident views that comes together to help us understand what is going well, what is not going well, and where we can make improvements.
In 2021 we created a new role of Head of Customer Voice so that we can work together with our residents to bring alive our vision of making their voice central to everything we do.
We want the voice of our customers influencing Board decisions and our residents to challenge the way we do things.
We will help and support our involved residents through training, sharing information and encouraging participation to make their voices count.
During lockdown, engaging residents through face-to-face meetings stopped. This gave us opportunity to try something different. A few residents agreed to go online, some for the first- time, using Zoom. The result:
- Partnership Board consisting of residents and contractors met five times
- Resident Scrutiny Panel met four times
- Three Customer Focus Groups held
- Three taster sessions held to recruit for Scrutiny Panel membership
We also continued with telephone surveys through an independent company, IFF Research. During the year 380 surveys were completed.
A few in-depth interviews were carried out with residents to help shape our Equality, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) Strategy.
During the past year, due to COVID-19 and lockdown, we made sure to look after our most vulnerable residents by simply calling them and staying connected.
Comments and Complaints
In July 2020, the Housing Ombudsman Service set out a new complaint handling code of practice. By 31 December 2020 we had to assess our complaints handling procedure in line with the new code of practice. The key areas being:
- Universal definition of a complaint
- Providing easy access to the complaints procedure and ensuring residents are aware of it, including their right to access the Housing Ombudsman Service
- The structure of the complaint’s procedure - only two stages necessary and clear timeframes set out for responses
- Ensuring fairness in complaint handling with a resident-focused process
- Taking action to put things right and appropriate remedies
- Creating a positive complaint handling culture through continuous learning and improvement
- Demonstrating learning in Annual Reports.
This year, in line with the new complaint handling code of practice, we changed our complaints procedure:
- We now encourage feedback from our residents
- Issues such as service failures and contractor issues, which were previously noted down as a ‘comment’ are now being logged as complaints. As a result, the number of complaints received this year increased to 34 (previously 12).
Following the feedback received through our complaints we have committed to taking the following actions:
- Ensure our estate inspection is more thorough because your feedback told us that our approach was inconsistent
- Use more customer feedback when we carry out contractor performance review; in particular you told us about issues you had experience with some contractors
- Allow more time to consult on Policies so that we can hear more voices and take more views into account
- Dedicate more time training residents on new technologies where they are installed in your homes
- Ensure clearer communication from us and those who do work for us
Customer Engagement Strategy
We finalised our new Customer Engagement Strategy in 2021.
Together we agreed to, “no voice, no approval'' of all customer facing policies. The first policy put through this was the Anti-Social Behaviour Policy, which had input from those that had experienced issues.
With the customer voice we have agreed the following objectives in our strategy:
Prior to forming the strategy, through an independent organisation, several in-depth interviews took place with a diverse set of our residents. Our aim was to understand any issues regarding equality, diversity, and inclusion in how we deliver our services.
It is positive to see that BCHG is viewed as a fair, non-discriminatory organisation. Whilst this is good, we do recognise that we have areas where we can improve.
From the residents interviewed we learned:
- You want us to be consistent in the way we manage our housing in different geographical areas with clear service standards
- We need to recruit wider tenant representation within involvement activities
- You want us to be clear on our position on home ownership options
- More work is needed on integrating old and young residents on estates
This is included in our plan of action that we aim to complete over the next three years.
During 2020/21, we installed an innovative Telecare system at three of our schemes - Elizabeth House, Braeburn House and The Mews; a total of 122 homes. The features include an intelligent fire safety system, free video calling, secure video door entry and an electronic notice board. This technology is designed to help reduce isolation, improve health & safety, and more importantly allow our residents to virtually connect with loved ones.
This year we will continue to complete the upgrade at three more schemes and review our emergency call centre arrangements, with a particular review of weekend cover.
Repairs & Maintenance
In January 2020, we launched the Customer Portal where customers can directly report repairs. So far over 600 customers have signed up.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, our Homeforce team have been hard at work providing essential services for our customers.
Overall, our tenants rate our repairs service highly with 93.3% of you being satisfied with the service (based on 716 completed surveys). This is a significant increase when comparing to the previous year (84%) with 250 completed surveys.
There were nearly three times as many completed satisfaction surveys in 2019/20, with the vast majority of these received from customers using self-service portal feedback. Highest areas of satisfaction were for keeping repair appointments, leaving the home clean and tidy, and helpfulness of our staff.
94.35% of repairs (excludes jobs temporarily placed on-hold due to the first lockdown) were completed within target. This is a slight decrease to the previous year (96.8%). Factors including for the 5.65% of jobs completed late were material availability (due to a national shortage of certain products), customer access and self-isolation cases, and BCHG resource and contractor availability with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the challenges faced over the past year, the team has:
We continue to improve the energy performance of our properties. This will help tenants save on bills and lessen the environmental impact of our homes.
BCHG’s average Standard Assessment Procedure energy rating at year end was 72.87. Where we have an energy survey on our properties, 73% of them already achieve an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of Band C or above.
Our overall aim is to deliver sustainable, affordable, and efficient homes, understanding the impact that energy costs and environmental issues have on our customers. We have clearly set out our commitment to reducing utility costs by investing in its assets to bring all homes to a minimum standard of energy efficiency and performance.
Our road map sets out our journey for achieving the Government’s energy efficiency and carbon reduction targets in the most efficient and cost-effective way, not only reducing the impact on the environment but making your homes and our business operations more sustainable.
BCHG is committed to developing new homes in the Black Country and this is a key element of our Strategic Plan. Despite the pandemic we acquired 17 new homes for rent and shared ownership at Boabab Drive and Chestum Road in Wolverhampton and developed 24 new homes at the Green in Darleston.
We also started on site with 33 new homes in Netherton (Dudley) at St Peters Road and 15 new homes at Meredith Street in Sandwell. We have several other sites and will be looking to start in excess of 70 other homes this year.
Finally, we have also sealed a £60m financing deal that includes its first private placement and an extended debt facility. This will underpin the delivery of our business plan objectives, including building 261 homes by March 2025.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, our Social Business Team (SBT) have been busy supporting our tenants and communities through employment advice, training, and helping those in hardship.
The team helped 1,713 (including footfall at the Savoy Centre) individuals. The support included employability, budgeting, IT skills, training volunteers, assisting third sector staff, and keeping a training and enterprise centre open for key workers, therapy groups and essential training activities.
The SBT secured funding from the National Lottery for our 'Care to Mentor' scheme. This project is set to benefit care leavers across the Black Country, helping them to explore training, education, or employment opportunities.