Further together – halfway through

News – 9 March 2022

We’re now halfway through Further together, our ambitious corporate plan for 2020-23.

We continue to make progress against so many of the targets under our four commitments and so we wanted to give you a brief overview of these, as well as our upcoming plans.

We set ourselves a target of building 400 per year by the end of Further together and we’re making great progress against this. We’re on course to deliver our largest number of new homes in a single year at 327.

We continue to build a range of tenures to deliver more affordable homes, while also delivering high quality much needed additional housing into our operating area. This financial year we completed our first new build market rent scheme – Urban 24 in Milton Keynes and Gatehouse Mews in Bedford.

We secured an additional £50m of flexible funding with Santander to fund the refinancing of legacy loans that both included covenants that would restrict growth in the long term.

In November we once again retained the highest possible rating – G1/V1 – in our assessment by the Regulator of Social Housing. We also retained our Moodys credit rating of A3 Stable.

In the same month we also launched our Environmental Sustainability Strategy, which will change the way we manage and invest in our homes and estates for good. As part of this, we completed our estate regeneration project in Sandy saw the addition of 104 open parking spaces, installation of 12 swift boxes and the clearance of over a cubic meter of rubbish through a volunteer litter pick.

We’ve been working hard to achieve a number of goals set out in our Asset Management Strategy. We’ve already invested £8m in our customers’ homes, gathered energy data on over 1,600 of our customers’ homes and are aiming to replace inefficient homes with net carbon zero homes.

We have also achieved planning permission on our first net zero carbon scheme – our old office site in Towcester and work has already started on site.

Looking ahead…

In our bid to be a more environmentally responsible business and landlord, we’re investing £1m in energy efficient improvements in our customers’ existing homes. We’re also looking to install environmental sensors to help identify properties at risk of damp and mould.

In addition to this, we’re developing an approach to EV charging infrastructure and Waste Management Strategy that will see us divert 100% of our waste away from landfill.

One of things we stated in Further together was that we want use technology more intelligently.

Over the past six months we’ve enhanced our digital offer to make things easier for customers, working on digitalising our mutual exchange process and continuing to develop MyGUHG.

Last summer we also launched Sam, our virtual web assistant. Our aim was to be the first housing association to offer customers a way of self-serving by chatting with the bot and getting personalised responses. Sam now gives our customers more information such as rent balances, repairs appointments and charge information without the need to speak to CCT or log in to MyGUHG.

We also wanted to truly understand our customers and their different needs, which is why at the end of 2021 we embarked on our biggest piece of customer engagement ever. Over 2,500 customers participated in a survey designed to let us know more about them. Using these results we will assess, refine and shape our future services. This will include significant changes to how we communicate with and support customers to ensure we meet their diverse needs.

Our customers turn to us when they need support, and we’ve been there for them. In fact, by the end of 2021 our teams had secured £2.4m in benefits for customers, recorded 1,253 Welfare Benefits cases and recorded 185 debt advice cases.

We’ve introduced the new Health & Housing role, which aims to link Public Health priorities with housing themes and successfully established key partnerships and embedded the work streams.

Our target of delivering tailored employment information advice and guidance to 100 customers last year was achieved and exceeded – with 177 benefitting from this.

We’ve moved to broaden our wellbeing service offer so it’s for all ages and closing in on our targets. So far we’ve delivered 9 out of our target of 10 health and wellbeing initiatives and worked with 332 customers, with our goal being 500 by the end of March this year.

We’ve also exceeded our target for delivering youth participation sessions, with 1,541 delivered so far – including online mentoring. As well as this, we delivered 588 youth contact sessions including detached youth work along with drop-in sessions at youth hubs.

Looking ahead…

With the publication of the white paper and consultation on current tenant satisfaction measures, customer voice is becoming more important than ever. In a few months we will be launching a brand-new digital platform that will give our customers a voice. All of them will be invited to join and importantly, it is completely anonymous and confidential. We will be running continuous activities ranging from quick polls, surveys and discussion forums to more innovative activities such as the ability to highlight documents digitally or participate in diaries. We’ll then share results and let customers know how their input has directly informed the service they receive.

We currently have daily performance information on our website but want to do more. That’s why we will be developing our scrutiny capability and adopting a more transparent approach to our customer experience.

Because we know that customers want to get in touch with us in different ways, we are launching Whatsapp as an official communications channel in the next month or so. This will be integrated into the call centre along with Facebook messenger.

We want our properties to be places that people are proud to call home, which is why we’ve looking to gather independent stock condition data on over 1,800 of our customers’ homes to inform the future improvement programme.

We all understand how diversity makes us stronger and we learn and benefit from each other’s different backgrounds and experiences. That’s why the work on our Belonging Strategy has been so important.

Last summer we published our first Ethnicity Pay Gap report, which shows that there is a positive pay gap in favour of People of the Global Majority (PGM) colleagues of 3.75%.

We have also actively targeted PGM groups in our recruitment to ensure we have a better representation in the organisation. Over 20% of new recruits since April 2021 are from PGM groups. We will continue to do this and also consider how we target more disabled talent as this is an area where we are under-represented.

We’ve also launched our organisation-wide EDI training which will raise awareness and understanding of our own unconscious bias and how our behaviours impact on others.

Investment in our people is an investment in the communities we serve. Our K2 Academy continues to grow with management and leadership training taking place at all levels of the business and the launch of the new learning offer. We’ve even accepted our first external delegate on our management training, tailored to the Housing sector.

Supporting colleague wellbeing continues to be key, which is why we recently teamed up with Thrive Homes, creating a Mental Health First Aider Charter, so that colleagues from both organisations can benefit from the support of independent, trained mental health champions.

Looking ahead…

One of our targets in Further together is to go for and obtain Investors in People Silver accreditation. The assessment process is already underway and we’ll have the outcome in April.

We’re looking to expand the opportunities on offer via K2 Academy to other housing associations. This will help deliver value for money and we’ll be doing our bit for the wider housing sector. The L&D team will also be working closely with the IRT to support structured upskilling of our trades teams.

Last summer we ran a stakeholder perception survey and the feedback we received has allowed us to better understand the priorities of our key partners and focus on strengthening our relationships with them.

We share information ’warts and all’ because we understand that being held to account makes us better. That’s one of the reasons we’ve added real-time compliance and performance data to our website. This allows customers and stakeholders to see how we’re doing at the click of a button.

We’ve appointed a new heating maintenance partner, P H Jones, part of British Gas. They will enhance the customer experience of this service.

Finally, we’ve reviewed just under 200 letters as part of a project to make sure our communications are clear and transparent.

Looking ahead…

Following the stakeholder perception survey, we’re about to start work on improving our stakeholder management. This will ensure we’re engaging with the right people in the right way.