Further together – one year in…

News – 1 July 2021

Exactly one year ago we launched Further together, our ambitious corporate plan for 2020-23.

Despite launching it in what has to go down as one of the most difficult years in memory, as a business we’re proud to have achieved so much so far.

We showed that we’re a financially strong organisation by securing additional funding via bond tap in December 2020.

We also proved that we’re well governed and resilient by retaining our A3 Stable rating with Moody’s.

Alongside this we also implemented enhanced reporting and budget management using PowerBi reporting and dashboards, enhanced establishment reporting, and development performance reporting. The team then implemented of our modern data warehouse, which will give us insight into our system data and forecast what will happen in the future.

We also put a lot of work into ensuring we’re ready for our Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing return. As an early adopter of this standard, we’re now committed to report on our environmental, social, and governance performance every year.

On the subject of the environment, we are maintaining our push to be an environmentally responsible landlord and employer. One of the first steps we’ve taken is to install four electric car charging points at our K2 office, which are free for colleagues to use.

Elsewhere, despite the challenges of the last year, we’ve continued to deliver new homes through the pandemic and committed our largest programme to site.

We took handover of our first new build market rent flats, then also claimed £5.7m of grant from Homes England including money which enabled delivery of the first social rent homes built by Grand Union for 10 years.

We continue to use our voice for good, responding to local authority council tax consultations, demonstrating how the changes may impact our customers and their financial wellbeing. We also responded to disabled adaptations grants and allocations consultations.

Finally, we were delighted to retain our Telecare Services Association (TSA) accreditation. This is great news for our Life24 and telecare alarm services because the TSA is the nationally recognised Standards Body for the delivery of technology enabled care and support services in the UK.

In October we showed our intent to deliver on our promises by launching our customer offer. This set of promises lets customers know what they can expect from us and helps us deliver great customer service every day.

Despite the challenges our teams have faced throughout the year, we’ve worked incredibly hard to keep customers safe in their homes, which is reflected in our compliance levels.

We want to celebrate diversity and challenge stigma, speaking up when we see others being treated badly. And we want everyone to understand and appreciate how diversity makes us stronger and that we can learn and benefit from each other’s different backgrounds and experiences. That’s why we launched our new Belonging strategy, which sets out our targets to ensure we’re an organisation where everyone can truly belong and bring their whole selves to work.

To help us do this, we set up the Belonging group, which is made up of a number of colleagues from across the business, as well as Board members, who will be guiding what we do in the next year or so and helping us to be better. Their hard work helped us shape the strategy and they’ve been educating us along the way by posting fantastic content on our intranet about equality, diversity and inclusion.

We’ve continued to provide support where it’s needed, despite all of the challenges of the last year.

We changed our customer facing structure to better suit our customers, helping us to serve them fairly and efficiently.

This change included the introduction of a Domestic Abuse & Safeguarding team and a dedicated Payment Support team who advised 1,200 customers who were worried about paying their rent during the pandemic.

To help us focus on the customers that we really need to speak to, we introduced new debt management software that makes better use of colleague time.

Our Financial Wellbeing service continued its success, providing much needed advice to over 1,000 customers, while also securing £3m in extra income for customers.

Our Wellbeing and Support team has developed a partnership with MIND BLMK to develop and deliver a hoarding support programme tailored to support Grand Union customers.

Because we understand our customers and their different needs, we’ve been looking at how we can use technology intelligently.

In March we launched MyGUHG – our new and improved customer portal. We developed it to give a much better user experience for our customers to self-serve at a time that’s convenient for them, and almost 3,000 of them signed up in just one month.

We also launched online allocations and online repairs services. Since November, repairs being reported online have risen from 2% to nearly 18%.

And we invested in a brand-new chat bot that’s available 24-hours a day on our website to answer our customers’ queries.


We know we can rely on each other, so we ask for and give help when needed. That’s why, during the pandemic, we provided 50 laptops for colleagues with children who were home-schooling.

We brought in a team of nine mental health champions from across the organisation who are on hand to support colleagues while creating a positive culture around mental health, raising mental health awareness, dispelling myths, and normalising the subject.

After signing up to Harry’s Pledge, we showed commitment to carers by setting up a dedicated page on our intranet for colleagues who have a responsibility for caring.

We launched a ‘wall of kindness’ on our intranet, inviting colleagues to promote positive stories of how people had been kind to them or their friends and family, or how they had been kind to others. This proved to be a real boon for some during the challenges of lockdown.

Our colleagues dealt superbly with being forced to work from home during lockdown, continuing to provide much needed to support for our customers. As a result of the success of this, we’ve changed our agile working policy, empowering colleagues to now visit the office when they need to and doing away with more traditional working personas.

This was all possible thanks to the significant investment we’ve made in technology and our systems, and the kit we us has worked brilliantly in the last year. As have our IT team, who have been on hand to help with remote support in an efficient and effective way.

We believe that investment in our people is an investment in the communities they serve, which is why in January we launched the K2 Academy, Grand Union’s centre for excellence.

We’ve invested in the development of our colleagues, managers and leaders, both for now and beyond their existing roles.  This has taken the form of a number of training courses for colleagues, including our leadership elevator programme, which is supporting team leaders and managers to gain the skills, experience and qualifications to move to the next level of leadership.

We’ve introduced a Graduate Employment Mentoring (GEM) programme, which encourages and supports colleagues who have the potential and desire to accelerate their careers at Grand Union.

And over 20 colleagues have also joined our new mentor programme. These experienced colleagues have been fully trained and now support others to develop their skills, knowledge and career ambitions.


We spend time understanding our partners’ priorities and values, so we know how we can help.

Over the last five years we’ve been working with another local housing association, First Garden City Homes, supporting them with their IT. Our team worked hard to help them become self-sufficient, and handover officially took place in April this year.

We continue to positively engagement wherever we can, responding to several large-scale Government consultations, such as the new shared ownership model, short and long-term changes to planning, fire safety and smoke and carbon dioxide consultations.

We understand that being held to account makes us better, which is why we aim to be as transparent as possible. We do this by inviting customer feedback through our Voice of the Customer programme and publishing customer satisfaction scores on our website alongside outcomes from complaints and how we’re learning from them and improving what we do as a result.

And finally, we’ve worked closely with our customers to test new products and services, including our online repairs service, new customer portal and our chat bot. During the testing phase of each we used their feedback and suggestions to make sure they were the best they could be for our customers.

The amazing thing after listing all of this is that there’s even more we could have mentioned, as well as the every day tasks we all do.

So once again, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for continuing to make a difference. We know that what we do matters and hopefully you can all see how you’re helping us to achieve our goals.