Further together – our progress so far…

News – Tuesday 26 January 2021

It’s been six months since we launched Further together, our ambitious corporate plan for 2020-23.

Further together sets out our aspirations and goals for the next three years and was created with input from our Board, our colleagues and our customers.

It builds on the strong foundations we’ve put in place during the past five years and is underpinned by the values that shape our culture and guide everything that we do.

At its heart is the theme of trust and it’s made up of four commitments, which we’re delighted to have also made progress against.

Despite the challenges that 2020 brought, we have continued to provide more new homes. And, more importantly, we have a record year planned next year with a full development pipeline including some really exciting schemes.

We’re committed to having positive environmental impacts and are working towards becoming a zero-carbon organisation. We’re an early adopter of the Environmental Sustainability standard reporting and have appointed an Environmental Sustainability Manager who will help us change the way we manage and invest in our homes and estates for good.

We understand that we have a financial responsibility to our customers, colleagues and partners. That’s why we secured new funding to allow us to build much needed new homes across the regions we work in.

We remain well governed and resilient, which is shown in the recent G1/V1 rating that was awarded to us by the Regulator of Social Housing.

We’ve also been using our voice for good, by responding to planning reform consultations that could have a serious impact on the number of affordable homes our sector can deliver.

One of our key aims is to keep our customers’ homes safe. We’re delighted that we continue to have a high level of safety compliance across all of our properties.

Using customer feedback, we’ve changed how some of our teams work to make it more customer focussed and bring it in line with our target operating model. The changes include the introduction of two key specialist roles; Property Managers are responsibility for everything to do with customers’ homes and their surroundings, while our Customer Partners provide a more tailored and targeted service, replacing the more traditional housing officer role.

We continue to provide support when it’s needed. As well as setting up a dedicated Rent Support team, who have helped customers throughout the coronavirus crisis, our Financial Wellbeing team secured £3.4 million in benefits for our customers in 2020.

One of our aims was to use technology intelligently and, thanks to the launch of our new online repairs service, we’re doing just that. Customers now have the option of reporting a repair at any time, day or night, via our website or customer portal.

We’ve just launched K2 Academy, Grand Union’s centre of excellence that will provide colleagues with engaging and exciting opportunities to learn, develop and progress their career. From our apprentices, right through to senior leaders, the Academy will help us grow and nurture our talent, supporting colleagues to reach their full potential and thrive in the future world of work.

On top of this, we are committed to being positive and empowering our colleagues, which is why we’ve implemented a new internal mentoring programme. This will see younger colleagues learn from a range of colleagues, making the most of the vast knowledge and experience we have in our business.

We’re also committed to celebrating our diverse workforce, which is why we’ve been working with the Housing Diversity Network (HDN) to help embed meaningful and lasting change in our organisation around all types of diversity. This is being led by our Board and supported by a group of colleagues.

One key aim is for us to be seen as an honest and constructive partner, and we’re continuing to build strong links with our external stakeholders. We’ve been regularly meeting with our local MPs to share what we’re doing and to understand any issues they may have within their constituency. We have looked to gain their understanding, and backing, of the national campaigns that we support.

We also continue to build on our already positive relationship with local authority partners, asking their thoughts and opinions on vital matters such as planning and by responding to their consultations where relevant, such as allocations and lettings, council tax changes and local neighbourhood plans.

Transparency and accountability are really important to us, which is why we continue to share our performance information – ’warts and all’. We adhere to the new Housing Ombudsman Complaints Handling Code, and we’re now more transparent with our feedback, having set up a page on our website dedicated to how we’re performing and showing what we’re doing to improve. This ties in with the launch of our new Customer Offer, which lets our customers know what they can expect from us.

We also know it’s important for our communications to be as clear as possible, which is why we’ve been working with customers to improve all of our written communications. We’ve asked them “how’s our writing?” and used focus groups to make sure our letters and emails are easy to understand.

And finally, working in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and MIND charity, we helped create a mental health guide for housing colleagues and another mental health guide for our customers.

As you can see, we’ve already achieved a lot in a short space of time, which is fantastic, especially given the challenges we faced during that time! Everyone at Grand Union is excited to continue pushing on to achieve even more in the coming months and years.