News – 20 March 2023 Over the last six months we’ve continued to make great progress against many of our key aims and objectives in Further together, our corporate plan. Here are some of the highlights of our achievements. We retained our G1/V1 rating at the end of last year. We also retained our A3 rating from Moody’s, although the outlook was downgraded from stable to negative. This applied to the whole housing sector and mirrored the UK rating and was because of a downgrade in the outlook of the sovereign. In August we secured £50m in new funding, which will enable us to fund our ongoing commitment to annually develop up to 400 homes over the next five years. We’re on track to deliver our largest number of new homes in a year, including our largest delivery of new homes let at social rent for over a decade. Some of these included Ivel Road in Shefford which uses our standard house types, and Chamomile Gardens – our largest ever independent living scheme, made up of 93 one and two-bedroom apartments for over-55s. We also had successful bids under the new Homes England Affordable Home Programme 2021-26. This funding will enable us to build more social rent and shared ownership homes. We’ve re-joined Housemark, the leading data and insight company for the housing sector. By taking part in monthly pulse surveys, as well as an annual survey, we’re able to compare our performance against others in the sector and look at where we can improve. Our Life24 team is working with the TSA to procure alarm equipment that is digitally enabled to future proof our alarm offer moving forward. This will enable us to provide a more flexible approach to meet our customers’ needs and support our colleagues. As part of our work to be more environmentally responsible, we submitted a bid in October for almost £1m from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund. If successful, we will also invest £1.4m of our own funding to improve the energy efficiency of poorest performing homes. This will have a major impact on the thermal efficiency of our homes and should reduce heating bills for customers. In September we launched Voice, our anonymous customer feedback platform. We have over 660 active users and the membership is representative of our customer segments. As a result, the feedback we receive provides an accurate representation of our customers’ views. The feedback received on Voice has already helped us review our Pet Policy, find out what’s important to customers when moving into their new home, and drive improvements in our customer portal, MyGUHG. A cost-of-living survey also highlighted the impact of poverty on our customers and the reality of escalating costs. We are using this information to consider our processes. It has also informed a merging of two teams to enable a consistent support for customers most in need. Keeping homes safe is a key priority for us and we’ve been proactive with our work dealing with damp and mould in customers’ homes. As well as creating a specialist team of operatives to deal with issues, we set up a dedicated email address for customers to report damp and mould in their homes. We also posted a survey on Voice to help us better understand how damp and mould issues are affecting our customers. As a result of this, we contacted over 75 customers who gave us their details and said they had damp and mould in their homes. This allowed us to resolve the issues they are experiencing. Alongside this work, we’ve been installing environmental sensors in empty properties as well as customers’ homes where they’ve previously experienced damp and mould. Using the data from them, we can then see when conditions aren’t quite right and act before issues like mould and damp become a problem. We have also continued to develop MyGUHG to include information about communal repair bookings and the progress of these jobs. We launched our Customer Influence Framework last year. It details our approach to bringing the customer voice into the organisation and covers feedback, complaints and engagement. Informed by extensive research, the framework aims to create a digital self-serve offer at a time that is convenient to the customer, and ensures we provide an inclusive channel to seek a representative customer voice. In the last six months, the Financial Wellbeing team has secured £1.74m in benefits for customers. 572 referrals for benefits advice and 81 debt advice referrals have been received in that time. £12,800 was also allocated in hardship funds, mostly as energy top-ups and emergency supermarket vouchers. Our Community Investment team has continued to help people to learn, work and be healthy. They’ve supported 16 customers into employment, delivered six health check roadshows for 131 customers, run therapeutic gardening schemes and activity days, and delivered over 1,300 youth participation and contact sessions, such as mentoring and holiday clubs. We also launched Voice for colleagues in September. Using the platform, we carried out a colleague segmentation survey, which highlighted that 46% of colleagues reported having at least one health condition that impacts them daily – the biggest area being mental health. As part of our continued support of our colleagues’ mental health, we have introduced reflective supervision for those colleagues handling complex customer cases. To help keep colleagues connected and working in an agile way, we’ve implemented a new way to access our IT network, files and applications. This system improves our security, helps reduce system downtime and assists the IT team when diagnosing problems. We take tackling domestic abuse very seriously and have started to deliver all-staff domestic abuse and safeguarding training. Different levels are being offered, with those in customer facing roles receiving more in-depth training. In addition to this, nine Domestic Abuse Responders have been trained. This is part of our work to achieve Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance’s (DAHA) accreditation. To raise awareness and help more of us understand what people with dementia experience, we ran a virtual dementia tour for colleagues and Board members in September. We know that diversity makes us stronger and we were privileged to be asked to pilot a new scheme for neurodiverse graduates as part of an innovative partnership with Ambitious about Autism and the GEM Programme. Via the scheme, we’ve a year-long placement in property compliance for an autistic graduate. One of the targets under our Belonging Strategy was to remove any barriers to recruiting more women into property management roles. We have recently recruited two women into senior manager roles and we are pleased to see a number of women filling other management roles in property. We continue to improve our diversity by actively attracting more applicants from people of the global majority (PGM) groups. By taking this action, we have increased the percentage of colleagues from a non-white background to 13.5% – up 3% since 2021. In light of the Social Housing White Paper, we wanted to improve the level of transparency of customer feedback on our website. Customers used Voice to let us know what they thought of the page as well as what we could add. These changes have already been implemented and we will continue to seek feedback in this way. One of our areas of focus is to improve relationships with our partners. One of the ways we’ve done this is by developing a new contractor app. Developed entirely by our team in Grand Union, the app can be used by contractors to easily receive information about repair jobs. It also allows them to send progress back to us which instantly updates our systems. Late last year we signed an agreement with Habitare Homes, a private registered provider, to manage 79 essential worker homes for them in Milton Keynes. We have also started acting as their selling agent on two shared ownership sites in Milton Keynes. Our Life24 teams have been working with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue service to carry out safe and well visits for our customers. This will assist the Fire service with the visits whilst ensuring our customers are safe in their homes. Finally, we’ve been working together with our local authority partners to use our hard to let properties to give homeless people a safe and secure home. This is helping to play a part in ending the devastating impact the housing emergency has on people in our communities.