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Residents at the heart - our performance report

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Housing associations should be among the most trusted and accountable organisations in the country and that means having a stronger, more balanced relationship with our residents. 

It means being more open and honest, doing what we say we will, learning from when we get things wrong and enabling residents to hold us to account. 

The residents in our engagement structures also play a key role in monitoring what we do – as well as helping us maximise our impact in communities.

These pages tell you more about that and:

  • how we’re doing 
  • what’s going well 
  • and where we need to do better.

Want to know more?

Have a look at our Annual Report and Financial Statements 2018/19 to find out more about the places we’re building, our flourishing communities and our plans for the future.


Have your say

Please contact us to share your feedback or tell us what else you'd like to know more about.  


Contact channels

Telephone, email and social media

We're continuing to improve our digital channels and more people are contacting us via social media, particularly Facebook - an 18% increase since April 2019.

We've seen telephone contacts drop by 3% compared to the same time last year.

And, although we had a similar number of emails in October to December as the same time a year ago, email contacts have gone down by about 8% since April 2019.

October to December 2019

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What's next?

We're working on giving our advisors faster access to the information they need, so that we can save you time and do the right thing when you contact us.

We want to make it easy for you to communicate with us so we're continuously talking to our customers to understand what works best for them.

MySovereign

MySovereign is the online home of everything to do with your tenancy and is available 24 hours a day, every day. It's easy to sign up for an account. You can pay your rent, book a repair and update your details - all in one place.


Registered users
43% more registered users by December 2019 compared to December 2018 – 19,686





Satisfaction journey

Satisfaction with how easy it is to register for MySovereign has increased slightly from the same time last year - up to 84.2% in December 2019.



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And people are even more satisfied with the process for making a payment - up to 90.3% in December.



Using MySovereign

It's also a popular way to book a repair. Over 4,700 repairs were booked online in the three months to December - that's over 12,000 since April 2019.


What's next?

We're working hard to make sure all the information you need is in one, easy-to-access place on MySovereign.

We'll also be making improvements like making it easier for you to apply online to add a tenant.

To take advantage of all the benefits of MySovereign, sign up today – it's easy, free and fast.

Sign up to MySovereign

Feedback - October to December 2019

Your feedback really matters and helps us to do things better. We collect feedback in a number of different ways, by phone, online and by SMS (text). 

Complaints are one of the best ways to understand what our customers want. We look at what's causing them and why people are contacting us, so we can improve the services we offer and how we operate.

Last year we expanded the sort of feedback we collect, to help us understand how we’re doing against our four customer experience commitments:

  • We make it easy
  • We take responsibility
  • We get it done
  • We keep in touch

 

We measure how satisfied customers are about some key areas of service, how much effort they have to make to get their enquiry or issue resolved (a high score means it was less effort) and how much they trust us on these areas.

Anti-social behaviour bar graph
Repairs bar graph
Complaints bar graph

Thanks to some excellent work by our officers, working in sometimes challenging environments, we're on course to achieve agreed target 'effort' and 'trust' scores for how we handle anti-social behaviour cases.

Satisfaction with repairs was over 90% for the three months to December, and even higher for that month - 93.5%. This is the highest satisfaction level since September 2018 and reflects the work we've done, and continue to do, on improving this service. In particular, we've had good feedback on the speed and efficiency of repairs. While we know we don't always get it right first time, it's worth remembering that we deal with a large number of repairs (16,000+ a month) and only around 1% result in complaints.  Despite this, we're continually looking for new ways to improve.

And we've had positive feedback for how our Resolution team respond to complaints. This is reflected in the 'effort' score, which has been improving for three months. We know there's still room for improvement though so we're working with customers in our scrutiny groups and using your feedback to achieve this.

Our out of hours service, Careline, also received excellent feedback. Over 90% of customers said they were satisfied with both the service and the communications they'd had.


What's next?

We've already explained some of the things we're doing to improve. The 'Residents at the heart' section of this report also gives some examples of how we're capturing and using feedback to get a clearer picture of what you think is important.

We're also working with other housing associations to share ideas and benefit from each others' experiences.

 

Year to date figures

Complaints - October to December 2019

We try hard to offer good quality services, but sometimes things go wrong.

We recognise that dealing with complaints to a high standard means we need to understand the problem, put it right, apologise and learn from our mistakes. We also know there’s more we can do to reduce complaints and handle them better.

The two main services we received complaints about were: 

  • Property Services* - 485
  • Housing Management - 142

 * the majority of Property Services complaints will be related to responsive repairs (these are repairs you’ve asked us to carry out).

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Number of complaints

713


Causes of complaints - Property Services

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Causes of complaints - Housing management

Housing management issues

Ombudsman cases

If we’ve done all we reasonably can to resolve a complaint but someone’s still unhappy, they can ask the Housing Ombudsman Service to look into their complaint.

We have very few complaints that get to this stage. At the end of December 2019 we had no cases with the Housing Ombudsman.


Shaping our services

Following an internal audit into complaints, and a review by the Scrutiny Coordination Group (SCG) and resident scrutineers, we're working with them on a series of actions. These include reviewing how we can save you time when we handle complaints and making sure we really understand what customers want.

We've introduced a 'close-the-loop' survey where we ask our complaint-owning colleagues how they think we're performing, and what we can do to improve.

When you tell us about a problem, you want one person to help you resolve it. So we've been focusing on supporting our people to be better at taking personal ownership of complaints.

And you told us you wanted to know more about the progress of your complaint, so we've improved how we communicate and keep you updated on what we're doing.

What’s next?

  • By working better together across the organisation, we're reducing how long it takes you to get a complaint resolved, and making sure we keep you informed along the way.
  • We want to resolve more of your complaints at the first time of asking so this involves improving the way we handle complaints - getting you to a person who can help you as soon as possible.  

 

In a recent survey, 87% of residents said that they thought their rent offers good value for money. 

We're also delivering value in other ways, supporting communities by making them safer and better places to live, maintaining and investing in homes and working with resident groups to really understand people's needs.


Keeping you safe

Keeping you safe in your home is a top priority for us and we do this by providing smoke detectors; checking and servicing gas, oil and solid fuel appliances through annual safety checks; and by completing regular inspections of electrical systems. In our blocks of flats and similar sites, this also means making sure that Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) are up-to-date and there are appropriate smoke detectors and fire alarms, fire doors and other fire safety measures.

Last year we visited 36,000 homes to make sure all of those with gas have a valid gas safety record. We also completed nearly 600 FRAs and closed more than 1,700 fire safety actions or checks. If you live in a flat or similar accommodation you can ask us to send you a copy of the latest FRA for your building. If you live in one of our taller buildings (six storeys or more), we’ve also published building safety summaries about each of these to give you more information about where you live.


We’re continuing to remind residents about how to keep safe in their homes

While fires don’t happen often, there have been a small number over the last few months - most caused by unattended appliances or as a result of cooking.

You can find kitchen safety tips (and advice on avoiding the other main causes of fire) as part of our #GetFireSmart campaign. You can also read about our work around gas safety, asbestos and the safety of the water supply in your home.

Please ring us on 0300 5000 926 to report any fire safety risks or raise other safety concerns, or if you’d like any specific safety advice.

When it comes to your personal safety, we work closely with the police and other agencies on issues like domestic abusehoarding and anti-social behaviour so please get in touch if you need advice or support. We also have an anti-slavery statement and work with our suppliers and contractors on equality, diversity and inclusion.

Advice and support

So far since April 2019:

  • we've supported 406 residents with 'getting into work' activities
  • 183 of our referred residents have gained employment
  • 643 residents were referred to our Employment and Training service
  • we continue to offer adult work experience placements within Sovereign, 24 over the year
  • we've also partnered with the Isle of Wight Council on an adult learning grant scheme, creating more adult learning opportunities there.

You can find out more about the employment and training opportunities we provide, as well as a range of other support activities, by visiting our 'Advice and support' pages.

Universal credit

Many of our 10,000 customers who receive Universal Credit (UC) have found it quite challenging, and sometimes stressful. So we've been contacting them to talk through what help or advice is available. To help de-mystify UC, we've also developed a range of supportive information - including two films about what UC is and how to apply.


Investing in homes

We undertake stock condition surveys each year (3,700 since April 2019) to make sure that we know the condition of your home. This lets us plan long-term investment in replacement  kitchens, bathrooms, windows, doors and so on, as well as other elements like roofs and chimneys.

As part of that plan, we've already invested £6.4m since April 2019 in replacing 818 kitchens, 675 bathrooms, 101 doors and the windows in 932 homes.

We're also focused on reducing our impact on the environment and making our homes more affordable to run. One way is by looking at 'greener' alternative heating when systems are due to be replaced in more rural areas without a gas supply. So far this year we've installed 178 new air source heat pump systems, an energy-efficient alternative option - 65 in the three months to December.

We listen and act on resident feedback, making sure our residents’ voice is embedded in our governance, scrutiny and community work. Residents have a key role in the way we're run, the services we provide and how we keep a local focus within our neighbourhoods. 

  • The Resident and Board Partnership (RBP) helps to influence our strategy, policies and service standards, as well as monitoring the quality and performance of our services. In the last few months they’ve had input into our development strategy; communities strategy; reviewed our tenancy and complaints policies; discussed how residents can be more involved in managing the performance of contractors; and regularly review the latest performance results for key services. 

    They're also helping us assess any gaps between how services are delivered now and what the forthcoming national 'Together with tenants' charter would require. Sovereign's an early  adopter of the charter and Joyce Ward, chair of the RBP, is on the National Housing Federation panel helping to develop this.

  • The Scrutiny Coordination Group (SCG) uses scrutiny as a way of monitoring, managing and developing our services and you can read more about this in the section below. Members of the group also attended a national tenant engagement conference in December and helped to run a workshop about our approach to this work, particularly how residents are involved.
  • Community Engagement Groups (of Sovereign residents and other members of the community) work with us to make a difference in their local area about the things that matter to them.

Our resident engagement webpages explain more about these groups and how you can get involved. Here we focus on the way that resident-led scrutiny is influencing how we do things.


Resident scrutiny

The SCG agrees and commissions reviews to make sure we're providing quality services and a great customer experience. Helped by resident Scrutineers, their recommendations lead to action plans, which the SCG reviews regularly to make sure things are getting done.

Here’s a snapshot of the services they’ve reviewed, some key recommendations and what we’ve done (or are doing at the moment) as a result.

Lettings

  • Since this scrutiny was carried out we've seen some big improvements. By the end of December 2019, the average time to re-let a home had reduced from just over 22 days to just over 11 days. 
  • Dedicated lettings officers are enabling us to relet homes faster and we're also recruiting new homes advisors to help.
  • We've developed action plans for several sites where homes are generally taking longer to let. These include using alternative advertising methods (such as Zoopla and Gumtree) to reach people in housing need.
  • We're continuing talks with several councils about reducing how long it takes to nominate new residents. As these happen regularly, we can highlight any current issues.
  • Before we build new homes, we’re being clearer about the sorts of home we know people need in that area. We push back or ask for more evidence of bids for other homes if we feel that demand may be low, especially in some of our more rural areas.
  • We're also focusing on making sure residents are ready for a tenancy and able to afford it. For example, piloting employment and training support to a small number of people on the housing register, who aren't yet residents.
  • The pre-tenancy assessment lets us understand more about someone's financial circumstances so that we can support them, if they need it, on how to manage their regular payments.
  • We’re also working with our Income team to find the best time in the month for new residents to sign up if they’re on Universal Credit. This can change how long they’ll have to wait for payment.
  • Since April 2019 nearly 2,600 people have followed our online resident induction. This is a step-by-step guide to what they need to know and, as it’s online, they can work through it as and when it suits them.

 

Repeat calls about repairs

  • Resident scrutineers carried out over 100 hours of activity to complete this review
  • Recommendations included working with residents to agree a definition for repairs being completed ‘right first time’ and, with volunteer members of the SCG, we’ve now agreed what this should look like and how it can be measured. 
  • We've already improved how we report to managers and the Resident and Board Partnership about repairs, giving more details and new information. 
  • Some of what we want to do will take a bit longer as we need to upgrade some of our IT systems first, but we're working on this. When that's done we'll also be able to measure how many times someone has to contact us about the same repair - a key element of the service we're already focusing on improving.
  • Longer-term, we’re developing a fully-automated way for residents to report and book repairs appointments via MySovereign.

 

Complaints

  • Recommendations from this scrutiny included ‘closing the loop’ better between complaints and lessons we’ve learnt – so we’ve now updated our internal processes to capture this. 
  • We've also revised our complaints policy and a full copy of the policy is now available here.
  • We updated our complaints guidance to show that information is available in other formats and languages and we're working on a step by step guide to the process.
  • We've also put measures in place to improve communication with our customers, keeping them better updated on the progress of their complaint
  • Scrutineers said we should share more information on how complaints have helped to re-shape our services. 
  • You can read more about this, and the other things we're doing to tackle and reduce complaints, in the 'How we're doing' section of this report.

 

Empty homes

The SCG's latest scrutiny exercise was into our empty homes and the processes around getting these ready for someone to move into. The group wanted to make sure that our approach was consistent across all areas and the review was also a chance to look at the standards we've set for this work.

A home can be empty because it's just been built and no-one's moved in yet or because a resident's moved out and there are safety checks or other work we need to do before someone else moves in.

Some homes may be empty while they have more major modernisation, repairs or conversion work and a few may be earmarked for demolition and redevelopment as part of a regeneration programme.

  • Resident scrutineers completed over 60 hours of volunteering
  • We visited more than 20 empty homes
  • Recommendations include routinely collecting feedback from new residents on the condition of their home when they moved in, and their experience of the lettings process
  • Scrutineers also recommended that we encourage greater consistency between our teams and external contractors
  • They also recommended that, every three months, we review the effectiveness of the recording database that our trades use (called 'Spot it, tag it, log it')

 

We'll update you on our progress through these quarterly performance reports


What's next?

The SCG’s latest exercise is underway as they recruit resident scrutineers who've had new windows, a kitchen or bathroom fitted (or turned this down) - so that we can find out more about why, and what we can do to improve this work.

We’ve also built on our existing approach and are doing some new things to give residents even more say in what we do and how we do it:

  • Customer journey mapping – we want to make it easier for you to deal with us and this is about tracking and describing all the experiences a customer has when they receive a particular service from us. Looking at an area from end to end like this helps us understand what happens to a customer at each step and highlights areas where we can improve or innovate. 

    Most recently we mapped the 'aftercare and defects' service for people who've bought a new-build home through shared ownership. This led to customers (and employees) suggesting changes like making sure that we collect feedback when someone is at the sign-up stage. We've also improved our communication - giving you a single point of contact for these enquiries and producing some information videos.  The next service area we're looking to journey map is our compensation process.
  • Working with our customers to agree new aspects of what we do (or ‘co-creation’) is about coming together, bringing ideas, listening and having honest conversations to design for now and the future.  In October 2019 we surveyed over 150 households who'd moved into new homes. We're using this feedback in a review of our empty homes standards, which is happening at the moment and includes joint workshops to listen to your views and make sure that any improvements take account of what really matters to you when you move in. 

    We're also working with you about our vision for building new homes, as well as how we can create the sorts of places and physical environments that people want to live in.  Alongside this, our customers, employees, external partners and local organisations are all helping us identify what's most important for us to do to create positive and thriving communities where we have homes.