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Residents at the heart - our performance report

Residents Annual Report 833x237

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.  


Supporting residents through Covid-19

This report focuses on some key services from January to March 2020. But the spread of the coronavirus has obviously drastically affected our services and support since mid-March. 

We’ve concentrated our effort where it’s needed most: focusing on essential services like emergency repairs, safety in your home, and support with rent, financial issues and employment.

We know that some of you are worried about how you'll pay your rent if you have the virus, need to self-isolate, or if you can’t work because of the latest government guidance. So we made a firm commitment early on that no-one will lose their home as a result of this crisis. 

You can read all the latest information on the coronavirus pages of My.Sovereign.org.uk. Please don’t worry on your own - get in touch if you’d like any advice or support.

Contact channels

Telephone, email and social media

This was a challenging quarter, with two major weather events and the spread of the Covid-19 virus in March, when we moved to a focus on emergencies and supporting residents.

But we're continuing to improve our digital channels and more people are contacting us via social media, particularly Facebook - a 26% increase on the same period last year.

We've seen telephone contacts drop by 1% compared to the same months last year, despite the extreme weather generating a 6% year-on-year increase in February.

And we had 3% fewer emails compared to the same period last year.

We're also pleased that the Customer Contact team achieved its service targets for the year.

January to March 2020

Phone calls 326x270
Emails 326x270
Social Media 326x270

What's next?

In response to Covid-19, we moved our contact centre advisors from the office to home working and our focus over the next few months will be to continue delivering an excellent service for customers while we look after the wellbeing of our employees.

We'll also provide extra training and support to help our team and our customers deal with the lockdown situation in the best way.

Alongside this we're continuing with plans to successfully establish the team in our new Basingstoke head office when we move there later this year.

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

More of our customers are signing up for MySovereign, with 37% more registered users by this March compared to a year ago.  By the end of the quarter 21,348 customers had signed up to the service.


Satisfaction journey

Satisfaction with how easy it is to register for MySovereign remains high - 86% in March 2020 (up 2% from December).



Payment journey 100x100

And people are even more satisfied with the process for making a payment - 90% in March 2020.



Using MySovereign

It's also a popular way to book a repair. Despite this facility being suspended on 19 March when we moved to emergency-only repairs, over 5,000  repairs were booked online in the three months to March. That's over 17,000 in the last year.


What's next?

We launched our Covid-19 support pages in mid-March and we're continuing to keep this updated so our customers have the latest information.

We're also working on improvements to our 'self-serve' options that will make it easier for customers to deal with us online and we'll report more on these in the next quarterly report. 

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

Sign up to MySovereign

Feedback - January to March 2020

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

Despite often challenging conditions, our teams exceeded the 'effort' target for how we manage anti-social behaviour cases again this quarter. 

Given the extreme weather conditions in January and February, it was encouraging to see that the repairs performance on effort and trust was similar to the previous three months. In the previous quarter we reported on improvements in satisfaction and, although momentum slowed, the performance for the year was almost 90%. 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 about 1% result in complaints. Despite this, we're continually looking for new ways to improve.

We've had positive feedback for how our Resolution team respond to complaints. There was surge in complaints in February as we battled the elements and this affected on our performance, but we know there's still room for improvement and we're working with customers in our scrutiny groups, and using your feedback, to achieve this.

Our out of hours service and Careline continue to recive excellent feedback. Over 90% of customers said they were satisfied with both the service and the communications they'd had from us.


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 also have made changes to the way we manage your feedback. From the next quarter we'll see feedback more quickly, which means we can act faster on what you tell us and improve our service. We'll also continue to collaborate with resident groups and other housing associations to identify best practice and make your experience of dealing with us better.

Year to date figures

Complaints - January to March 2020

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 (mainly about responsive repairs - ones you ask us to carry out) - 632
  • Housing Management - 203 

 

Complaints icon

Number of complaints

939


Causes of complaints - Property Services

Property Services pie chart

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 March 2020 we had no cases with the Housing Ombudsman. During the quarter the Ombudsman also judged that there was 'no maladministration or service failure' in three cases.


Shaping our services

You told us that we need to resolve complaints more quickly, and we've made changes to the way we work to make this happen. In the three months to December we'd speeded up how quickly we resolve things and have continued to do this in January to March.

We also want to make sure we capture and act on all complaints, and we've successfully tested a new approach that makes sure we do this.

When you tell us about a problem, you want one person to help you resolve it so we've continued providing support and training to our people so we can all be better at taking ownership of your issues.


What’s next?

  • The next quarter will be challenging due to social distancing if we need to do a home visit, but we'll resolve as many problems as we can by contacting customers to see what we can sort out over the phone.
  • We'll also continue to develop the systems we need to allow us to resolve more of your complaints at the first time of asking.
  • And we'll use the new approach we tested this quarter, to make sure we hear all complaints.
  • 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. 

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

Making sure your homes are safe is our top priority 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.

Our Sovereign teams completed 38,726 gas inspections and 7,000 electrical inspections as well as working with partners to deliver asbestos, legionella, lifts and fire safety programmes.

In our blocks of flats and similar sites, we make 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. In January to March we completed 153 FRAs, raised 1,069 fire safety actions and closed 561 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.

In the last quarter we also showed our ongoing commitment to quality, safety and the environment by being independently audited and successfully accredited on the way that we work to national and international standards of best practice.


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

While fires don’t happen often, 15 were reported in our homes between January and the end of March - many 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 and, with warmer days coming, please check our ‘seasonal fire risks' section for advice on bonfires and BBQs – including never using any kind of BBQ on a balcony.

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

In the year to April 2020 our Communities team:

  • Supported 634 residents with 'getting into work' activities and 943 with their work goals
  • Referred 942 residents to our Employment and Training service
  • Awarded 189 employment and training grants
  • Supported 1,461 people to develop their education and skills 
  • Supported 31 schools with parenting, careers and education projects 
  • Supported 11 community centres, 7 youth groups and the regeneration of two playgrounds – as well as helping our communities to run 20 environmental projects
  • Gave grants to 18 other projects across our regions via The Good Exchange grant platform
  • In total we invested £3 million and every £1 we invested returned more than £10 in what’s known as ‘social value’. This is a term to cover the sorts of wider wellbeing and other benefits that people gain as individuals (such as us helping them into work or better paid work) and from the local projects that we’ve supported in their community.

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

At the end of March, 23% of residents in our social rented homes were on Universal Credit (UC). That’s 10,717 customers – more than double the number a year ago. Many have found UC quite challenging and sometimes stressful, so our Income team contact them to see if they’d like any help or advice and to talk through what’s available. We've also developed a range of supportive information - including two films about what UC is and how to apply.

And we’re here for anyone else with finance worries – we referred 2,472 customers to our specialist tenancy support advisors during the year.

Investing in homes

Over the year we carried out 6,534 surveys to make sure that we know the condition of your home and can plan our long-term investment in key elements. As part of that improvement plan, we’ve replaced 1,219 kitchens, 958 bathrooms and 2,070 boilers in residents’ homes over the last 12 months, as well as windows in 1,174 homes.

We're also focused on reducing our impact on the environment and making homes more affordable to run. One way is by replacing older heating systems with more modern, energy-efficient ones: 481 during the year, including 192 new air source heat pump systems at homes in more rural areas where there isn’t a mains gas supply.

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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.

At the moment the SCG are finalising a report on their latest scrutiny. For this they recruited resident scrutineers who'd had new windows, a kitchen or bathroom fitted (or turned this down) - so that they could find out more about why, and what we can do to improve this work.

In 2018/19 just over 14% of these planned upgrades weren’t completed because customers refused or didn’t allow us access. This is £1.5 million of investment that wasn’t spent on the homes we think need it. The scrutiny found that the reasons behind this were often complex but there are lots of areas where we can improve our processes – from better logging of why people have refused work to capturing more data about their experience of the process when someone does have the work done, from more consistent quality checking to reviewing how we contact customers and can make our letters clearer.

Here’s a snapshot of the services that the SCG have already completed.

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


Customer journey mapping

As well as the involvement and hard work of the Resident and Board Partnership, Scrutiny Coordination Group and resident scrutineers, we’re giving residents even more say in what we do and how we do it.

Customer journey mapping is about making it easier for you to deal with us by 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.

Since the last quarter we’ve completed the following mapping projects:

The 'aftercare and defects' service for people who've bought a new-build home through shared ownership

  • 7 customers and 20 employees involved
  • 3 workshops
  • 10 ‘quick wins’ proposed plus 14 longer-term goals


The journey customers make when it comes to compensation

  • 8 customers and 5 employees involved
  • 2 workshops
  • 11 ‘quick wins’ proposed plus 9 longer-term goals


We're now in the middle of mapping the journeys involving External Management Companies who sometimes carry out estate services on behalf of the freeholder if this isn’t Sovereign. For example, they may be appointed by the developer of a big site where we just have some homes or residents can apply to set up their own management company to provide some services (such as grounds maintenance, cleaning communal areas or health and safety checks).

In many cases, these External Management Companies then bill us and we have to allocate the costs back to residents through service charges. There are over 300 External Management Companies across all the areas where we have homes, so this exercise is looking at how the service is delivered and how we can improve this experience for residents.

Co-creating with residents

To keep improving the way we engage or work with customers, we developed our own ‘co-creation’ approach last year, working in partnership with TPAS (an organisation of resident engagement experts), residents and employees.

Through a series of workshops and focus groups we agreed a definition reflecting where Sovereign is at the moment and wants to be in the future: “with our customers and communities we’ll work together, bring ideas, listening and having honest conversations to design for now and the future”

Over the past six months we’ve used this approach in several projects linked to a new Homes and Place Standard that will set out our vision for the homes we want to build and the sorts of places and communities people want to live in.

Five workshops with more than 55 residents and employees have helped us to do the following:

  • Draft a new Empty Homes Standard to cover a customer’s entire journey - from how they’re offered their home and what’s expected in their home to how Sovereign becomes a landlord of choice. This work also supports the scrutiny work recently carried out by the SCG.
  • Look at our development activity and give residents an opportunity to think broadly and creatively about what our future homes could look like - not only about their physical aspects but the environment they’re located in, supporting our new Communities Strategy.

 

Over the coming months we’ll continue work on both these projects, including using digital technology more while the current government guidelines make it harder to meet face to face. And we’ll keep reporting back regularly to the RBP and SCG about progress.

A Sovereign Charter

The RBP’s 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 developing this.

In the last three months we’ve been sharing great case studies with the NHF and other associations to help illustrate the six commitments in the charter, which are about relationships with residents; communication; the voice and influence of residents; how associations can be accountable; quality; and what happens when things go wrong. 

The next stage is to use this insight as a base for creating a Sovereign charter. We’re adapting our original plans to continue this work under the Covid-19 restrictions. Here’s what we’ll be doing.

  • A series of (digital) focus groups with involved residents and employees to consider the principles for a Sovereign charter 
  • Wider digital consultation with residents on these suggested principles 
  • Engaging with our Executive Board and Board members about the proposals
  • Preparing a draft Sovereign charter – and then holding some more focus groups to review and amend anything if necessary
  • Finalising our Sovereign charter by December 2020 for RBP and Board approval
  • Officially launching the charter at the next Residents’ Conference in early 2021