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Getting satisfaction

The single biggest priority for social housing tenants is response repairs. It affects the most tenants; is the service most valued by them, and can also be the biggest cause of dissatisfaction – accounting for over 75% of complaints to social housing landlords, according to one report by housing industry analysts HouseMark.While it is tenants’ biggest headache, it is also the largest area of spending for most social landlords – over £4bn a year, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).To help bridge this problem, in 2012 the CIH launched its Repairs Charter. Developed in partnership with Mears, social landlords and national organisations (including TAROE, TPAS, NHF, HouseMark and the Direct Works Forum), the Charter provides a framework for landlords and service providers to assess their service, make improvements services and show their commitment to providing excellent services to tenants.The Charter is underpinned by six core principles:

  1. Sign up is voluntary and based on self-assessment
  2. It was developed using sector expertise
  3. It is flexible and can be tailored to suit the outcomes that matter to organisations and their tenants
  4. It is focused on outcomes, not on processes
  5. It drives sector-led improvement
  6. It complements existing frameworks or initiatives

Since 2012, 99 housing organisations and companies involved in carrying out repairs and maintenance have signed up. The Charter is structured around six core commitments:

  1. Delivering an effective repairs service is a corporate and strategic priority
  2. We equip everyone involved in the repairs service with the right skills, capacity and resources
  3. We provide an accessible and accountable repairs service
  4. We deliver a quality responsive repairs service
  5. We ensure that a value for money approach is embedded throughout our repairs service
  6. We continually strive to understand and improve our performance

One of those – livin, a homes and communities business in Durham, has seen dramatic improvements. It started working with Mears in 2008 and the partnership helped shape the development of the Repairs Charter, with livin becoming a key member of the advisory group, sharing how its experiences with Mears improved response repairs services.The Repairs Charter has enabled livin and Mears to:

  • Increase appointments made at the first point of contact by 300%
  • Reduce ‘no access’ by over 1,200 visits per year (saving the partnership £44,000 per year)
  • Exceed 97% of emergency repairs completed in one visit
  • Increase jobs per operative per day by 26%
  • Achieve over 90% first visit fix rate
  • Achieve over 99% post inspection pass rate
  • Save the partnership over £4m over 3 years
  • Reduce the average time to complete all repairs from nearly 12 working days to 7 days (even though this wasn’t a key driver)
  • Achieve over 99% tenant satisfaction.

One of the most recent organisations to sign up to the Charter isRotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, working in partnership with Mears and construction company Wilmott Dixon. The exercise led to the creation of a partnership improvement plan to take forward staff priorities. It also highlighted the excellent work of the partnership.“The principles of the Charter are used throughout our partnerships to make continuous incremental improvements to the services we provide,” says Steve Osborne, Service Improvement Manager.“It can be used to assess services, highlighting what we do well and helping to prioritise improvements which we can take forward to improve services for the benefit of our tenants.“It is not intended to be prescriptive or replace regulatory tools, it is voluntary and can be used as a basis for internal challenge – through tenant scrutiny, peer or independent review for example.“Since 2012, the Charter has proved to be invaluable for almost 100 organisations. It is a flexible framework designed to assist landlords and service providers like Mears, to identify what outcomes a good quality response repairs service can deliver.”John Brayshaw, Contract and Service Development Manager at Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, says the Charter has been invaluable.“We have a holistic view of the service, reflecting the perception of both those who deliver and receive the service at the front line, all the way through to senior managers and elected members in the council.“Having concluded the exercise we are very happy with the outturn.The approach has helped us identify our strengths and weaknesses and from this we are confident we can build on our success to-date allowing us to keep the service moving forward on the journey of continuous improvement.”Mears Group is building on the success of the CIH Repairs Charter as a member of an advisory group on the ‘CIH Working Together to Re-define Asset Management’ project which will run to June 2015.


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