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Social Housing – Rising to the challenge

Robin Ridgley

Rising to the challenge

The housing sector, like any other sector, has faced challenges and changes over recent years. The political and environmental landscape continue to have an impact and the ramifications of the Grenfell tragedy are still not clear.

These challenges combined with the impact of COVID-19 forced housing organisations to further evaluate the specific issues that impact their services, solutions, and support to tenants, pushing them towards new ways of working and enhancing the digital journey.  

Social Housing – Rising to the challenge

This week on Thursday 1 December 2023, the Social Housing Conference is being held in London. It will be touching on some of the key challenges that face a sector which means so much to so many people.

Rising to the challenge

The housing sector, like any other sector, has faced challenges and changes over recent years. The political and environmental landscape continue to have an impact and the ramifications of the Grenfell tragedy are still not clear.

These challenges combined with the impact of COVID-19 forced housing organisations to further evaluate the specific issues that impact their services, solutions, and support to tenants, pushing them towards new ways of working and enhancing the digital journey.

Social Housing White Paper

Back in 2020, in response to the 2018 Social Housing Green Paper the social housing white paper was released aiming to deliver improvement in transparency and accountability.

Designed to set out further measures to empower tenants and support the supply of social homes. One of the messages outlined in the whitepaper is to increase the transparency and accountability of social landlords. The plan from the government is to find a better way for organisations to measure their performance across several areas, including building safety maintenance; effective complaint handling; updates on repairs; and whether they're dealing with residents in a respectful manner. In total, the whitepaper outlined seven commitments that residents should expect from landlords, including:

  • To be safe in your home
  • To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly, with access to a strong ombudsman
  • To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator and improved customer standards for tenants
  • To have your voice heard by your landlord
  • To have a good home and neighbourhood to live in, with your landlord keeping your home in good repair
  • The government will ensure social housing can support people to take their first step toward ownership

A report released by Grant Thornton in March this year highlighted what the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH) felt was the risk profile for sector (Oct 21).

The report sets out the main risks facing the housing sector and suggests some key actions housing associations can take to mitigate those risks.  

There are three key areas that I believe are fundamental for the sector to meet the challenge head on:

  • People
  • Data
  • Process
People First

I have been incredibly fortunate to work for and with several social housing organisations across the UK and I am proud to say that part of who I am today comes directly from my involvement in the sector.

Social housing providers and colleagues shoulder a lot of burden, on top of dealing with changes to Government funding & policies and handling an increasing demand for digitisation of their services.

When it comes to navigating huge organisational and political change, social housing providers put a huge focus on employee engagement with a complete understanding of the link between exceptional customer service and people experience.

Yes, they want to provide residents with happy, healthy, and accessible homes, taking a similar approach to motivating their people, and striving to make the workplace and offering an opportunity to work as agile as possible so colleagues feel as stable and as comfortable as home is something every organisation should aspire to.

Harnessing the power data

As the sector continues its path of transformation, increasing the number of homes and continually looking to better serve residents, data has a critical role to play.

I truly believe that by combining the passion of the people that work across the sector and matching and utilising a data led approach the journey to meet the challenge will be more effective.   

Data that will enable faster and more informed decision making. It will allow organisations to understand the demographics of the communities they serve, quickly identifying focus areas or data gaps will allow organisations to have a finger on the pulse by identifying trends in how residents engage and communicate will enable a far greater understanding of what is important to different types of residents.

Understanding data will enable service delivery to be prioritised and personalised to the tenant needs. Operatives visiting a home will not just know everything about the property, but also be aware of any specific needs or vulnerabilities of their residents.

Mapping the future 

Increasingly organisations are looking to engage and empower residents, it’s never been more important to see your services through the eyes of the customer.

One activity which enables this and is becoming increasingly popular is customer journey mapping. By following each customer touchpoint, from the first to the last contact, you can see what they see and understand how activities and resource allocation impacts on overall satisfaction.

Customer journey mapping should be something important for housing providers because it provides valuable insight into how the organisation is perceived, from what can sometimes feel like an imbalanced relationship.

Residents have little oversight or power to take their business elsewhere, so it’s critical for organisations to view processes from the viewpoint of their customers.

This also provides additional valuable scrutiny of service provision, allowing for improvement in underperforming areas and sharing best practice in areas that perform well.

In summary

At Sysdoc, our vision is to help organisations successfully navigate complex change and transformation. Social Housing is still on a journey and facing challenges every day. I am really looking forward to catching up with some ex-colleagues and new contacts at the conference this week and speaking to them about how we can join them on the journey. 

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