Grant's Blog: The Customer Partnership
On Tuesday 13th December we help the first meeting of the refreshed Housing Customer Partnership! The Partnerships is a space for Housing customers to scrutinise our performance as a landlord, help us to make important decisions, and spend some social time getting to know staff and other customer. Here, Grant tells us what he thought about the meeting:
"I thought the meeting was really good and I want to tell people about it so more people will come!
I felt that the meeting went really well and people who came were able to have their say. It felt like people were really listening to us and that what we were saying would make a difference. It was good too that Ronan (Ronan Brown, Head of Leasehold and Tenancy Management) was able to listen to our concerns and go away and do something about them.
Ronan came to talk to us about the Cost of Living and what Advance can do to help tenants. Lots of people are really worried about things getting more expensive so it was a very important thing to talk about. We talked about what help is out there and how Advance can help people to find it. The Housing Officers and Outreach Workers can help people, or there is information on the Advance website on the Cost of Living page.
We also discussed the rent cap (how much the government says rent can go up by) and the Advance Board’s suggestion to increase rents by 11.5%. We were worried about how this might affect tenants and Shared Owners, but Ronan and Ian (Ian Gilders, Executive Director of Housing) explained that for most people this will be covered by Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, so most of us will not lose money. Ian explained that putting rent up means that Advance can cover their costs (which are going up too) and keep doing things like giving us new bathrooms and kitchens to keep our homes nice.
We heard about some of the work the Advance Board have been doing to make sure that Advance stays a strong company. They have been thinking about risks (the biggest risk at the moment is the Support services not making enough money) and making plans so that Advance can cope with them if they happen.
The Advance Board have also been working on how to fill empty homes, we all agreed that this was important because it helps Advance not to lose money but most important it means that more people get good homes. We thought that more people should know about Shared Ownership homes too, and Advance are going to do more to tell people about it.
It was really good to get an update from the Board to know more about what they’re doing, and for us to have a say in the decisions they make.
We looked at the Customer Scorecard, which are measures of how Advance is performing. It’s important because we can see in numbers how well they are doing and it’s easier to understand.
As a landlord they are aware that we have extra needs and can be vulnerable and so they need to do a bit more for us than a private landlord would. It’s good that they know that and are doing things like visiting every customer every year and meeting with our Support too to make sure we’re getting all the help we need.
It was reassuring to see that performance is generally good around and that safety checks on Gas, Electric and Fire and being done. I said I never give repairs 10/10 because nothing’s ever perfect and then you’ve got nothing to work towards! We talked about how it can take a long time to get through to Customer Services on the phone and Ian told us about what they are doing to make that better.
After lunch we talked about how we can shape the future of Advance! I felt good about being involved with planning the new strategy, it was really good to have a say from the beginning and how we can make sure that Advance works best for us. As tenants we should always be included from the word go, from the very beginning, and it was really good that Julie (Julie Layton, Chief Executive) was there to hear what is important to us. The picture above is of me with my way of showing what I want Advance to focus on!
To anyone thinking about coming along next time I would say if you want to really make a difference, a good difference, you need to be included. We all have those days when we’re not up to it, but if you can then you should come along because it’s a fun day and a way to make a real difference. Plus we all had a really nice lunch together and I got to talk to people I didn’t know before. We need as many tenants to come as possible so that we can hear from everyone!"
The next meeting is on Tuesday 14th March in Leicester – we hope to see you there! If you have any questions about the Partnership, please email CustomerEngagement@advanceuk.org