Opinion: Value for money is more than just about delivering the basics
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Regulation
By Tom Hopkins, chief executive, WATMOS Community Homes
I note with interest that many registered providers are facing the challenges of the regulator’s value for money tests.
Here at WATMOS Community Homes we uniquely deliver our services through a partnership of 11 very diverse and empowered tenant management organisation models located in the West Midlands and London.
After 10 years in business, we, through our TMOs, now provide excellent housing services which allow our residents to benefit from reduced blight, lower crime rates and cases of anti-social behaviour, alongside a marked increase in satisfaction amongst our tenant population.
But our co-operative model is more than just about delivering the basics.
Our locally-delivered services are driven by their own communities. Each community has its own local office, staff and contractors, directly accountable to their community through their local TMO.
We now have over 150 very active and dedicated volunteer residents who not only serve on our governing body but also 11 local TMO committees, two regional area boards, human resources and finance sub-committees and fairness groups. All these tenant-led structures continually challenge our staff to improve not only our housing services but also the ‘added value’ which is regularly offered, which is driven by the way our organisation works.
There are many heart-warming stories about the TMO partners helping members of the community at times when they need support. These range from good neighbour schemes, gardening and community events and outings, both on and off our estates, to the help our staff offer with tenants domestic finance problems, helping residents within their homes, by replacing lights bulbs or carrying out small DIY jobs all free of charge. Most recently in this the school half-term week, one of our TMO partners offered local children the opportunity to call into the TMO offices to receive, free of charge, a decent warm meal at lunchtime to help parents struggling with the balance between work and home or growing food bills.
Our tenants have grown to respect these added community-led initiatives and recognise that the added benefits of these services allow them to feel more secure and enjoy living in our communities. Our tenants already benefit from the added value of the TMO model, it’s just that it’s difficult to quantify the benefits of a warm meal.
However, we also recognise that working in partnership with 11 different organisations is challenging. We are always striving to improve internal communication. We are learning to embrace social media so that we can connect internally with our staff, tenants and leaseholders and externally with our stakeholders. We hope to launch our social media campaign over the coming months.
We are also coming up to the second anniversary of the time when three TMOs joined the WATMOS family. In that time WATMOS has delivered over 75% of the promises made to three South London-based TMOs following the stock transfer. Although we recognise that there is still lots to do, including the completion of an £11m investment programme, working closely with our communities we feel that we can achieve continual improvement within the tighter financial purse strings demanded of the wider economic environment.
WATMOS wants to achieve greater value for money through an improvement in the way we develop local partnerships. For us our service has always been more than just looking after property. We have always focused on our people. We now want to focus upon place. We will develop partnerships with organisations who can help us to develop complementary agendas such as improving our carbon footprint, increasing our ‘Eco-offer’, supporting tenants with health and well-being projects and developing crime reduction and educational projects. We want to offer our tenants the opportunity to develop social enterprises and learn new skills.
Alongside the principle of developing our own sense of ‘place’ we remain ambitious to grow and widen the WATMOS place. We welcome the opportunity to work with like-minded housing communities nationally to strengthen the WATMOS truly tenant-led brand, and have ambitions to expand over the next five years.
This is not growth for growth’s sake, but growth on the back of securing a safe haven for local authority tenant management organisations and those communities who have ambition to develop tenant management as a way of improving housing communities.
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