GGHT launch new Neighbourhoods team to become even closer to tenants
Published by Mark Foster for Golden Gates Housing Trust in Housing and also in Local Government, Universal Credit
GGHT Tenant with Neighbourhood Officer
As the landscape for social landlords and their tenants continues to change and evolve, Warrington based Golden Gates Housing Trust (GGHT) have completely over-hauled the way in which they deliver services to navigate the path ahead.
When Warrington was identified as a pathfinder area for the roll out of Universal Credit, GGHT was quick to react to ensure it could support its tenants. In 2012 the Trust’s board committed £600,000 to help prepare the organisation and its tenants to deal with the affects of Welfare Reforms. This has seen the development of an Employment Initiatives Team and the roll out of a series of plans to change the way the Trust delivers its services.
These changes have seen GGHT place “digital” at the heart of its service delivery, bringing its staff even closer to the Trust’s 20,000 tenants and residents. It has also led to the launch of a new dedicated Neighbourhoods team. The team consists of 28 Neighbourhood Officers, each delivering services across small geographical areas consisting of just over 300 GGHT properties. The officers are using the latest digital technology, allowing them to spend more time in their specific patch, providing a visible presence to tenants and members of the community. It also allows them to spend more time supporting and safeguarding our most vulnerable tenants and their families, helping them make an even bigger difference to their lives.
The team offer a broad range of services for tenants going beyond the roll of a conventional Housing Officer. Each Neighbourhood Officer will deal with issues from low level ASB, untidy gardens, arrears management, investment programme tenant liaison, welfare reform support in particular Universal Credit, signing up of new tenants and tenancy and estate management. As well as offering support in numeracy and literacy issues to those tenants who need it.
The team operate fully paperless, using iPads with Footprint Solutions’ new reporting software, iForm Pro. The software was configured to automate GGHT’s existing service forms to provide a quick and structured method of collecting information. It’s early days but customer satisfaction has improved with Neighbourhood Officers now able to provide several services in one visit to a tenant’s home. This may include taking card payments, accessing tenants details, organising repairs and immediately being able to update central records, all direct from their iPad.
Since the system has been introduced it has already delivered 47% gain in productivity amongst the team with rent collection seeing a 6% increase since April.
GGHT has also invested heavily in activities to get its tenants online and have been encouraging its staff to engage with customers where possible using electronic methods of communication, including email and Social Media. Currently, the Trust is trialling having a number of its Neighbourhoods staff with accounts on Twitter. Staff tweet about specific issues and events which are taking place in their local area, allowing tenants to keep up to date with what’s going on and get instant feedback from their Neighbourhood Officer.
GGHT Director of Housing Management, Peter Fitzhenry, commented: “It is good to see that our new Neighbourhoods team are already making such a positive start. We recognise that investing in neighbourhoods is about much more than place and that to make lasting improvements we need to support local residents to improve their lives.
“The new approach will allow our staff to get even closer to our tenants, building stronger relationships and finding a better balance between proactive & reactive work. We are already getting a much better idea of our tenants current circumstances and are using this information to work with partners to help them tackle issues linked to health, financial difficulties, unemployment and digital exclusion”.
GGHT Tenant, Gill Caldwell said: “I think the changes are really positive and it is nice to see John, my GGHT Neighbourhood Officer more often out and about on my street. John has always been really helpful and nothing is ever too much trouble for him”.