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Agenda item

Effectiveness of Communications -12 month report back

Minutes:

Paul Byer, Service Improvement and Involvement Manager updated Members on the progress of the recommendations in a report produced in May 2016 following the review undertaken by the Housing Scrutiny Committee on the effectiveness of Housing Services Communications.

In the discussion the following points were made -

·         On Recommendation 1, to agree a code of communications for the Council’s Housing Services, TMO’s and Partners for improvement and contractors, Paul Byer advised that although Partners is responsible for improving its own communications within its organisation, the Council has granted Partners access to the Council’s on-line Housing Library on the intranet which has Council guidance on documents such as Write First Time Toolkit, Writing Style Guidance, updated branding guidelines etc. In addition, TMO’s have been sent the council’s communications guidance and good practice information. 

·         With regards to Recommendation 2 & 7 which relates to improving complaints processes, the meeting was informed that a complaints improvement Action plan has been put in place to improve complaints handling in Property Services.  In addition, the Repairs Customer Service Team have also been provided training on handling and dealing with difficult phone calls and the quality checking system for complaints responses from the team has also been reviewed.

·         With regard to managing resident’s complex responsive repairs, a named manager will be in place to deal with these type of complaints. Meeting was also informed that a Property Services Complaints Resident Group has been set up. This is a forum for resident input into improving handling and improving how we learn from complaints. Changes have recently been made to the learning from complaints process within Property Services.  Repair Group Leaders now have more timely information about complaints linked to their service area to improve performance.

·         On Recommendation 4 and 6, making better use of communications, members were advised that protocol is in place with regards to the use of Electronic Notice Boards (ENB’s) especially as they are now used to support corporate, community information and localised messages. Residents views have been taken on board so ENB’s now display local information specific to their estate, job opportunities and training and community services for different groups.

·         In response to Recommendation 5 and 10 which addresses out of date information and broken links on the Council website, the manager informed members that the Service has been able to put in place a well-established process for residents and staff to report issues about the information on the website or being able to query information that needs clarification with the communication team being able to monitor it regularly, investigate and address any anomalies. In addition, the meeting was informed that since 2019, the communications team is now responsible for managing the content on the website and will be working more closely with services to review and improve their pages.

·         Members were reminded of the future legal requirement for content on the council website to be accessible to a wider range of people and those with disabilities such as blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and residents with learning disabilities and cognitive limitations.

·         With regard to recommendation 15 which addresses the ability of caretakers and front line staff to report and follow up issues on behalf of residents, the meeting was advised that all caretakers have undertaken bespoke “Eyes and Ears” training which is designed to enable and empower staff to be vigilant, ask questions, build relationships and report issues to relevant teams where they have concerns. In addition, members were advised that the service has also developed a pilot “ quick referral” process for caretakers and Estate Services if it recognises any immediate concern of residents welfare or where they feel someone may need a helping hand.

·         Recommendation 16 addresses the online reporting system which was recently down. The new system has been re-launched, which allows residents to re-schedule and cancel appointments on-line.

·         With regards to recommendation 19,making better use of bulk mailing to communicate information effectively to residents about council initiatives on issues with the universal credit and SHINE, the meeting was informed that in the last two years, Homes and Communities have been making better use of the reverse of annual rent statements to include information and advice on property maintenance, tenancy management or promotion of early intervention services.

·         In response to vulnerable resident’s concerns that call centre staff not being aware of their details therefore causing delays to their repairs being carried out, Members were advised that a list for all its vulnerable residents exists which is updated weekly and available to Housing Incident Managers which can be shared if an out of hours crisis arises.

 

·         Full implementation of the Power BI system is not in place yet.  Property Services are working with Islington Digital Services to implement a new suite of IT reporting and monitoring dashboards. The Chair informed members that this IT issue will be considered at a future meeting.

·         Meeting was informed that Islington Caretakers do a remarkable good job in maintaining the general outlook of their estates and in addition do replace light bulbs in communal areas. Caretakers tend to be the ‘eyes and ears’ and kept to date about issues around safeguarding, child and domestic abuse and missing children.

·         In response to a question on if any caretaker duties had been outsourced, the meeting was advised that this would only occur in rare instances for example resolving complex electrical lighting issues.

Jo Murphy, Director Homes and Communities updated members of changes in the Service area within the last year. The following points were highlighted -

·         Meeting was informed of the new leadership in place and the rebranding of the Service to Homes and Communities Service. Prior to the restructure, operations were based on a geographical north/south divide with the level of service provided to residents’ dependent on the quality, calibre and availability of housing officers based in the area office.

·         The Director advised members that prior to the restructure it was noticeable that operations was more process driven rather than resident engagement, however with the changes, officers are now in contact with residents, visit residents and carry out the necessary assessments. The Service has had to reframe how things are done in terms of council priorities of locality and partnership working.

·         The Director informed the meeting that with the restructuring 90 management staff have had to reapply for their jobs and a reduction of 17 posts across the whole service area. The whole exercise has removed any duplication of roles and posts which were underutilised.

·         Members were informed that what is in place is that when residents call in to report an issue relating to tenancy or estate management, they will receive a universal service which is manned by office based Housing officers who are well equipped to respond instead of being dealt with the customer service officers at call centres.

·         The meeting was informed that although the focus will be through the telephone rather than person, housing officers will be expected to go out in the community and meet residents.

·         In response to a question on the support available to residents who require more engagement; have complex needs or mental issues, the Director advised that this will be managed through the Intensive Tenancy Sustainment Team , who in engaging colleagues in other areas of the council such as Adult and Social Services and Housing Needs will provide a wrap- around services that will be required.

·         Members were informed that the Service has recently recruited the services of an ex-Superintendent police officer, a social worker, anti-social behaviour officers and a specialist with experience working with elderly residents into the Intensive Tenancy Sustainment Team with a view that this new way of working would ensure that experience and skills of these specialist with some knowledge of housing issues would be beneficial to address a number of issues such as anti-social behaviour and behavioural issues. Members were advised that the Service is about to embark on a soft launch of this new way of working with residents especially with the significant changes in housing personnel with different roles and responsibilities which residents are not aware of.

·         With regards to the evictions reported in the press, the Director Homes and Communities informed the meeting that this was not related to a council tenant but Partners and Improvement. The meeting was informed that where there is rent arrears there is support in place for residents that engage with officers however in the very difficult cases, the Council would have to pursue their evictions after court proceedings.

·         In response to a question, the Director reassured members that the Council has in place strict safeguarding criteria in place which prevents vulnerable residents from being evicted.

RESOLVED:
That the report be noted.

 

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