September 2019 - Resident Forum minutes

Resident Forum minutes: Wednesday 18th September 2019

1. Welcome, introductions and apologies

KA Chaired the meeting in the absence of the Chair who had given his apologies for the meeting and the Vice Chair who was running late.

KA welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Apologies were recorded.

2. Review of Minutes

DB raised a query in the minutes. He had been in attendance at the meeting but was not included as having attended,

MS raised a query in the minutes. He referred to Item 5 and the bullet point on page 5 of the minutes of the August meeting. MS stated that he had not had a text message reminding him of his gas servicing appointment.

The August minutes were agreed as a true record.

3. Review of the Complaints Procedure

KA introduced Jamie Scott (JS) (Service Improvement Manager).

JS explained that the Trust reviews its policies every 3 years. However, if there are any changes in regulation or legislation in that time then the policies and procedures will be updated. The complaints policy was last reviewed in 2016. JS advised that the comments he had already received from members of this forum had supported his belief that the Policy & Procedure wording needed simplying 

JS explained that the first point of contact for residents is through the Contact Centre. The aim of staff in the Contact Centre is to resolve any issues at the first point of contact. . If they can’t they will put the call through to the service team. If there is no one in the service team available to talk to the resident, they will get a call back. JS told Forum members that if they are struggling to get through to the Contact Centre in relation to Complaints, they should call him and JS handed out his business cards.

KA said she would get information on when the Contact Centre has busy times / peak periods and feed this back to Forum members at their next meeting.

SE suggested that whilst residents are waiting for their call to be answered they should be listening to constructive/helpful information.

JG asked whether residents would get a quicker response if they sent an email.

JS explained that if residents ring up and say they want to make a formal complaint staff will try and resolve it. He asked that Forum members let him know about the complaint so that he can check to see if there is a problem with the service delivery.

JS stated  changes will include :

  • Policy- change the language and tone to ‘we will’

  • Procedure – change from 12 pages to 7, simplify the process chart.

  • Also simplify how to make a complaint on the website. All complaints made through the website already go to an inbox that JS checks twice a day.

Even if the Contact Centre resolves a problem. Residents are still entitled to ask for their concerns to be assessed as a Complaint. The Contact Centre will raise such request on eth Trust Housing Mgmt system and they will go to JS for review. JS will then decide if the concerns meet the criteria for a formal complaint and contact the Tenant to advise what will happen next.

HO stated that he had been a member of a resident’s complaint panel that looked at complaints cases to see if the correct process had been followed and that the case had been dealt with properly and within timescales.

JS explained that the key reason this group had been disbanded was because there had not been enough complaints coming through. In February this year a number of service managers informed him that he was raising too many complaints. However he took the time to explain to the Managers why the complaints were being raised and year on year we are seeing a rise in the number of complaints upheld.

KA stated that the Trust saw complaints as a positive, a way to improve services and they provided an opportunity to highlight areas needing improvement. DB asked how complaints about contractors are dealt with. KA explained that they go through the same process.

JS stated that the Social Housing Green Paper wants to remove the beauracracy and delays in dealing with complaints.

4. Rent Setting

KA introduced Richard Midgley (RM) (Rents and Fixed Assets Manager).

RM explained that he had been asked to attend the meeting to give an overview of the different types of rents and how they were set.

JJ stated that she had raised a question about how rents were set at the June meeting as she had not realised that there were different rent levels.

RM explained that the Trust is regulated by government and that it has to adhere to regulation and legislation.

RM explained that the Trust has 7,500 properties, of which 6,900 are general needs homes, 500 are affordable rent homes and 150 are shared ownership.

Social rent is set using the 1999 figures for the value of the property, the rental income in the area and the number of bedrooms the property has. When the stock was transferred in 2006/7 the vast majority of the properties were not at target rent. Currently 84% of properties are at target rent with 16% not at target rent. The 16% equates to £46,000 lost income a year.

PM asked how much the discrepancy is.  RM stated that the largest discrepancy is £47 a week. Each local authority has a cap on the amount of rent it will pay housing benefit up to. The Trust does not charge more than the cap.

RM explained that social rent is 60% of the market rent and affordable rent is 80% of market rent. There are currently 494 properties where affordable rent is payable. This equates to an income of £3.8 million income a year. The average weekly rent is £148.

PM asked if there was any scope to build homes for social rent. RM explained that the government used to help fund the cost of building, but that this is no longer available. Social housing providers are expected to use money from affordable rents to build new properties. This year the Trust plans to build 10-20 homes for social rent.

JJ asked how long it would take to pay of any monies owed if rents are capped. RM stated it would take 30-35 years to recoup the money invested in a property. The number of people purchasing their home through Right to Buy and Right to Acquire had dropped however the Trust was still building more properties.

5. Communications and Communities Update

Recruitment

KA explained that Helen Stevens who had been seconded to the Resident Liaison Team for Planned Maintenance, had now got a permanent post. The vacant post is out to recruitment and she hoped to have someone in place soon. Meanwhile Sam Goodwin from Tpas would provide cover for a couple more weeks.

Strategy Development

KA explained that she was in the process of collating the feedback from the surveys. KA apologised to any residents who had not received their letter informing them that the meeting had been cancelled and turned up at the offices on the 14th August.  The Executive Team and the Board are working very closely with the leadership team and KA will share the outcomes with the Resident Forum in the New Year. The Trust is looking at a 5 year strategy, but as things will change in that time, it will need to flex and move with the changes. The new strategy will be launched on the website in the new financial year but hard copies will be available.

Anti-Social Behaviour Task and Finish Group

SE asked what a task and finish group is. KA explained that they are a new approach to scrutinising the Trusts services and are carried out over a period of 3 months. SG informed the Forum members that the first ASB task and finish group had taken place. Craig Freeman (CF) from the ASB team had done an introduction to the service and had explained that he was looking for the group to review the ASB Policy and Procedure. The members of the group had each been tasked with contacting other organisations to obtain information about their policies and procedures. The next task and finish group meeting would be held on Tuesday 1st October.

Block Champions & Resident Inspectors

KA explained that neither had done very much over the last couple of years. But that the Trust did not want to disband them, instead wanted to reinvigorate them and combine them into one role as they were undertaking similar roles. A launch meeting for the new role would be taking place on Wednesday 25th September for current block champions and resident inspectors but also for anyone interested in the role. The meeting is to discuss how we can take the role forward, what support residents would need to carry out the role and to agree a new name.

Resident Forum October Meeting

SG explained she had undertaken a review of the Resident Forum in order to make the group more effective and efficient and to ensure they brought about change / made an impact. SG stated that as residents gave up their time voluntarily it was important that they could see that they made a difference. SG said she that if the Forum members were agreeable, she would like the October meeting dedicated to discussing the changes she would like to introduce. KA explained that the Forums role is to represent residents as a whole and not by geographical area, so it would not to look at personal issues. However in response to a query from DG, she would speak to the Independent Living Manager about a forum. SG said that she would like to see a more meaningful role for the Resident Forum that would include looking at performance information, policies and procedure. SG would like a pack, similar to that produced for Board meetings produced for each Resident Forum meeting. JJ asked what should forum members do if a neighbour came to them with an issue and they have done everything in their power to get it sorted. KA explained that SG has produced an issue sheet that Forum members could complete and give to the staff member present at their meeting, who would take it forward.  BS asked if managers could be a bit more friendly / human. KA said she would speak to them. PM said that the Forum needed to engage with more residents and KA said this was something that would be discussed at the October meeting.

6. Any Other Business

Removal of TVs with DVD players – KA explained that TVs with integrated DVD players had been removed from communal lounges because you have to have a copyright licence. They were to be replaced with new standard televisions. DG said that they should be replaced with TVs of a similar size. JL said that the television in the communal lounge has a DVD player underneath it.

MD said that the computer at Birch Court has been turned off.

KA informed the meeting that Joan Lemmon was attending her first meeting of the Residents Forum to see if she wants to join.

SL apologised for being late to the meeting, which was due to a number of accidents.

SE asked if there could be crisps and chocolate at the next meeting.

Date of next meeting:

Wednesday 16th October 2019 from 5pm to 7pm

Board Room, Fairfax House