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Stockport Homes Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council May 2010


Contents Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) inspections

3

Summary

4

Scoring the service

6

Recommendations

9

Report

11

How good is the service?

13

What are the prospects for improvement to the service?

53

Appendix 1 – Performance indicators

62

Appendix 2 – Reality checks undertaken

63

Appendix 3 – Positive practice

64


Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) inspections

Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) inspections The Audit Commission is an independent body responsible for ensuring that public money is spent economically, efficiently and effectively and delivers high quality local services for the public. Within the Audit Commission, the Housing Inspectorate inspects and monitors the performance of a number of bodies and services. These include local authority housing departments, local authorities administering Supporting People programmes, arm's length management organisations (ALMOs) and housing associations. Our key lines of enquiry (KLOEs) set out the main issues which we consider when forming our judgements on the quality of services. The KLOEs can be found on the Audit Commission’s website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk/housing. This inspection has been carried out by the Housing Inspectorate using powers under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999 and is in line with the Audit Commission’s strategic regulation principles. In broad terms, these principles look to minimise the burden of regulation while maximising its impact. To meet these principles this inspection: •

is proportionate to risk and the performance of the Council/ALMO;

judges the quality of the service for service users and the value for money of the service;

promotes further improvements in the service; and

has cost no more than is necessary to safeguard the public interest.

This service was inspected as part of the Government’s arm's length housing management initiative, which encourages councils to set up ALMOs to manage, maintain and improve their housing stock. The Government decided that councils pursuing this option can secure additional capital funding if the new arm's length body has received at least a ‘good’ rating from the Audit Commission’s Housing Inspectorate. An ALMO is a company set up by a local authority to manage and improve all or part of its housing stock. The local authority remains the landlord and tenants remain secure tenants of the authority. An ALMO does not trade for profit and is managed by a board of directors comprising Council nominees, elected tenants/leaseholders and independents. The Housing Inspectorate has published additional guidance for ALMO inspections:

3

‘ALMO Inspections and the delivery of excellent housing management services’ (March 2003); and

‘Learning from the first housing ALMOs’ (May 2003).

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


Summary

Summary 1

Stockport Homes Limited (SHL) is providing an excellent, three-star service, which has excellent prospects of improvement. Tenants report high levels of satisfaction for most services and performance is strong, often in the top 25 per cent of ALMOs.

2

Tenants and other customers can access services in a range of convenient ways and services are planned to effectively meet demand. Extensive service standards have been agreed by tenants and commitments are being met. Customer information is a high standard and customer complaints are managed well. Tenants and other customers have extensive options to influence services. Engagement with service users in short term services, such as homelessness and resettlement is particularly strong.

3

Homes are improved to a high standard and all tenants will live in decent homes by July 2010. Extensive environmental improvements have significantly improved the appearance of estates. SHL has a sound understanding of investment needs and asbestos is managed effectively. SHL is tackling climate change and fuel poverty and outcomes are helping poorer neighbourhoods.

4

SHL complies with gas safety regulations and works extensively to improve safety through the early detection of fire. Most repairs are completed right first time within publicised targets, through appointments agreed with tenants. There are sufficient resources to meet demand for aids and adaptations and the service is widely publicised to encourage take up.

5

SHL is a strong performer for collecting rent. Tenants understand how their rent is made up and are only charged for services they receive. SHL delivers a range of initiatives to promote financial inclusion and tackle worklessness and tenants can easily access welfare benefits and debt advice. Performance for collecting service charges is strong and leaseholders are supported to manage debt.

6

SHL deals with antisocial behaviour effectively, using a range of remedies in partnership with others including mediation, family intervention and engaging with young people. Witnesses are supported to make allegations safely, including outside of office hours, and perpetrators are supported to improve their behaviour. SHL supports community cohesion and effectively deals with domestic abuse and hate crime.

7

The housing waiting list is accessible and offers choice for people in housing need. Homes are let to those most in need and tenancy sign ups are excellent, providing relevant information in an interesting and easy to understand way. Initiatives to prevent homelessness are extensive and homelessness decisions are robust. Supported housing is sufficient to meet demand and tenancy support is helping service users to sustain their tenancy and live fulfilling lives.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

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Summary

8

Improvements since the last inspection deliver positive outcomes for tenants and clear plans drive corporate objectives. Performance management is effective and SHL learns from others. Leadership is strong and there is robust planning of finance, IT and human resources. Costs are understood and are relatively low. Capacity is maximised through efficiencies and attracting external investment.

9

Some weaknesses were found. In some areas tenants and other customers do not have clear information on how services can be accessed and the time taken from request to installation of aids or adaptations is not fully understood. Arrangements to report incidents of antisocial behaviour by telephone during office hours are complicated. The partnership agreement setting out how tenants and other service users are involved in the activities of SHL is out of date and attempts to engage leaseholders have not resulted in many becoming involved. Some tenant and service user groups are not representative of their local community. SHL does not effectively report whether strategies deliver their intended outcomes or how equality impact assessments ensure services are inclusive for all.

5

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


Scoring the service

Scoring the service 10 We have assessed Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council as providing an 'excellent’,

three-star service that has excellent prospects for improvement. Our judgements are based on the evidence obtained during the inspection and are outlined below. Figure 1

Scoring chart I ‘an excellent service that has excellent prospects for improvement’

Prospects for improvement?

5

Excellent

Promising A good service? Uncertain

Poor Poor

Fair 

Good Excellent  

Source: Audit Commission 11 We found the service to be excellent because it has a range of strengths including:

I

tenants and other customers can easily access services in a range of convenient ways;

comprehensive service standards agreed with tenants are being delivered;

publicity on services is strongly influenced by tenants and is a high standard;

tenants report high levels of satisfaction with most services;

staff are trained on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults;

SHL knows who is using services and takes action to support potentially excluded customers;

SHL understands the tenant profile and is delivering services to meet their needs;

The scoring chart displays performance in two dimensions. The horizontal axis shows how good the service or function is now, on a scale ranging from no stars for a service that is poor (at the left-hand end) to three stars for an excellent service (right-hand end). The vertical axis shows the improvement prospects of the service, also on a four-point scale.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

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Scoring the service

SHL is improving tenants' homes to a high standard with a focus on climate change and fuel poverty and all tenants will live in decent homes within the Government deadline;

environmental improvements are making neighbourhoods safer and more attractive places live and tenants rate neighbourhoods highly;

most repairs are completed right first time through appointments agreed with tenants;

empty homes are let quickly to people who need them;

all homes have a valid gas safety certificate to confirm appliances are safe to use;

tenants and service users have a range of convenient ways to have a say about services;

tenants have easy access to advice on welfare benefits and debt advice and SHL is supporting financial inclusion;

witnesses and victims of antisocial behaviour, hate crime and domestic abuse are supported to make allegations in a safe environment, including outside of office hours and SHL works with other agencies to prevent and/or tackle antisocial behaviour;

a choice-based lettings scheme offers choice to people on the housing waiting list and it is easy to access;

tenancy sign ups are excellent providing relevant information in ways which are easy to understand;

initiatives to prevent homelessness are wide ranging and temporary accommodation where used is a high standard;

the housing needs of older people are understood and supported housing is sufficient to meet demand; and

efficiency savings are extensive and are being invested in services that matter to tenants.

12 However, there are some areas which require improvement. These include:

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some telephone calls to report repairs take too long to be answered and the service standard for answering phone calls is not monitored correctly for repairs;

information to customers does not clearly explain how services can be accessed through offices or over the telephone;

straplines on leaflets in common languages do not explain the subject of the information so people who need it can make requests;

there are no targets to ensure the workforce is representative of the local community;

a few areas of the lettable standard are vague;

the time taken to assess and complete aids and adaptations is not understood;

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


Scoring the service

reporting incidents of antisocial behaviour over the phone during office hours is complicated for tenants, who are generally redirected; and

involvement of leaseholders is not particularly successful and they report dissatisfaction for some services.

13 The service has excellent prospects for improvement because:

SHL maintains excellent standards in many areas and has delivered improvements where required to raise standards in service delivery;

clear plans drive corporate objectives;

performance management is effective;

there is highly effective leadership;

costs are fully understood, value for money is evidenced and benchmarking identifies areas for improvement;

long term financial plans are robust; and

IT and human resource arrangements are fit for purpose.

14 However, there are a number of barriers to improvement. These include:

outcomes for tenants from delivered strategies are not always assessed and understood; and

the partnership agreement setting out how tenants can be involved in the activities of SHL is out of date.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

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Recommendations

Recommendations 15 To rise to the challenge of continuous improvement, organisations need inspection

reports that offer practical pointers for improvement. Our recommendations identify the expected benefits for both local people and the organisation. In addition, we identify the approximate costs I and indicate the priority we place on each recommendation and key dates for delivering these where they are considered appropriate. In this context, the inspection team recommends that the organisation shares the findings of this report with the ALMO Board, the local authority and customers; and takes action to address all weaknesses identified in the report. The inspection team makes the following recommendations. Recommendation R1 Improve access to services and customer care by: • monitoring telephone answering for repairs against the publicised service standard; • providing clearer information to customers on how and when services can be accessed and further tailoring services to tenants expressed needs; • explaining in language straplines on leaflets what the information is about; • more robustly assessing and reporting outcomes of equality impact assessments and agreeing targets to ensure the workforce is representative of the community; • assessing the viability of offering more flexible and shorter repairs appointment slots and asking tenants whether repairs were completed in one visit; • clarifying standards for reletting empty properties and involving tenants in assessing whether these are met; • ordering aids and adaptations identified by property improvement programmes on the tenant's behalf; and • making it easier to report incidents of antisocial behaviour by phone during the day and giving alleged perpetrators opportunity to respond to allegations before requesting they improve their behaviour. The expected benefits of this recommendation are: •

tenants and other customers receive services in ways which meet their needs;

tenants and other customers know how to access services and are clear that standards should be met; and

services are inclusive for all.

The implementation of this recommendation will have high impact with medium costs. This should be implemented by December 2010. I

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Low cost is defined as less than 1 per cent of the annual service cost, medium cost is between 1 and 5 per cent and high cost is over 5 per cent.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


Recommendations

Recommendation R2 Improve resident involvement by: • updating the partnership agreement to reflect how tenants, leaseholders and other customers have said they want to be involved in the activities of SHL; • ensuring that tenant and resident groups making decisions on behalf of others are representative; and • engaging better with leaseholders and taking action to address areas where they report low satisfaction. The expected benefits of this recommendation are: •

tenants have a say in SHL activities in ways which meet their needs; and

tenants and leaseholders influence services in democratic ways which are well understood.

The implementation of this recommendation will have high impact with low costs. This should be implemented December 2010. Recommendation R3 Improve performance monitoring by: • calculating and reporting the time taken to complete aids and adaptations from the time requests are received to works being completed; • assessing and reporting outcomes for tenants when strategies and action plans are delivered; and • assessing staff satisfaction with working for SHL and taking action to address any concerns. The expected benefits of this recommendation are: •

performance and its impact on tenants and the local community is understood; and

staff feedback informs initiatives to retain staff.

The implementation of this recommendation will have high impact with low costs. This should be implemented by December 2010. 16 We would like to thank the staff of Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council who made

us welcome and who met our requests efficiently and courteously. 17 Dates of inspection: 8 to 19 February 2010

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 10


Report

Report Context The locality 18 Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC) is one of the ten metropolitan districts

of Greater Manchester. Around 280,000 people live in Stockport and this is not changing overall, though numbers of older people are rising. There is a small minority ethnic population. The area is partly urban and partly rural with high levels of green and open space which many residents value. 19 Much of Stockport is fairly wealthy and a desirable place to live, but there are pockets

of significant poverty in Brinnington, Adswood and Bridgehall, Lancashire Hill, Heaton Norris and the town centre. There are inequalities in issues such as health, employment, educational achievement and skills. The Council 20 The Borough of Stockport is made up of 21 wards with three Councillors representing

each ward. The Liberal Democrat group is in overall charge of the Council. The 63 elected Councillors comprise of 37 Liberal Democrats, 12 Labour, 9 Conservative, three Independent Ratepayers and two Independents or other. I The Stockport Partnership brings together representatives from the voluntary, community, public and business sectors to work together to improve the quality of life in Stockport. 21 In its Comprehensive Area Assessment report in December 2009, the Audit

Commission said that, overall, SMBC performs well. This is in terms of both managing performance and in its use of resources. The service 22 The Council established an Arm's Length Management Organisation (ALMO) called

Stockport Homes Limited (SHL) on 1 October 2005. The ALMO has delegated responsibility for providing housing management and maintenance services to 11,591 tenanted properties (sheltered and general needs) and 323 leasehold properties, II and homelessness and housing advice, receiving a management fee for this service. III

23 The stock is predominantly of traditional construction , with a large proportion of flats

and maisonettes (45 per cent) including 22 high rise blocks. SHL also maintains all Housing Revenue Account land and other buildings, including 1,370 garages and 71 shops. SHL manages the Council’s 2009/10 £10.6 million budget for repairs and £34.5 million budget for the capital programme. It employs 394 staff to deliver the service.

I II III

As at 5 February 2010. As at November 2009. 894 properties are non-traditional stock.

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


Report

24 The ALMO board consists of four Councillors, four Independents and five tenants. 25 In August 2006, the Audit Commission reported that SHL provided an excellent,

three-star service, with excellent prospects for improvement. That assessment enabled the Council to receive additional Supported Borrowing of ÂŁ104 million to bring its homes up to the Government's Decent Homes Standard.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 12


How good is the service?

How good is the service? What has the service aimed to achieve? 26 SMBC's priorities were agreed with residents in late 2006.

An Attractive and Thriving Stockport −

Cleaner Stockport

Creating higher quality roads and pavements

Regenerating and investing throughout Stockport

Decent quality housing

A Leading 'Green' Borough −

Limiting Stockport's impact on the environment

Reducing the environmental impact of traffic

Protecting greenspace

Safe and Strong Communities −

Reducing crime and antisocial behaviour

Increasing public involvement in local democracy

Improving life chances for all, especially for disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

27 In delivering these priorities the Council aims to:

be a responsive council - listening to what local people say;

support vulnerable people - those who are most disadvantaged;

tackle inequalities - Stockport is a borough of stark contrasts in terms of deprivation and wealth and health inequalities in particular;

ensure value for money - making the most effective and efficient use of all resources including people, property, information technology and management; and

work with partners - to achieve more than SHL can working alone.

28 Stockport Homes' mission is:

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to deliver a customer-driven service, providing quality homes where people want to live.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

29 It encapsulates its culture and values through ‘SMILE’ (Support; Motivated; Innovate;

Learn; Enjoy) and ‘PRIDE’ (Performance Oriented; Risk Taking; Influential; Developing; Efficient). Its aims are as follows. •

To provide an inclusive service, which values its diverse communities, empowers its staff and makes effective use of its resources.

To ensure that all homes meet the Decent Homes Standard by 2010 and are then maintained to that standard as a minimum.

To deliver high quality housing services that continue to improve and meet customers' needs and aspirations.

To deliver consistent, clear and well-publicised services to tenants and leaseholders which proactively seek to improve estates in partnership with customers.

To provide appropriate accommodation (temporary and permanent) and support for the most vulnerable and socially excluded.

To make a real contribution to the Council's wider strategic and housing objectives. Helping to build social inclusion and safer sustainable neighbourhoods.

Is the service meeting the needs of the local community and users? Access and customer care 30 The previous inspection found SHL had made very good progress in developing

access arrangements and there were significantly more strengths than weaknesses in this area. Strong leadership and customer focused staff were delivering improved services and SHL provided easy to access, responsive services. Satisfaction levels were systematically measured and SHL had developed a clear branding for itself. 31 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. Service standards

are agreed and reviewed with tenants and commitments are being met. Tenants and other customers can access services in a range of convenient ways and services are planned to effectively meet demand. Enquiries are dealt with quickly and SHL is reducing avoidable contacts by tenants. Publicity is influenced by tenants who report high satisfaction with the service and management of customer complaints is strong. Weaknesses include insufficient monitoring of phone answering at the repairs call centre and ineffective publicity on how to access services and request leaflets to be translated into other languages. 32 SHL is customer focused. Comprehensive service standards have been agreed with

tenants and are regularly monitored. Performance is high with over 99 per cent of the 111 standards consistently delivered. Standards are publicised so tenants know levels of service they should expect and can challenge SHL if these are not met. Staff and partners delivering services on SHL’s behalf I receive regular customer care training, some of which is accredited.

I

Such as Council reception points and maintenance operatives.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 14


How good is the service?

33 Tenants and other customers can easily access services through public reception

points conveniently located near SHL homes and in the town centre. These are welcoming modern facilities and offer a range of services including housing benefit and council tax, welfare rights and pest control. Touch screen kiosks allow access to SHL’s website, the choice-based lettings scheme and information on education, training and employment. Tenants can also access services through freephones in libraries, all Council buildings with public access points and a complex of high rise flats. Services are taken out to tenants through estate based surgeries and home visits and operatives have a range of information to promote other services while carrying out repairs. SHL has piloted evening and weekend opening hours but found insufficient demand to make this viable. Customers can access services outside office hours through text messaging and the Internet. The out of hours' service provides a professional response to crisis situations. SHL is delivering services in ways which meet the needs of tenants and other customers. 34 Performance for answering phone calls is mixed. The repairs call centre answers

76 per cent of calls within 20 seconds, which is below the target of 80 per cent but much better than the 62 per cent found in the last inspection. The average waiting time has halved from 44 to 22 seconds and abandoned calls are relatively low at 6 per cent, although slightly above best practice I . Performance is strong for calls direct to SHL, with 95 per cent answered within 15 seconds. Most tenants can access services over the phone but some have to wait too long for an answer. 35 SHL understands demand for services and uses this to improve access and deliver

services more efficiently. Analysis of reception use informs staffing levels throughout the day and training needs for high demand services. SHL is able to offer services that meet tenant needs. SHL also improves service delivery by reducing avoidable contacts from tenants and other customers. II Enquiries are assessed quarterly to find out whether contacts were necessary. Outcomes include tenants being told of repairs on hold waiting for materials and automated bidding for properties on the housing waiting list. Services are being delivered more efficiently. 36 Tenants extensively influence written publicity, which is a high standard. Tenants

evaluate material from home through the customer reading group and an editorial panel approves newsletter content. Tenant newsletters have interesting articles and an engaging layout. Content is extensive resulting in high readership levels, 88 per cent III . The tenants’ handbook and a comprehensive suite of leaflets give easy to understand guidance on relevant issues such as tenancy conditions and available services. Tenant involvement ensures information is relevant and interesting. Tenants are reassured of their influence when they see the ‘customer approved jargon free’ branding.

I II

III

Five per cent. This is currently for repairs and allocations and lettings but there are plans to extend monitoring to other services. Level of avoidable contacts for repairs is 23 per cent and allocations is 31 per cent - latter does not yet reflect impact of automated bidding. STATUS 2008

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

37 SHL’s website contains clear information, including standards in service delivery. It is

easy to navigate and its design is influenced by tenants. SHL monitors the most popular information to inform further development. Interactive features include repair reporting, bidding for available homes and access to the tenants' rent account. Customers can discuss issues through an interactive forum used by SHL to populate surveys. The website enables tenants to access information and services at any time. 38 SHL understands tenant satisfaction with services, which is canvassed in a range of

ways with high response rates. Postal and phone surveys are used for most services and text message surveys are popular with younger tenants and people with limited time or no fixed address. Tenant representatives carry out face to face surveys of customers using public reception points. This has resulted in better signage and more prominent information on the availability of private interview rooms and interpretation. Tenant feedback is also used to monitor that services delivered externally comply with contract conditions. 39 Tenants report high levels of satisfaction for access and customer care. Satisfaction

with face to face enquiries at public reception points show steady improvement, increasing from 91 per cent for enquiries being dealt with right first time during 2007/08 to an average of 98 per cent in 2008/09 and 100 per cent at the time of inspection. Satisfaction with how enquiries were dealt with through the repairs contact centre is 96 per cent. Tenants are more satisfied than they were in 2008 when satisfaction with final outcomes was low at 67 per cent. Various interim surveys assess whether improvements put in place are proving to be effective by increasing satisfaction levels. 40 SHL has contingency arrangements to prevent service delivery being disrupted in

unforeseen circumstances, such as the recent severe weather I . SHL remained open for most services, with a slight reduction on one day. Staff delivering sheltered accommodation services were fully available and resettlement staff contacted all customers and tenants receiving regular tenancy support to assess that needs were being met. Partners were informed that temporary accommodation was available for people who were potentially homeless or rough sleeping. The call centre has staff experienced in advising on adult social care and this helped assist vulnerable tenants as required. SHL ensures tenants get the services they need at all times. 41 Services are accessible for people with disabilities and/or do not speak English as a

first language. All written information is relatively easy to read, being in a large text size, and its availability in a number of formats, such large print, CD/audiotape and Braille also ensures access for people with visual impairment. Straplines on leaflets in common languages for the area publicise interpretation. The website converts pages into audio or text only, large print formats and different colours for people who are visually impaired. It also translates into 50 languages for people who don’t read English. The call centre has information on tenant needs, such as interpretation, so repairs can be carried out in ways which meet tenant preferences. Customer care kits assist people with visual impairment to read literature using magnifying glasses and adapted pens assist people with poor dexterity.

I

December 2009-January 2010

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 16


How good is the service?

42 Staff and contractors have guidance on dealing with tenants and other customers who

have different service needs due to language, culture and/or disability. The guide promotes resources available to meet these needs and tips on how to behave appropriately. Contractors have a tailored version which includes explanations of alert codes for language and vulnerability needs and language straplines for tenants who do not speak English to communicate their interpretation needs. Contractors are able to identify the service needs of tenants. 43 SHL is a strong performer for managing customer complaints. Most complaints are

responded to within nine working days, better than the ten day target, and tenant satisfaction for how well complaints are dealt with is high at 97 per cent I . Areas for improvement are identified from this valuable tenant feedback and regularly reported in the tenants’ newsletter to raise awareness that complaints are invited and taken seriously. Tenants are involved in appeal panels to ensure complaints are considered from a tenant perspective. 44 There are some weaknesses with access and customer care.

Although SHL has changed its phone numbers from national to local rates to reduce costs for tenants accessing services using with mobile phones, these customers still pay more than those using a landline. Charging may prevent some tenants from contacting SHL.

SHL does not monitor its service standard of answering 80 per cent of phone calls within 15 seconds for calls taken by the repairs call centre. SHL does not know if it is meeting service commitments made to tenants.

Tenants may not know how to access services. Information on the location of offices and the opening times of these and the repairs call centre are not effectively publicised.

Translation straplines on leaflets in common languages do not explain the subject of the information. Tenants and other customers will not know if it is something they are interested in to make requests.

The option to order repairs online is not fully effective. Tenants identify repairs using a diagnostic tool, but can not book appointments. SHL still has to make contact to confirm access.

Diversity 45 The previous inspection found the ALMO was effectively addressing diversity issues

and there were significantly more strengths than weaknesses in this area. Stockport Homes had put in place appropriate policies, recruited a specialist officer to drive forward this area of work and was profiling its customer base. Partnership working was strong and staff and Board members understood the issues relating to diversity. Performance on diversity was monitored and reported. There was a customer driven service improvement plan in place and ethnicity data collected across services formed part of monthly performance monitoring reports. There was a very real commitment to ensuring services were equitable and accessible to all customers.

I

September 2009

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

46 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. The strategic

approach is robust and there is a thorough approach to developing inclusive services. Well trained staff use tenant profile information to deliver services that meet the needs of individual tenants and there is a focus on inclusion including tenancy support. Offices and accommodation with communal areas are fully accessible for people with disabilities and local communities are being supported to be cohesive, including through initiatives to address worklessness. SHL effectively deals with domestic abuse and hate crime, but information on available support is weak. Other weaknesses include gaps in profile information and limited outcomes from equality impact assessments. SHL does not have any targets to ensure staff are representative of the community they serve. 47 SHL is progressing against criteria for fair and equal treatment in local government

services and employment. It achieved level 2 I of the Local Government Equality Standard in May 2008 (externally validated) and expects to reach the 'achieving' II level of the new Equality Framework for Local Government III by October 2010. SHL is involved in national consultation with other ALMOs in the region to develop a new Social Housing Equality Framework which gives a stronger focus on housing issues. 48 The Statutory Code of Practice on Racial Equality in Housing is being met to ensure

racial equality, avoiding unlawful racial discrimination and harassment, promoting equal opportunities for all and encouraging good race relations. A diversity strategy and action plan developed with tenants and partners and referencing all diversity strands IV ensures a robust strategic approach and comprehensive policies are developing inclusive services for diverse communities. There is clear leadership through staff and board diversity champions, coordinated by a specialist staff post. 49 SHL is raising awareness of equality and diversity. All staff including new starters have

training on services available, tenant profiling, legislation, appropriate language to use when dealing with customers and disability awareness. Staff and contractors have had training on how to access the local interpretation service and safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. This recognises and values diversity and assists in the protection of vulnerable people. 50 SHL knows who is using services and takes action to support potentially excluded

tenants. Profiling of customer complaints identified a high proportion of young people complaining about condensation, so an easy guide to prevention was developed and circulated, with articles in the tenants' newsletter. A focus group of Black and Minority Ethnic applicants on the housing waiting list has helped understand barriers to access. There is now better information on widening housing preferences to improve prospects of being made offers.

I II

III IV

Assessment and community engagement. Under the new framework levels 1 and 2 will be treated as ‘developing’, level 3 will be treated as ‘achieving’. Those at level 4 will be classified as ‘moving towards excellence’ and those at level 5 as ‘excellent’. This replaced the equality standard from September 2009. Representing the six strands of diversity: age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 18


How good is the service?

51 SHL uses tenant profiling to deliver services around the needs of tenants. Vulnerable

people and/or tenants who do not speak English fluently are phoned quarterly to identify any services needs such as health and safety issues or repairs. These tenants are made aware of services available and how to access them. SHL uses profiling as an opportunity to promote other services. It referred 155 tenants with complex debt cases to the Citizens Advice Bureau resulting in £108,033 of debt being written off, with an additional £56,488 of welfare benefits claimed. SHL also identified 161 carers and referred them to advice, free training and support available through the Council. Wheelchair users are referred to the aids and adaptation service with six tenants benefiting so far from improvements. SHL also offers training courses for people registering low literacy levels. People are being signposted to services they need. 52 SHL has some understanding of the tenant profile, but performance is mixed for the

various strands when compared to other ALMOs. Gender is understood at 100 per cent and performance is average for age at 93 per cent, ethnicity of 92 per cent and disability of 62 per cent. Data is below average for religion and beliefs at 30 per cent and sexuality at 9 per cent. SHL is proactive at encouraging tenants to participate in profiling. The purpose of profiling and its key role in designing services around the needs of tenants is widely promoted to encourage participation. A prize draw is used to encourage tenants to respond. Profiling enables SHL to design services around tenant preferences. 53 SHL has very strong links with the local interpretation service to support access to

services for customer and tenants who do not speak English as a first language. The service is widely publicised in reception access points and staff receive training on how to use the service. SHL attends training sessions for the accredited interpreters to answer queries and explain the services it provides, particularly the bidding process for empty properties. This helps interpreters accurately provide information to clients. 54 Sheltered schemes, communal areas in flats and public reception points are

accessible for people with disabilities. I A disability advocate evaluates whether premises and parking on estates are fully accessible. This ensures accessibility is assessed by individuals with first hand experience of barriers faced by people with disabilities. 55 SHL has a range of initiatives to meet the specific needs of tenants and the wider

community. These include:

I II

sufficient resources to deliver aids and adaptations quickly to help people with disabilities to remain in their homes;

new developments include adapted bungalows to increase capacity to meet the housing needs of tenants who need extensive aids and adaptations to live independently; II

a gardening service which helped 196 older people and/or people with disabilities to maintain their home in 2009/10;

In compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Outcomes are outlined in the aids and adaptations section of this report

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

accommodating and supporting 128 asylum seeker households whilst they await a decision on their asylum claim and helping 43 Black and Minority Ethnic households to access tenancy support, education and religious and cultural referral points between 2008 and 2010;

a home alarm and mobile warden service to support vulnerable people living in housing association and private sector homes; I

a resettlement service supporting vulnerable tenants to live independently and sustain their tenancies; II

annually housing six service users with learning disabilities, with tenancy support and care packages delivered through relevant partners;

supporting 47 offenders to access training and work experience to aid resettlement between 2008 and 2010;

extensive work with school children to raise awareness of housing issues is highly valued by schools, with young people supported to make a positive contribution to their community; and

working with an advocate for older people to deliver financial inclusion work.

56 SHL is supporting local communities to address worklessness through a range of

training and employment schemes. This includes government schemes to develop employment programmes for the long-term unemployed, those lacking basic skills, young offenders and individuals that other agencies may find hard to support. This has already resulted in eight people accessing employment, training or voluntary work. SHL also provides placements for three secondary school children excluded from school to gain work experience. Training and employment aids social inclusion. 57 SHL profiles its workforce and generally employees represent a diverse workforce,

although SHL accepts it needs to do more work to encourage employees to declare disabilities, which is low at 2.7 per cent. There is an even split between men and women, including at senior management level. At 7.7 per cent the level of Black and Minority Ethnic employees is slightly higher than the locality, however there is underrepresentation at senior management level. A representative workforce is more likely to understand and be responsive to the needs of the area. 58 SHL effectively deals with domestic abuse. The tenant handbook makes it clear that

domestic abuse is a breach of tenancy conditions and will not be tolerated. This acts as a deterrent to perpetrators and reassures victims that complaints will be taken seriously. A third sector partner supporting women experiencing domestic abuse trains frontline staff on awareness and available support and staff have a sound understanding of domestic abuse and the referral system. A sanctuary service provides free outreach support and target hardening to help victims preferring to remain in their homes. SHL participates in the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) to help women and their families access local services and move on to permanent housing or safely stay put in their existing home.

I II

Outcomes are outlined in the supported housing section of this report Outcomes are outlined in the supported housing section of this report

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 20


How good is the service?

59 The homelessness and housing advice service works with the local women's' refuge to

provide safe and appropriate housing solutions. There is a flexible approach to helping women from hard to reach communities, such as Gypsies and Travellers, by not being strict on paperwork, such as identification being in order, while enquires are being made. A high proportion of women at the refuge, 40 per cent, are from Black and Minority Ethnic communities. Specific need is met through interpretation and sensitive lettings. People experiencing domestic abuse are fully supported to make allegations and seek safe solutions. 60 Arrangements to deal with hate crime and racial harassment are effective. SHL

operates as a hate crime reporting centre and cases of hate crime are reviewed quarterly involving the diversity officer to ensure appropriate action is being taken. SHL contacted all Black and Minority Ethnic tenants stating in surveys that racial harassment was an issue to get further details and offer to progress cases. SHL is involved in the Stockport Against Racism partnership, led by the Council, which monitors hate crime incidents to inform intervention work. It has also publicised types of hate crime to raise awareness. SHL participates in a forum bringing public, voluntary and community sectors together with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. This has improved monitoring of crime related to sexuality and helped to improve understanding of the concerns of people from LGBT groups. 61 There are some weaknesses with diversity.

•

The tenants' handbook does not sufficiently explain domestic abuse and hate crime including support available to encourage reporting, nor does it give service commitments for responding to incidents.

•

SHL does not ask tenants to specify their religion on the tenant profiling form if this is not included in the options provided, or give opportunity for tenants to identify their own special requirements. Tenants are also not asked their preferred method of communication so that SHL can be sure it is delivering services in ways which meet tenant preferences. There is no opportunity to register specific requirements of other household members, such as people with disabilities who may benefit from adaptations.

•

Although equality impact assessments are taking place to ensure plans and activities are inclusive for the local community outcomes, such as improvements identified and adopted to ensure inclusion for all, are limited.

Stock investment and asset management Capital improvements, planned and cyclical maintenance, major works 62 The previous inspection found SHL was on target to deliver decent homes by 2010,

based on sound stock condition data and effective planning. Effective partnership working was in place, alongside robust performance systems. Customer satisfaction with improvement work was very good.

21

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

63 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. All tenants will live

in decent homes within the government deadline and tenants influence property improvements. SHL has a sound understanding of investment needs to deliver and sustain decency levels and environmental improvements make estates safer and more attractive places live. Homes are improved to a high standard and tenants are very satisfied with completed works. Asbestos is managed effectively and SHL is tackling climate change and fuel poverty. There are few weaknesses for the service. Respite from the disruption caused by decent homes works is not effectively publicised and some tenants report concerns with the duration and untidiness of works. 64 SHL effectively manages assets. A comprehensive five year asset management

strategy profiles stock and considers the viability for all assets which SHL makes best use of. Non-viable stock such as some sheltered accommodation has been decommissioned, with the land successfully used for new developments to better meet the housing need of local people. Some garage sites have been cleared and redeveloped. Remaining sites are sufficient to meet demand and are maintained so they do not adversely affect the appearance of estates. SHL manages assets in the context of other investment in the area with links to other plans such as the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy. 65 SHL is improving homes to decent standards. The level of decent homes has

increased from 63 per cent found at the last inspection to 92 per cent currently. Improvements are ahead of schedule and all tenants will live in decent homes by July 2010, within the Government deadline. The previous inspection found the improvement programme was competitively tendered in compliance with European Union procurement regulations to test value for money. Tenants influenced procurement decisions and continue to monitor service commitments to ensure agreed standards are met. 66 SHL has a sound understanding of the housing stock with extensive stock condition

surveys covering 100 per cent of external areas and 76 per cent internal areas. Regular independent surveys confirm investment needs and compliance with the decent homes standard. A stock condition survey is carried out for completed property improvements to validate component replacements, such as kitchens and heating appliances. Surveys consider compliance with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) I and potential risks to occupants are dealt with immediately through responsive repairs. 67 Stock condition data is managed effectively to plan property improvements. A

database records the installation dates and life expectancy of components, allowing compliance with decency standards to be easily calculated. Failing components are incorporated into a 30-year improvement programme, with a schedule of rates calculating cost implications. This gives a sound understanding of investment needs to sustain decency levels in the long term.

I

A new health and safety risk assessment tool which looks at the likelihood of an incident arising from the condition of the property and the likely harmful outcome.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 22


How good is the service?

68 SHL is improving tenant homes to a high standard with a decent homes plus standard

consistently delivered. This includes higher specification component replacements and additional works prioritised by tenants such as showers, extensive floor and wall tiling, a choice of gas or electric fire and decoration of kitchens and bathrooms. Tenants have a wide range of choices, reflecting modern standards and tastes and are invited to choose their preferences from displays at a location close to their home. Decent homes works are completed within reasonable timescales, on average within 15 working days, an improvement on the target of 20 working days. SHL post-inspects all completed improvements to evaluate quality and compliance with the specification to assess value for money. Tenants live in good quality homes which meet their needs and expectations. 69 Tenants are well informed about the decent homes programme. A leaflet on the

current programme includes types of work, contractors used and locations affected. Tenants receive a handbook to confirm the various stages of the improvements, including a timetable for works specifically for their home. Tenants have regular contact with liaison officers to fully understand what is involved, with a rapid response to any issues arising. Tenants are fully engaged in the programme and know what to expect. A DVD guides tenants through the potential disruption caused by works and tenants involved give a clear message that the end product is worth it. This will improve take up of works. 70 SHL has a good understanding of tenant satisfaction. Post boxes in communal areas

have increased the return rate for surveys from 25 to 62 per cent. Tenants report high satisfaction with the quality of improvement works, 95.2 per cent. I Improvements made in response to tenant feedback include introducing scratch resistant flooring, wall papering some damaged areas and better communication. Tenants influence future improvement programmes. 71 Environmental improvements are making neighbourhoods safer and more attractive

places to live. So far the £5.2 million investment in environmental improvements has delivered 72 projects ranging from hard and soft landscaping, to new and improved car parking, lighting, fencing and children’s play facilities. Communities influence the design of projects to ensure they meet local priorities. Tenants report improvements have had a positive impact on their estate with most, 93 per cent, rating their area as good - an increase on the 83 per cent achieved in 2006/07. 72 SHL has effective arrangements to understand and manage the presence of asbestos

in the housing stock and there were no notifiable incidents in the last 12 months. Asbestos surveys have been completed for all communal areas and sheltered schemes and 30 per cent of individual homes. An independent stock condition report highlights a positive and thorough approach to asbestos.

I

High return of 62 per cent.

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

73 Contractors are informed about the presence of asbestos to highlight any risks to

tenants and operatives when they carry out works. The housing management system and the asbestos database link to allow responsive repairs operatives to get information on asbestos with work orders. Staff have relevant training to help them to understand the risks and raise awareness when dealing with tenants. Tenants have been given well written leaflets about the likely forms of asbestos in the home and the potential risks. Individual tenants are written to if surveys indicate asbestos is present in their home. Tenants know the location and potential risks, and have advice on how to remain safe by not disturbing the asbestos. 74 SHL shows a strong commitment to tacking climate change and is in the top

10 per cent of ALMOs for average SAP I rating of the housing stock, improving from 69.7 in 2006/07 to 78 in 2008/09. A range of initiatives are underway to reduce water and energy consumption, reduce carbon emissions, raise awareness of climate change and address fuel poverty. Over cladding has reduced heat loss by 25 per cent for high rise flats and between 32 to 45 per cent for non-traditional homes. SHL calculates this has cut heating bills by 28 per cent on average amounting to £216 annually in non-traditional homes. ‘A’ rated condensing boiler installations are reducing bills by around £235 a year. SHL has also accessed £760,000 of energy efficiency funding to install loft and cavity wall insulation. Works are valued by tenants who have warmer homes and lower energy bills. SHL is installing microgrids on high rise blocks to generate renewable energy into the national grid in return for payment. It has also invested in smart meters to understand electricity usage in communal area so it can plan when this is needed. These will benefit tenants through service charge reductions. 75 SHL raises tenant awareness of energy efficiency through training courses,

promotional stands at community events and visiting tenants identified as being particularly vulnerable to fuel poverty. Visits give practical advice on how to reduce energy bills specifically in the tenant’s own homes, including when and how to use appliances and making use of free energy saving devices such as light bulbs, TV PowerDowns and thermometer cards, which SHL makes widely available. SHL is helping tenants to reduce their energy bills to reduce fuel poverty. 76 There are servicing contracts in place to carry out cyclical and planned maintenance

as appropriate. This includes stairlift servicing, fire alarm servicing and Legionella and water checks. Programmes are in place to paint external areas every five years and communal areas every ten years to maintain standards which meet tenant expectations. 77 There are a few weaknesses for this service.

I

Although SHL offers full or part time respite from the disruption caused by decent homes works, this is not publicised. Vulnerable people may not know they can be supported during improvements. Vulnerable people may be put off from having improvements due to concerns about noise and disturbance.

Although most tenants are very satisfied with the quality of improvements, some report concerns with the duration of works and untidiness during and after works.

The Government's Standard Assessment Procedure for Energy Rating of Dwellings

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 24


How good is the service?

Responsive repairs 78 The previous inspection found the ALMO had worked hard to deliver improvements in

the responsive repairs service and overall the performance had improved with repairs being completed more quickly and to higher standards. 79 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. There are high

levels of tenant satisfaction and most repairs are completed promptly through appointments agreed with tenants. Value for money is improving through a range of initiatives and the service is low cost. However, appointment slots do not offer much flexibility for tenants to have the service delivered around other commitments and tenants are not asked to confirm whether repairs were completed in one visit. 80 Most repairs are completed on time, 96 per cent for emergency and urgent repairs,

and the average time to complete non urgent repairs is reasonable at 11 days. I SHL accurately monitors that repairs are completed in line with publicised commitments, including time taken to carry out pre inspections. Tenant satisfaction with the way their landlord deals with repairs and maintenance at 83 per cent places II SHL in the top 10 per cent of ALMOs. Tenant satisfaction with individual repairs is relatively high and sustained at 95 per cent since 2007. 81 Most operatives (75 per cent) are multi-skilled through accredited training. This

improves the likelihood of repairs being completed in one visit to required standards. SHL monitors orders needing additional works, 31 per cent, and makes improvements to the schedule of rates so more repairs are ordered right first time. Operatives can carry out new repairs up to the value for ÂŁ75 to avoid follow up visits. This is convenient for the tenant and unproductive time to agree additional works is reducing. 82 Tenants have clear information on how to access the service and know the standards

for delivery. A repairs handbook and online diagnostic software assist tenants and staff to accurately diagnose and report repairs. Most repairs are appointed giving tenants clear commitments for delivery arrangements. Tenants are reassured in a letter that repairs have been ordered with appointments made. Automated texts remind of appointments the night before a repair is due and after the previous job has been completed to improve the likelihood of access. This prevents costs being incurred through repeat visits. 83 The out of hours service is clearly publicised and managed through SHL's concierge

service, enabling follow up works to be promptly ordered and allocated to the contractor. All staff will know the status of works should the tenant make contact. A hotline phone number for sheltered housing schemes ensures enquiries from more vulnerable tenants are prioritised at other times.

I

II

This takes into account that most responsive repairs are completed as routine. This is best practice since although they take longer than emergencies and urgent repairs they are also lower cost. The average number of days to complete repairs will be higher than organisations with more emergency and urgent repairs than is recommended by the Audit Commission, 30 per cent. Using the nationally recognised STATUS survey in 2008

25

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

I

84 SHL complies with best practice for levels of pre and post inspections. Minimising pre

inspections ensures works are ordered as soon as possible and post inspections across a mixture of trades and order values assess the quality of work. SHL reports the level of orders which failed required standards, which is low at 4.5 per cent, so that performance is understood. 85 SHL has some of the lowest costs for delivering responsive repairs nationally. Costs

have reduced from £88 to £79 II in the current year. This reflects the reduction in repairs needed following decent homes works, batching of works to attract discounts to reduce costs by £52,000 and improving ways of working, such as increasing the productivity of operatives following the recent tendering of the service. The responsive repairs system includes information on warranties for component replacement. Faults are referred to the contractor to resolve at no extra cost to SHL. SHL is performing well for levels of emergency and routine repairs combined, which is below the 30 per cent recommended as best practice. Most repairs are being done in a planned way to reduce costs and deliver value for money. The responsive repairs budget is appropriate and effectively managed. 86 Tenants influence the service being involved in procurement decisions and monitoring

performance, particularly tenant feedback and learning points to improve the service. This has influenced service standards and changed the code of conduct to make sure operatives get permission before going into different areas of tenant homes. The service is delivered in ways which meet tenant expectations. 87 There are some weaknesses with responsive repairs.

Appointment slots for repairs are not extensive. Although some, such as ‘avoid school run’ and ‘first appointment of the day’ offer flexibility around other commitments, the morning and afternoon slots are long III , and evening and weekend appointments are not offered or effectively publicised. Tenants may have to allow access at inconvenient times and for much longer than is necessary to complete repairs.

SHL reports strong performance for completing repairs in one visit at 98.2 per cent, however this does not take account of tenant feedback, being solely based on contractor reporting. This is a key indicator of whether the service was delivered promptly and conveniently from a tenant perspective.

Empty (void) property management 88 The previous inspection found properties were repaired according to the lettable

standard and there were clear targets in place to drive improvement. Overall this was an area with more strengths than weaknesses.

I II III

10 per cent £80 is the lowest average cost for responsive repairs for the top 25 per cent of ALMOS Four to five hours

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 26


How good is the service?

89 This inspection found strengths significantly outweighed weaknesses. Empty

properties are let quickly and to a high standard. Costs incurred are reducing and below average for ALMOs. Tenant satisfaction with new homes is high and tenants are assisted to improve their homes. There are incentives to encourage tenants to leave properties in good condition to minimise relet works. Weaknesses were found with the lettable standard. Standards for some areas are unclear and tenant involvement in assessing delivery is not embedded. 90 SHL lets empty properties quickly and is one of the best performing ALMOs. The

average time to relet properties has consistently improved, from 40 days in 2005/06 to 24 days in 2008/09 and 21 days at the time of inspection. I Improvements include a concise timetable for essential works and suited locks to give contractors access without the need to collect keys. II Prospective tenants can view properties during relet works to reduce relet times. Weekly meetings between maintenance and lettings staff scrutinise performance and an integrated IT system allows close monitoring of progress with each relet. Effective working practices let empty homes quickly to people who need them. 91 A lettable standard has been agreed with tenants. It is comprehensive but a few

descriptions are vague III , making the exact standard open to personal interpretation. Tenant representatives have assessed delivery of the lettable standard, but this is not done regularly to ensure tenants have a strong role in assessing the service. Tenants receive the schedule of works carried out in their new home to help them assess whether the property is in the condition it should be. Empty properties we visited were of a high standard and new tenants report satisfaction with their new home, 99 per cent. All homes contain a welcome pack including products to make a drink, energy savings light bulbs and an invitation to use the handy person service. New tenants confirm they find these useful while moving in. 92 Negative tenant feedback is investigated and used to improve the service. This

includes introducing a wallet-sized contact card with phone numbers tenants may need, completing direct debit and housing benefit forms with the tenant at sign ups and making a phone call to all new tenants one week after tenancies commence to discuss any moving-in issues. Such improvements ensure the service is customer focused. 93 Several initiatives enable tenants to improve properties. Decoration allowances are

readily available from a range of conveniently located suppliers and DIY courses are provided for those wishing to carry out minor home improvements. The free handyperson service helps new tenants with small jobs they find difficult, such as fitting shelves or curtain rails, and decorates the homes of vulnerable tenants. Tenants are supported to make a home which reflects their own tastes.

I

II III

Properties could be let quicker but SHL takes time to ensure the property is affordable to the applicant and to ensure security addresses are not publicised in choice-based lettings preventing tenants from making an immediate decision as to whether if it is suitable to their needs. Locks are changed before letting to ensure security. Such as 'satisfactory condition'.

27

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

94 The average relet cost is lower than average for ALMOs and at £1,650, costs have

reduced by 25 per cent (£560) since 2007. Efficiencies have been made through retendering the maintenance contract and completing non-essential works when tenanted. Cleaning charges are reducing but are still high. A range of initiatives encourage tenants to leave properties in good condition, including an incentive scheme and a tough stance on pursuing rechargeable costs. These show some success with recharges for empty properties reducing by 17 per cent (£22,244), between 2008/09 and 2009/10. Tenants are incentivised to leave properties in good condition to minimise the extent and cost of relet works. Gas safety 95 The previous inspection found effective procedures and clear management

arrangements in place and performance was good. There were more strengths than weaknesses. 96 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. SHL complies with

gas safety regulations, confirmed through quality assurance checks. It gains access to homes quickly and other types of appliances are checked. SHL works extensively to improve safety through the early detection of fire. Costs are reducing and recent procurement decisions have delivered significant savings while sustaining high levels of tenant satisfaction. 97 SHL complies with gas safety regulations with 100 per cent of properties requiring gas

servicing having a valid certificate. Performance is sustained throughout the period of the programme. Whether safety checks were carried out on time, on or before their anniversaries, is effectively monitored with only seven properties overdue since the current programme started in August 2009. Quality assurance checks of 23.5 per cent of properties ensure safety checks comply with regulations. This includes 12.5 per cent carried out independently or by the agent managing the programme on SHL’s behalf. Findings are scrutinised with reports to the relevant subcommittee and there have not been any significant areas identified for improvement. 98 A robust access procedure gives clear timescales, types of contacts and requirements

for legal action. Gas safety and recent changes like the gas safety register are promoted in the tenants’ newsletter. Letters to tenants emphasise the requirement to allow access and give options to contact a freephone number to arrange a convenient time, including outside of office hours. This will encourage tenants to allow access. Some 34 per cent of tenants allow access at the first cold call with 84 per cent allowing access before the first no access letter is issued. SHL only has to intensively manage a relatively small number of homes to ensure access, demonstrating an efficient approach. Tenant satisfaction is high at 97.6 per cent for 2008/09. 99 SHL takes action to ensure tenants cannot operate gas appliances which do not have

a valid safety check certificate. It installs devices in all empty properties which switch off the gas supply when certificates expire. Tenants receive clear information on how to operate the device and have three opportunities to reset the switch before the supply is cut off. Tenants will have had plenty of opportunity to arrange access before this happens I . SHL ensures tenants can only use safe gas appliances. I

A section 54 notice will have been served.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 28


How good is the service?

100 Arrangements to ensure gas safety are enhanced by other safety checks. All solid fuel

appliances are serviced, smoke alarms are tested and storage heaters are checked annually. All properties have hard wired or ten-year battery alarms and empty properties have hard wired alarms installed. Eleven per cent of homes have carbon monoxide detectors and SHL installs these as part of electric rewire programmes. SHL ensures the safety of tenants using living areas for sleeping. Fires cut off when there is a lack of oxygen in the room and detectors are installed to give early warning of carbon monoxide. This improves the safety of households. 101 SHL has carried out fire risk assessments and implemented recommendations in

sheltered schemes and multi storey flats. These gave advice on fire safety and evacuation, installed key safes with a list of vulnerable tenants for the fire brigade to target assistance, and instructions to remove trip hazards in communal areas. Fire risk assessments of tenanted properties addressed issues identified by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, such as addressing absent fire walls in roof spaces between some properties. 102 The cost of gas safety checks per property is reducing from £114 in 2008/09 to £96

currently. The recent procurement of the service through a consortium has delivered an annual saving of £137,000 for a three-star service on previous arrangements. In addition to cost reductions the new contract includes additional works, such as checking tanks in lofts and immersions. SHL is delivering further efficiencies by managing the programme on a risk basis. Tenants of hard to access properties are being contacted earlier and tenants giving easy access later. This extends the ten month programme to eleven months for most properties, reducing costs and the frequency tenants have to allow access. Aids and adaptations 103 The previous inspection found overall there were more strengths than weaknesses.

The process was well managed, budgets were appropriate and the service was delivering tangible outcomes to customers. However information to customers was not comprehensive and the service was not actively promoted. 104 This inspection found strengths outweigh weaknesses. Resources to provide aids and

adaptations are sufficient to meet demand and installations through property improvements increase capacity. The service is widely publicised to raises awareness amongst tenants who may need assistance. Aids and adaptations are completed within appropriate timescales and tenant satisfaction is high. However, timescales to complete works are not effectively monitored and it may be difficult for tenants to access aids and adaptations under property improvements. 105 Resources to provide aids and adaptations are sufficient to meet demand and there is

no waiting list. The budget has increased by 14 per cent since the last inspection to £700,000 per year. Aids and adaptations are also undertaken as part of decent homes works and an additional £400,000 is set aside from the improvement programme to deliver this. Aids and adaptations are provided to more tenants who need them.

29

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

106 Aids and adaptations are widely publicised in newsletters, the tenants’ handbook and

SHL’s website. This raises awareness amongst tenants who may benefit from such assistance. Staff promote the service at tenant meetings and with external agencies to encourage referrals. Fact sheets given to tenants when works are assessed describe what the adaptation or equipment does I , how it will be installed and how long this takes, waiting time and any other information, such as warranties. These are clear and useful documents that inform tenants what they can expect. 107 SHL knows which properties have aids and adaptations. Stock condition surveys

record aids and adaptations and this is registered on the stock condition database. The data informs annual servicing and replacement programmes and ensures empty adapted properties are marketed to people on the housing waiting list who need them. SHL also reuses stair lifts to meet the needs of additional tenants. 108 Aids and adaptations are completed within appropriate timescales. Minor adaptations,

such as hand rails and door entry systems are ordered without a formal assessment within nine working days, quicker than the ten working day target. This ensures minor needs are met quickly. SHL has a range of reasonable targets for complete major adaptations identified by Occupational Therapists, ranging from five to 70 working days depending on the priority of the applicant and the type of works required. Targets are met in most cases with 86 per cent completed on time. There are high levels of tenant satisfaction with the service at 97 per cent and quarterly monitoring identifies issues and suggests ways of improving the service. 109 There are several weaknesses with the service. SHL does not know how long major

aids or adaptations are taking to complete since timescales to assess requirements and complete works are not collated. Service standards developed in consultation with customers are relatively recent, with little meaningful performance information available to assess whether they are being met. It is also not easy for tenants to access aids and adaptations under property improvements, which place the emphasis on tenants to make requests through self-referrals. Income management 110 The previous inspection found this to be an area of strength. There was effective

management of the arrears process with a wide variety of methods for customers to pay. Performance on arrears recovery was improving and performance targets were in place to support further improvement. 111 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. Tenants receive

clear information about charges and are only charged for services they receive. Charges can be paid in a range of convenient ways and there are incentives to encourage payment. SHL is one of the best performers nationally for rent collection and delivers a range of financial inclusion initiatives. Tenants are supported to manage multiple debts and access welfare benefits and debt advice. The impact of advice and support is understood. Former tenants’ arrears are reducing but collection rates are low.

I

Covering Ceiling Track Hoist, Curved Stair Lift, Straight Stair Lift, Through floor lift, Level Access Shower, Ramp and Wash and Dry

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 30


How good is the service?

112 Tenants receive good information about charges. Letters itemise rent due, court costs,

rechargeable repairs, water rates and different service charges. SHL has a sound understanding of service charges, such as communal cleaning and grounds maintenance and tenants and leaseholders only pay for services they receive. New rent accounts are set up promptly following tenancy sign ups. Tenants can pay rent immediately, encouraging regular and prompt payments. 113 Quarterly rent statements are issued in ways preferred by tenants. This includes phone

calls to read through statements where the tenant does not speak English as a first language, or has low literacy skills. Tenants can also receive statements in large print, by email or online through SHL’s website. Quarterly rent statements are easy to understand. Tenants understand rent they owe and get confirmation payments have been received. I

114 Tenants can pay rent in a range of convenient ways , including outside office opening

hours using local shops and SHL’s online facility. SHL understands the cost of each payment method and has negotiated discounts at some outlets. It promotes direct debit as the cheapest method of payment. It has targeted tenants to increase take up by encouraging standing order and cheque payers to switch and promotion at tenancy sign ups. There is an annual £10 discount for all tenants paying by direct debit and a range of convenient payment dates are available. Take up of direct debit has increased steadily from 6.3 per cent in 2006/07 to 30 per cent in 2009/10, which is on target. This is a reliable way to ensure rent obligations are met on time and reduces the cost of collection. SHL also offers a half yearly cash prize draw for all tenants with a clear rent account as an incentive for tenants to pay rent due. 115 SHL is one of the best performers nationally when compared to other ALMOs for

collection rates and arrears levels. Collection rates are high with 98.3 per cent achieved in 2008/09 and 98.7 per cent at the time of inspection. Arrears levels have reduced from the £906,545 in 2006 to £394,551 to the end of 2009, representing 1.11 per cent of the total rent due. Procedures promote consistency with regular contact with tenants in arrears, including visits and text messaging, and support to access debt and welfare benefits advice. SHL is collecting more rent while assisting tenants in arrears to sustain their tenancies. 116 A range of initiatives demonstrate a strong commitment to ensuring financial inclusion.

Outcomes include:

I

all new tenants have a financial health check at sign up to assess the affordability of their new home and maximise incomes;

advising tenants of the lowest water charging mechanism for their circumstances securing over £12,000 worth of reductions for 128 tenants since September 2009;

successfully lobbying the Council to reduce heating charges by ten per cent;

visiting tenant homes to give tips on reducing heating bills;

encouraging people to set up credit union accounts so they can access the rent deposit scheme, with two set up so far;

Direct Debit, Standing Order, Post Office/Pay Point/Payzone, by telephone, internet and using debit/credit cards

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

providing training to 803 tenants, attending 92 courses, to gain extra skills and access employment;

proactively requiring contractors to provide training and job opportunities to local people, with 21 trainees taken on with a 74 per cent retention rate;

producing a comprehensive toolkit for front line staff and partners to advise people on accessing work and training, with 133 referrals in the last three months to employment, education and training, volunteering and apprenticeships;

participating in benefit take up campaigns targeting all tenants over 60 regarding pension credits and all families regarding child benefit changes; and

funding a debt advice worker at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) to provide independent debt advice exclusively for up to 200 tenants a year.

117 SHL participates in a court users group and challenges courts when there are

unreasonable delays. Cases are currently being heard within seven weeks. SHL minimises legal costs by doing legal work in house including through online possession claims. Evictions for rent arrears are only used as a last resort. SHL gives housing advice to tenants facing eviction after all repayment options have been exhausted. Evictions have fallen significantly from 92 in 2007/08 to 12 in 2008/09. Tenants are helped to retain their home where possible, but otherwise have access to advice on housing options. 118 SHL is signed up to the Council’s corporate debt policy to ensure a consistent

approach to managing debts and overpayments, while ensuring repayments are realistic with benefits maximised. SHL makes referrals for the Council to contact tenants to assess income, expenditure and debts and agree a repayment plan and how payments will be distributed. Tenants are supported to manage multiple debts. 119 Wider debt advice is provided. Staff give in depth advice of benefit entitlement using an

online benefits calculator and are qualified to undertake housing benefit verifications. Online housing benefit claims with scanned supporting evidence enable prompt processing within ten working days. There is provision to fast track 20 priority cases to be completed in a week. Staff have access to the benefits system to track the current position of claims including any outstanding evidence required. Tenants understand how much rent they need to pay while benefits are being assessed so they can make payments. In 2008/09, Discretionary Housing Benefit secured over £20,000 for 37 customers to reduce or pay off arrears. Tenants are supported to maximise welfare benefits. 120 Tenants also have easy access to debt advice. The debt advice worker funded by SHL

at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) assists tenants and leaseholds to maximise incomes and negotiate rent and mortgage repayment arrangements. Outcomes for 2009/10 include £108,000 of non priority debt being written off and £56,488 of additional benefits accessed. Some tenants with water rates arrears are assisted to meet this debt through the utility company’s trust fund. The local credit union values SHL support to market its services and a recent campaign has successfully seen an increase in membership. SHL promotes the benefits of this ethical and affordable savings and lending service as an alterative to door step lenders and loan sharks.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 32


How good is the service?

121 SHL recharges tenants for repairs resulting from misuse or negligence. A clear and

comprehensive rechargeable repairs policy is widely publicised to raise awareness of tenant responsibilities. Tenants understand that damage to property will not be tolerated and that recharges will be made. There is an early settlement discount for rechargeable repairs as an incentive for tenants to pay. There is some success in collecting rechargeable repairs, consistently 23 per cent over the last two years. I 122 Former tenants’ arrears are reducing from £750,515 in 2006/07 to £682,539 in

December 2009, however collection rates are consistently low at 18 per cent. Clear guidelines recommend how to identify uncollectible debt and authorise write offs. Write offs are also reducing from £285,327 in 2006/07 to £257,211 in 2008/09. Use of debt collection agencies are effective with £28,000 collected in 2009/10 on a no win no fee basis. SHL has recently signed up to a search engine tracing facility which is low cost to SHL at £5 per trace. This cross checks tenant details against all the nationally available tracing databases and has been successful in 136 out of 180 cases referred since October 2009. Arrears written off are reinstated if tenants are traced. This gives a clear message that debts will be pursued. Resident involvement 123 The previous inspection found a clear focus and commitment to resident involvement

and this was an area of strength. A consultation structure was in place with a wide range of opportunities for engagement and an effective compact meant priorities for resident involvement and the plan to deliver them were clear. 124 This inspection found strengths outweigh weaknesses. Tenants have extensive

options to have a say about SHL in ways that are accessible and convenient. Tenants are supported to be involved through extensive training and resources are sufficient to deliver and develop involvement initiatives. Engagement with service users in short term services, such as homelessness and resettlement is particularly strong. However, the partnership agreement II is out of date and although tenants are influencing some services, these are often minor rather than major changes. Involved tenants are not always representative of the local community. 125 An extensive menu of involvement offers a range of convenient ways for tenants to be

involved in ways that meet their preferences. Tenants are involved in decision making with a majority representation on the board, making up 5 of the 13 places. III Tenants also meet regularly to assess performance and review ways of working and this has influenced maintenance services, such as the delivery of decent homes improvements including procurement decisions. Tenants assess services through mystery shopping IV and this has led to better information to customers and grounds maintenance working more efficiently. Options for people with limited time are extensive, with phone, postal and text surveys available for most services and this has influenced the estate management contract. Tenants have a strong influence on written information which is relevant, interesting and easy to understand. Involvement ensures services are more likely to meet the needs and expectations of tenants. I II III IV

There is no benchmarking data available nationally to fully gauge performance in this area. SHL's tenant compact. The remaining places being shared equally between independent members and Council representatives. Called the Quality Panel.

33

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

126 Extensive training and support aids tenant involvement initiatives. Courses are

available on sustainability, including eco-gardening, creating a home, including cooking and DIY, skills to enhance involvement, including the role of the chair, and basic skills to improve employment prospects. Of the 40 courses run in 2008/09 35 were rated good or excellent by attendees. This is helping to give tenants new skills to realise their potential. Once tenants have attended a course they are encouraged to attend more to gain more confidence and skills that may be of use in wider involvement activities. Training is delivered efficiently through local colleges, which is free, directly by SHL or in partnership with other landlords. 127 Involvement options are effectively publicised so tenants are aware of time needed for

each option and support available to assist involvement, such as training and payment of expenses. There are sufficient resources to deliver and develop resident involvement. A budget of ÂŁ37,500 funds training, consultation initiatives and tenant expenses and staff resources amount to ÂŁ223,000. How tenant views have influenced services is widely publicised to promote that participation is taken seriously and to encourage future involvement. 128 Tenants with disabilities and/or language needs are supported to be involved with

interpretation, hearing loop and signers provided as required, plus meetings are held in accessible venues. SHL also reimburses tenant expenses, such as travel and child care costs. Tenants are not prevented from being involved due to other commitments or low incomes. 129 SHL runs highly effective consultation meetings with service users of short term

services such as temporary accommodation and resettlement. This has influenced publicity and website development to improve access and raise awareness of available support. Service users have also developed a board game which effectively explains the causes of homelessness and how to prevent it through personal decisions and accessing support available. Service user views have improved SHL's understanding of homelessness, influencing prevention initiatives, including tackling worklessness. Service users influenced the allocations and lettings policy to give fairer access to housing options. 130 SHL is supporting under-represented sections of the community it serves to be

involved. Black and Minority Ethnic tenants I are approached and encouraged to participate in the board and under-representation is being addressed. A focus group of Black and Minority Ethnic applicants on the housing waiting list has resulted in better information on understanding housing options. SHL has also consulted different sections of the local community to understand variations in satisfaction levels. People with disabilities and their advocates have been consulted on public reception points to ensure they are physically accessible. SHL engages with young people by providing diversionary activities and working extensively with schools. It understands what young people think of services and is educating them on housing issues, such as accessing housing and preventing antisocial behaviour.

I

Identified through tenant profiling and satisfaction surveys.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 34


How good is the service?

131 There are some weaknesses.

•

The partnership agreement setting out how tenants and other customers can be involved does not reflect current arrangements. Its review has been delayed while SHL works on a pilot project related to the TSA's tenant involvement and engagement standard. At the time of inspection it was unclear how some new ways of involvement fit into the overall structure.

•

While some involvement groups are representative of local communities others such as tenant and resident associations and the tenant federation are not. These are not being sufficiently supported by SHL to develop and become more inclusive. The tenants' federation is an equal partner in the partnership agreement even though it can not demonstrate it is representing the views others.

•

Although the customer action groups influence service developments in several ways many I do not evidence fundamental changes to ensure services are designed around customer preferences.

Allocations and lettings 132 The previous inspection found this to be an area of strength. The service offered

customers choice, was well publicised and had clear policies and procedures in place to support staff and ensure consistency. 133 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. The waiting list

offers choice for people in housing need, letting Council and housing association properties in the area. Applicants can easily register on the waiting list and have clear information on eligibility and how to improve their prospects of rehousing. Homes are let to those most in need and accompanied viewings check eligibility and allow prospective tenants to raise queries around property condition. New tenants are regularly contacted to discuss and address any issues. Tenancy sign ups are excellent, providing relevant information in an interesting and easy to understand way and new tenants report high satisfaction with all aspects of the service. Vulnerable applicants are supported to participate in the choice-based lettings scheme and the service is accessible for all with new tenants' representative of the local community. SHL maximises use of the housing stock through down sizing incentives and mutual exchanges. 134 The choice-based lettings scheme gives applicants on the waiting list easy access to

Council and housing association properties available in the area. Bids can conveniently be made in one place through the shared system. Nomination agreements with housing associations ensure a range of social housing is available. Anyone in housing need can access the waiting list. Eligibility is not restricted to residents of Stockport and current home owners can also apply. SHL is involved in a regional choice-based lettings scheme. This gives applicants access to properties outside their local area. SHL assists the Council to fulfil its duties for homeless households. Its responsibility to deliver housing advice and homelessness services and manage the choice-based lettings schemes on behalf of the Council ensures housing need is understood, with properties allocated to people who need them.

I

Outcomes are limited to customer action groups for maintenance and the quality panel.

35

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

135 Arrangements to offer properties fairly to people on the waiting list are widely

publicised. Leaflets are produced with tenants to check they are easy to understand and cover relevant areas. Several interesting videos advise on how to register on the waiting list and bid for properties for people preferring visual information. Applicants are invited to request support to bid for properties if they need it and regular contact with inactive applicants checks there are no problems accessing the service. The level of need, expressed in points, resulting in successful bids for recently let properties is widely advertised. This helps applicants understand the likelihood of being rehoused in areas of choice. 136 It is easy for applicants to register for the waiting list, either online or by requesting

forms to be sent in the post. Staff also help applicants complete forms at public access points or at their home. SHL is meeting targets for processing housing applications, which are registered quickly within three working days. People in housing need understand their priority and can promptly bid for properties. 137 SHL monitors how applicants bid for properties to inform how resources should be

used to best effect. The internet and automated phones offer increasingly popular forms of bidding, rising from 8 per cent of all bids in 2006 to 41 per cent of bids currently. This has freed up an additional staff member to give face to face advice on choice-based lettings including housing prospects and help registering onto the waiting list. People in housing need get the advice and support they need. I

138 An annual review of applicants checks circumstances to confirm housing need. This

improves the likelihood of suitable homes being offered to households who need them most. The average number of bids per successful bidder was 14 in 2008/09 and 74 per cent of successful applicants made less than 10 bids. Active bidders are securing homes. 139 Tenancy sign ups are excellent. Detailed information is effectively broken down into

manageable sections with a DVD introducing each area being covered. A range of staff provide expertise on specific issues such as welfare benefits, financial assistance and training options. These help tenants to maximise incomes, improve employment prospects and/or develop literacy skills. Tenants get clear information on their rights and responsibilities, including services available, such as support for tenants experiencing antisocial behaviour. Tenants are encouraged to become involved in local tenant groups to have a greater influence on service delivery. This initial contact is optimised as an opportunity to inform tenants of their rights and responsibilities and to find out their service requirements.

I

There are currently 7558 applicants registered for rehousing with Stockport Homes, equivalent to about 6 per cent of households within the Borough. The percentage of households across Greater Manchester as a whole who are registered for rehousing with their local authority amounts to 9 per cent.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 36


How good is the service?

140 New tenant satisfaction with all aspects of the service is collected and this influences

how services are delivered. Satisfaction is high with 95 per cent finding it easy to register on to the waiting list and 99 per cent considering information as clearly explained at sign up. Tenant feedback checks service commitments are being met. Staff training reminds of responsibilities to address any gaps in service delivery found, with extra monitoring to ensure compliance, such as ensuring all tenants receive an accompanied viewing and that repairs are completed. Areas of recurring dissatisfaction have been reviewed to drive improvements, such as improving the decorative condition of properties and introducing a voucher scheme. SHL is committed to driving up standards in service delivery even when these are already very high. 141 Vulnerable applicants are supported to participate in the choice-based lettings scheme.

SHL works with a range of agencies supporting and advocating for vulnerable people. How to register for the scheme and properties available are widely advertised amongst these agencies so they can help their clients to access housing. A clear protocol commits to housing people with learning difficulties and a set number of properties are allocated annually to meet need. 142 Tenancy support is available for new tenants and need is identified at the

accompanied viewing. Tenants are supported to meet their tenancy conditions to sustain their tenancy and access other services to help them live independently and improve their quality of life. A furnished tenancy scheme enables people on low incomes to access housing without incurring high set up costs or becoming dependent on loans. I 143 SHL is proactive at understanding barriers to access and developing initiatives to

overcome them. A recent focus group of Urdu, Chinese and Farsi speaking applicants identified low levels of successful bids due to high demand areas being consistently chosen. This initiative was facilitated by the interpretation service to ensure full engagement and applicants were informed of other areas to improve their prospects. The interpretation service also effectively explains the scheme to clients, bidding on their behalf if necessary, allowing people who do not speak English to have a fair chance at obtaining social housing. Lettings are representative of the local community with 8 per cent of all lets over the last two years to Black and Minority Ethnic applicants. This exceeds the 6.5 per cent target set to ensure fair access for all. 144 SHL takes action to maximise use of the housing stock. Incentives are offered to

people to move to smaller properties. Although the scheme is modest, offering a small cash incentive or help with removals, it has successfully resulted in 25 properties being vacated using the ÂŁ50,000 budget. This is releasing under occupied family homes for households who need them. Mutual exchanges are promoted and this made up 10 per cent of lets last year Mutual exchanges are enabling tenants to find their own housing solution, especially where they have low priority on the waiting list.

I

Outcomes are detailed in the supported housing section of this report.

37

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

Tenancy and estate management Tenancy management 145 The previous inspection found this to be an area of strength, with clear and well

developed policies and procedures for setting up and managing tenancies, robust partnership working on antisocial behaviour and alternative solutions to legal action in use. Strong case management ensured a good quality and consistent service was delivered. 146 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. SHL is delivering

against the Respect Standard I and tenant satisfaction with how antisocial behaviour complaints are dealt with is high. A range of tools effectively deal with complaints, including mediation and family intervention. Witnesses are supported to make allegations safely and there is strong support for tenants experiencing antisocial behaviour outside of office hours. Tenants are supported to improve their behaviour and sustain their tenancy, with SHL using legal powers appropriately to deal with persistent complaints. Partnership working shares resources to tackle antisocial behaviour effectively and efficiently. Cases are well managed, although it is inappropriate that initial letters to alleged perpetrators assume some level of guilt before they can respond to allegations. Other weaknesses include complicated arrangements to report incidents by phone during office hours and SHL needs to formally assess the outcomes of some initiatives. 147 The tenancy agreement has recently been reviewed to ensure it is fit for purpose.

Tenants are informed of rights and responsibilities including that households and their visitors must act responsibly. Tenancy audits assess compliance with conditions and identify other services tenants may need. Outcomes include more tenants accessing the downsizing scheme and assisted gardening service. II SHL monitors introductory tenancies. Tenants who do not maintain their home in a reasonable condition or cause a nuisance to others have an extension as an opportunity to improve their behaviour or lose their right to a secure tenancy. This encourages reporting of unreasonable behaviour and raises awareness that homes may be lost if tenancy conditions are broken. 148 SHL is delivering against the Respect Standard. Gaps in provision have been identified

and addressed with improvements to systems for reporting incidents and collecting evidence and more extensive enforcement action, such as making effective use of injunctions. Regular checks against the standard identify any additional areas needing improvement. Tenant satisfaction with the service is high. In 2008/09, 90 per cent of complainants reporting satisfaction with how antisocial behaviour was resolved and 92 per cent considering they were kept up to date with the progress of their case. Successes in dealing with antisocial behaviour are routinely reported in the local press, promoting that complaints are taken seriously.

I

II

This involves joint working between central government, local agencies, local communities and the public to build a society of mutual respect where antisocial behaviour is rare and tackled effectively, and communities live together in peace. So far in 2009/10 517 visits are completed, with plans to visit all homes every four years.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 38


How good is the service?

149 Effective tools are in place to deal with antisocial behaviour. A robust procedure

clarifies the role of different staff, how to prioritise complaints, possible resolutions including legal remedies and agencies who can assist in specific situations. The IT system links to the procedure to ensure cases are managed promptly and appropriately. A specific budget for community safety I provides readily accessible resources to deal with incidents as they arise and fund initiatives to prevent crime and disorder such as target hardening, including fencing, security lights and fireproof letter boxes. 150 Evidence collection is robust. Diaries are issued for complainants and witnesses to

record incidents, with dictaphones available for people who need or prefer them. Surveillance equipment such as noise monitoring equipment and cameras are also available. CCTV has been extended to cover more areas and images are of a high quality, backing up allegations without the need for witnesses. Evidence supports discussions with perpetrators and any legal action. 151 SHL uses a range of legal powers to deal with persistent antisocial behaviour,

including Noise Abatement Notices, Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs), demoted tenancies and Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). II Ex-parte injunctions, have been obtained where notifying the alleged perpetrators would put victims at risk of violence or intimidation before the court hearing. This has been successful in a domestic violence case. Tenants facing eviction receive advice on finding alternative housing options, involving partners as required, such as Social Services where there are children involved. 152 SHL provides good support for witnesses. A witness support officer is valued by staff

and tenants as a named person who agrees and maintains a level of contact and keeps witnesses fully informed throughout cases. Outcomes include supporting witnesses when cases are being investigated and to give evidence in court, arranging additional security to the witnesses' home, working with community safety to arrange patrols and victim support to provide counselling, accessing criminal injuries compensation and if necessary arranging temporary accommodation. A witness buddy scheme is being developed for tenants who have experienced antisocial behaviour to support others. This range of support means SHL should have more success in enforcement in antisocial behaviours cases. 153 SHL provides strong support to tenants reporting antisocial behaviour outside of office

hours. In addition to an antisocial behaviour hotline which records incidents and gives advice, an agency is available to come out and talk to the complainant, help record information and act as a witness if required. This encourages tenants to report allegations since they are reassured they will be supported at all times. SHL arranges patrols by community support officers and rangers service up to late evening for serious cases.

I II

ÂŁ75,000 During 2009/10 this included 1Noise Abatement Notices, 2 Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, 8 Notice of Seeking Possessions, 1 Suspended Possession Orders, 2 demoted tenancies, 2 Antisocial Behaviour Orders and 1 Closure Orders[1].

39

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

154 Mediation enables neighbours to resolve disagreements by discussing issues and

potential solutions through an independent third party. SHL has changed provider I to open up the service to people with more complex needs such as drug and alcohol dependence and/or with a history of violence. It is making full use of the service taking up 18 of the 20 referrals available throughout 2009/10 and aims to increase capacity if required next year. People are supported to find their own resolution. 155 SHL engages with young people to distract them away from causing antisocial

behaviour. This includes activities in the school holidays and working with a local football team to run a tournament. SHL works with the Youth Offending Team and other partners to engage with 11 to 13 year olds in a range of community projects such as tree planting, painting and litter picking in return for days out. It also funds placements with the fire service for young people to get a better understanding of emergency services, their valuable role and why it is important not to use these inappropriately. All events are well attended with plans for expansion to engage more young people. Young people are nominated for awards to recognise their contribution to the community and tackling antisocial behaviour. This includes a DVD produced by school children explaining antisocial behaviour and why it is unacceptable. Young people influence play spaces and multi use games areas to ensure they meet expectations. SHL is helping young people to improve their confidence and have a sense of achievement. 156 SHL takes action against perpetrators but makes it clear that improvement in

behaviour prevents eviction. A Family Intervention Project supports families facing legal action due to their behaviour and who are likely to face eviction if this does not improve. Seven families are currently benefiting from support to develop parenting skills and access services and benefits. One to one and group support helps them tackle specific problems. Perpetrators are helped to improve their behaviour and sustain their tenancy. II

157 SHL works with other agencies to prevent and/or tackle antisocial behaviour. Partners

share resources, expertise and intelligence, particularly where cases are complex. Incidents of antisocial behaviour and hate crime are monitored to identify hotspots and highlight issues requiring intervention. SHL nominates cases for a multiagency approach and obtains lists of young people who have been stopped and searched by the Police so it can talk to parents about conduct. SHL attends community meetings with the Police and other partners to answer public concerns about the area, explaining how these will be tackled in partnership. SHL visits perpetrators with the Police to explain the potential consequences of perpetrating antisocial behaviour. Joint visits with schools keep parents informed of problems so they can potentially influence and improve the behaviour of their children. SHL is involved with partners to resolve issues at a strategic level through its representation of the Safer Stockport Partnership.

I II

Delivered through another council outside of Stockport. Including the Council, Police, education and probation.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 40


How good is the service?

158 SHL participates in Police-led schemes which target areas to deal with low level

nuisance and criminal behaviour and improve the general appearance of estates. SHL shares intelligence about the locality to assist in the planning of these initiatives. Untaxed vehicles are removed and Police warrants are enforced. SHL carries out lock changes where required, conducts estate walkabout to identify areas for clean up including tenant gardens, repairs and tenancy breaches, such as caravan parking. Skips are provided by SHL to encourage tenants to clean up the area or dispose of bulky items responsibly. Partnership working is improving neighbourhoods. 159 Generally antisocial behaviour cases are well managed with regular contact with

complainants and alleged perpetrators. Standard forms collect necessary information including details of the complaint, whether the tenancy is secure, dates complaints were received and responded to and whether other agencies are involved. Action plans confirm what the complainant and staff member have agreed to investigate the complaint and the frequency of contact. Mediation is offered and diary sheets are issued. SHL writes to neighbours of complainants to encourage them to come forward in confidence if they are experiencing similar problems. Letters are in plain English and very clearly set out what has been agreed following interviews. Managers go through cases with officers monthly to assess that procedures are being followed. Closure letters encourage tenants to complete satisfaction forms. 160 There are some weaknesses in how SHL deals with antisocial behaviour.

•

Most records of interviews with complainants and alleged perpetrators are not signed. This would enforce the importance of making accurate allegations and confirm what perpetrators have agreed to do to improve their behaviour. It is also unclear whether closed cases were resolved successfully and initial letters sent to alleged perpetrators assume some level of guilt before they have chance to respond to allegations. Tenants who are not causing a nuisance to others may be offended.

•

Reporting incidents to the antisocial behaviour hotline by phone during office hours is ineffective. Calls are referred on to SHL, putting an extra stage in the process for tenants accessing the service. Tenants who are nervous about repercussions may be put off from making reports, particularly if they have to explain their circumstances to several people.

•

SHL has not fully assessed the outcomes of some initiatives, such as the working with young people to prevent antisocial behaviour.

Estate management 161 The previous inspection found that standards were high and estates were clean and

tidy. Appropriate arrangements were in place to deliver, develop and monitor the standard of estate management services, which involved customers. 162 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. Significant

investment in the environment provides extensive improvements and tenants participate in regular estate walkabouts and rate neighbourhoods highly. Open spaces and flats are intensively managed through concierge and caretaking services. However, some tenants report dissatisfaction with caretaking and grounds maintenance standards.

41

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

163 The capital investment in environmental improvements is delivering positive outcomes

for tenants and other residents, clearly noticeable throughout estates. Other resources continue to improve estates. The community safety budget of ÂŁ150,000 is designing out crime, for example through alley gating projects. Tenants decide how the estate improvement budget is spent to meet local priorities such as fencing and security. I An annual gardening competition encourages tenants to take pride in where they live and the assisted gardening scheme helps tenants with ill health or over 70 to maintain their gardens. Tenants rate neighbourhoods highly with 91 per cent considering them to be good or excellent. 164 Estates are clean and tidy with many projects improving and maintaining

neighbourhoods including community clean up days, an annual skip programme and graffiti removal. Staff report issues such as fly tipping, fly posting, abandoned vehicles, broken street lights, graffiti, water leaks, drug paraphernalia and derelict houses to the appropriate agencies. Tenants participate in regular estate walkabouts, which are widely publicised. Attendees receive a record of what was agreed and a follow up letter reporting progress on the delivery of commitments. Tenants identify areas for attention in partnership with SHL. 165 There is intensive management of open spaces and low and high rise accommodation.

A 24 hour concierge service works closely with caretakers to identify and address problems. A protocol defines working arrangements to ensure accountability and performance is discussed at monthly meetings. Caretakers have training on delivering cleaning standards which comply with national standards II . Service standards for caretaking are agreed with tenants and satisfaction is reasonable but demonstrates room for improvement at 82 per cent. 166 Estate management is delivering better value for money, although overall costs are

above average in comparison to other ALMOs. Services are put out to tender to test the market and investment in new technology for the concierge service has enabled it to downsize saving ÂŁ30,000 annually. Tenants have been consulted on levels of service delivery and choosing the grounds maintenance contractor. Neighbourhood agreements in two areas ensure tenants have a stronger say in the types and levels of service they receive, such as cleaning and information provided to the tenants and residents association. Tenant satisfaction with grounds maintenance service is relatively low with 73 per cent satisfaction with grass cutting and 63 per cent satisfaction with hedge trimming. Financial penalties have been invoked directly as a consequence of tenant concerns. SHL takes tenant feedback on the service seriously. Homelessness and housing advice 167 In the previous inspection we found that this was an area of significant strength. The

service was accessible to customers, supported by good quality information and advice. There was a strong preventative agenda in place and partnership working to support customers was well developed.

I II

ÂŁ40,000 annually British Institute of Cleaning Services

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 42


How good is the service?

168 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. Service users

know how they can access the service and options meet their preferences. Initiatives to prevent homelessness are wide-ranging and service users are supported to reintegrate into mainstream life and sustain tenancies. Homelessness decisions are robust with strong quality assurance arrangements. SHL is meeting government targets in reducing the use of temporary accommodation and hostels are a high standard. Service users are regularly consulted and feedback informs service developments. 169 Service users can access the service in ways that meet their preferences. A public

reception, conveniently located in the town centre, offers appointments or drop in sessions and home visits take the service out to service users. People who are homeless or potentially homeless can access support 24 hours a day. A contact number for emergency advice and temporary accommodation outside of office hours is clearly publicised. 170 There is easy access for service users engaged with other support services through

outreach surgeries. These include hospitals, probation offices, temporary accommodation schemes, a centre for rough sleepers, move on accommodation for young people and the domestic abuse refuge. Protocols are agreed with public and voluntary sector agencies and requests for short term services available in the borough are made easily through a single referral form. This simplifies access arrangements for people needing support. 171 Initiatives to prevent homelessness are wide-ranging, involving many partnerships.

Prevention initiatives include the following.

43

Resettlement support for service users living in all tenures involving 18 agencies and to date 724 customers have benefited. Support includes applying for grants, finding and using local resources such as shops and schools, finding groups to join to prevent isolation, and help to apply for education, training or jobs. Service users are supported to sustain their tenancy and improve their quality of life.

A rent deposit scheme assists service users to access private sector homes. Capacity has trebled in the last two years to £104,770 in 2008/09 to help more people, 793 applicants last year. Service users also receive support to sustain their tenancy and this is reviewed monthly for up to two years.

A protocol with the Housing Benefit Department ensures claims are dealt with quickly so money is paid direct to landlords to protect tenancies.

A furnished tenancy scheme ensures service users are not prevented from accepting accommodation because they have no furniture. There are currently 128 such tenancies. People can access housing without incurring high set up costs.

A homeless prevention fund helps households keep their home. Relatively small amounts of funding are used to avoid much greater expenditure on the Council should households become homeless. The budget of £20,000 helped 50 households in 2008/09, for example by paying off rent or mortgage arrears to prevent evictions. Tenancy support helps tenants identify and improve circumstances or behaviours leading to eviction proceedings.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

SHL successfully mediates between families and young people to prevent family breakdowns. Eighty eight per cent of the 450 referrals received in 2008/09 supported young people to remain in the family home. SHL has also helped school children make a film dispelling myths that it is easy to get your own home if you present as homeless, emphasising the importance of getting on with parents. SHL works in partnership with others, such as midwives and Connexions, to help teenage parents access and sustain housing.

SHL supports service users to give up drink and drugs through home detoxification in hostels, benefiting 15 service users over the last three years. Detox whilst homeless and in temporary accommodation is a significant saving for the NHS where inpatient treatment costs around £5,000.

SHL is involved in joint working with the police, probation, the Youth Offending Team and voluntary agencies to support offenders. SHL has re-housed 159 offenders into either permanent or supported accommodation, with tenancy support, over the last four years. In addition to work placements in gardening or construction work, every year eight priority and prolific offenders work with SHL for a six month period before moving onto permanent employment with a local contractor where they are trained in a trade skill and educated to NVQ Level 2. Offenders have access to housing, employment and tenancy support to help prevent reoffending.

172 SHL shows commitment to enhancing housing options. Application forms encourage

service users to register interest in seeking employment, education, training or volunteering and a specialist officer makes contact to discuss options. An effective worklessness toolkit gives staff advice on difficulties and barriers people may face, opportunities available and signposting to relevant support. A touch-screen kiosk in public access points enables service users to search for jobs. Training and employment improves social inclusion and capacity to access private sector housing including home ownership. 173 Service users have access to the advice and support they need. Staff have clear

guidelines explaining options for people who are homeless or potentially homeless, including legislation and case law surrounding every conceivable circumstance. Homeless decisions are timely, appropriate and consistent, with no reviews for over a year and few examples of challenge from other agencies acting on behalf of service users. Quality assurance is effective with decisions checked by a manager and the Council and 10 per cent of cases are checked through regular staff appraisals. Managers also do monthly checks to assess how staff deal with service users. 174 Decisions are based on appropriate evidence and service users get good quality

advice, preventing homelessness in a number of cases. Service users receive prompt advice on the outcome of interviews. This is sent in preferred formats including emails or text messages, convenient for service users who can not receive letters because they have no fixed address.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 44


How good is the service?

175 SHL is meeting government targets. Bed and breakfast is not used as temporary

accommodation and the supply of Council temporary accommodation has halved using prevention initiatives. The time spent by households in shared accommodation has reduced from 14 weeks in 2005/06 to one and a half weeks in 2008/09. Households are supported in homes which can be converted into settled accommodation. Disruption often experienced in temporary accommodation is minimised. 176 Temporary accommodation is a high standard, with all three hostels assessed as

delivering excellence, level ‘A’, under the Quality Assessment Framework (QAF) I . Hostels meet service user needs, being inviting, secure and adequately furnished. Dog kennels ensure people are not deterred from accessing the service for fear of being separated from or losing their pets. A handbook developed with service users explains how the scheme operates, provides practical advice on meeting people and service standards. New arrivals are put at ease in their living situation. 177 Service users are supported to reintegrate into society. This includes debt advice

through the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and courses in developing life skills, training to access work and English for non-English speakers. Service users can develop gardening skills by designing and maintaining hostel grounds. A range of activities encourage residents to interact with others such as brunch clubs, quiz nights and activities to celebrate festivals, such as the Chinese New Year. Books, music and films are provided through the Library service, which also runs story time reading for younger children. Specialist services are arranged as required such as midwives to provide ante-natal care. Service users are often from chaotic backgrounds and these initiatives help address issues previously preventing tenancy sustainment. 178 Service users are regularly consulted on the housing options service and this has

influenced publicity, advice letters to applicants and options to bring an advocate or friend to support them when appealing against homelessness decisions. Service users report high levels of satisfaction with temporary accommodation. The standard of accommodation is considered good or excellent and staff are helpful. Feedback has driven and influenced hostel refurbishments. Services are designed around the needs of service users. Supported housing 179 The previous inspection found this to be an area of significant strength. Policies and

procedures were effective, tenants were supported and services were sensitive to their needs. There was partnership working to deliver wider outcomes for the service and there was active tenant involvement. 180 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. Services are

improving and exceed minimum standards recognised nationally. The housing needs of older people are understood and supported housing is sufficient to meet demand. Vulnerable people are being supported to live safely in their homes through telemonitoring and warden response. Tenancy support is helping most service users enrich their lives and sustain their tenancy. Tenants are influencing how the service is delivered, however tenants in sheltered accommodation are not being asked their views on all areas of the service. I

Which sets standards expected for services supporting people to live independently.

45

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

181 Provision of sheltered housing meets demand. The housing needs of older people are

understood, with SHL participating in a borough-wide assessment of sheltered housing. This has informed the options appraisal of its sheltered housing stock, with two schemes decommissioned and redeveloped to provide new homes that better meet the housing needs of the wider community. The remaining ten schemes are viable, averaging four offers per vacancy. SHL has opened an extra care scheme since the last inspection, providing homes for life. I Older people have access to the homes and support they need to live independently. 182 Sheltered housing services are improving and exceeding minimum standards under

the Quality Assessment Framework (QAF), II which sets standards expected in the delivery of housing-related support. Support plans are agreed and regularly reviewed with tenants to identify needs. Quality assurance checks ensure robust plans are in place. Tenants in sheltered housing have access to a range of training such as health days, cooking for one and dealing with bogus callers. The welfare benefits service visits schemes to give benefits advice and take up campaigns have targeted all sheltered schemes. All schemes have computer games to encourage physical and mental activity. Tenants are supported to increase their income and live healthy lives. 183 Tenants in sheltered accommodation influence the service in a range of ways. This

includes scheme meetings and coffee mornings and a twice yearly forum where all tenants are invited to discuss the service and meet with SHL. Outcomes include dedicated areas being built to store mobility scooters with re-charging outlets. A working group with representatives from each scheme discuss the service in more depth, such as the role of scheme managers and support planning. Service standards have been agreed with tenants, who receive feedback on performance. Tenants have a budget of £22,000 for investment in sheltered housing initiatives and proposals are discussed at scheme meetings with the tenants’ forum voting to agree investment decisions. Resources are spent in ways which meet tenant priorities. 184 Tenants are satisfied with the support provided through scheme managers for

sheltered housing, 90.6 per cent in 2009. Feedback informs service improvements, such as better information on support plans. SHL is not assessing tenant satisfaction with all areas of the service. The survey focuses on the service delivered by the scheme manager and fails to canvass satisfaction on other important areas such as the quality of accommodation and information on services. A crucial gap is whether the support plan agreed is being delivered. SHL does not fully understand tenant satisfaction with the service. 185 Vulnerable people are being supported to live safely in their homes. SHL provides a

telemonitoring and warden response service to 6,000 service users including 2,000 private clients. Tenants of age-restricted properties receive visits from wardens to check support needs are being met and to identify any emerging issues which require intervention including through other agencies. Wardens use specialist equipment to assist service users back to bed or a seating position without the need to call the ambulance service. On average SHL attends 2,000 falls per year of which only 20 per cent require attendance at hospital. SHL is helping vulnerable people in stressful and potentially life threatening situations. I II

Individual tenanted flats with access to 24 hour onsite care. 2009 services were assessed as evidencing good practice, level B, an improvement on the level C achieved in 2008, which met the minimum standard but had scope for improvement.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 46


How good is the service?

186 SHL works in partnership with others to provide additional support to vulnerable

people. The bogus caller scheme supports people who have been a victim of distraction burglary or who have a fear of this type of crime. SHL also operates a carers' emergency card service giving assistance if a carer is delayed and cannot get to the person being cared for. I

187 Resettlement and tenancy support provides tenancy support to new and existing

tenants. This includes budgeting and debt advice, treatment for alcohol and/or substance misuse and signposting to training opportunities such as developing life skills. SHL also assists perpetrators of nuisance and antisocial behaviour to change their behaviour and retain their tenancy. Vulnerable people are supported to have meaningful lives, maintain their homes in reasonable condition and comply with tenancy conditions. 188 The resettlement and tenancy support is recognised ‘as delivering excellence,

associated with providers striving to be leaders in their field’ under the QAF. II A wide range of service users are assisted, with 289 benefiting from a full package of support such as housing advice and tenancy support in 2009/10, plus many others assisted to resolve single issues without the need for outreach support. This helps service users manage problems before they escalate into something more serious. 189 The service has a positive impact on the lives of service users. SHL is proactive at

assessing outcomes, contacting service users 6, 12 and 24 months after support has ended to assess tenancy sustainment and any additional support needs. Performance is high with 95 per cent of SHL’s tenancies sustained after one year and 84.6 per cent of tenancies sustained across all tenures. Service users report high satisfaction with the service, with all able to review progress against their support plan on a regular basis. This shows that the service is answering the needs of those it is designed for. 190 The service offers specialist support to meet the specific needs of some service users.

Young people, including young parents, are supported to remain in their current home, such as the parental home, or find their own accommodation. Some Black and Minority Ethnic service users who do not speak English as a first language can be supported by staff speaking their preferred language. This aids easy communication to understand circumstances and explain services available. All service users have access to tenancy support once they have returned home or found new homes. 191 SHL has strong links with partners assisting asylum seekers and directly provides

housing and tenancy support for people presenting as asylum seekers through the dispersal contract or who have already been accepted before they access the country, through the Gateway Protection Program. Assistance includes accessing permanent homes and other services like education, health care and benefits. Service users are also supported to avoid or deal with hate crime. This is benefiting approximately 125 people to resettle at any one time.

I II

This includes mediation, the rent deposit scheme and the furnished tenancy service. Under the QAF it achieved level A, an improvement on the B achieved in 2008, where the required minimum standard was met with evidence of good practice.

47

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

192 Service users have a strong influence on the resettlement and tenancy support

service. Regular focus groups shape policies and procedures and ways of working. Support plans have been changed to consider family and pets in risk assessments and the welcome pack for service users has been updated to include more relevant information. Services are being designed around the needs of service users. Leasehold management and Right to BuyI 193 The previous inspection found a clear protocol to support the relationship between the

Council and SHL in delivering the service, leaseholders could access the service in a number of ways and information was provided on leasehold issues. 194 This inspection found a balance of strengths and weaknesses. Leaseholders are only

charged for services they receive and can pay for additional services at competitive rates. Performance for collecting service charges is strong and leaseholders are supported to manage debts. However, involvement of leaseholders is often unsuccessful and they report dissatisfaction with some areas of the service. 195 A clear protocol with the Council sets out responsibilities for Right to Buy delivery and

information for tenants is clear and useful. Tenants can make informed decisions when deciding whether to purchase their homes. A leaseholder liaison group including maintenance, finance and customer services helps coordinate services to leaseholders and agree how improvements can be made in response to tenant feedback. 196 SHL understands charges for shared service, such as cleaning and grounds

maintenance and leaseholders are only charged for services they receive. SHL is collecting charges and reducing arrears with 116 per cent collection achieved in 2008/09 compared to 84 per cent when the ALMO was set up. Arrears are reducing year on year, currently standing at ÂŁ48,639. SHL is improving its capacity to deliver services to leaseholders. SHL gives advice and assistance to those finding it hard to meet charges and leaseholders are able to agree manageable repayments and access debt advice. This has been successful with no legal action taken to recover arrears. 197 Leaseholders have clear information on charges. Invoices give actual rather than

estimated costs and leaseholders have sufficient notice, 12 months, to budget payments to make them affordable. SHL has improved its ability to accurately cost and deliver services by defining the boundaries it has responsibility for on estates. Staff are therefore well informed when discussing maintenance responsibilities and charges with leaseholders. Leaseholders paying by direct debit receive an incentive of ÂŁ5 and take up is reasonable at 50 per cent. Direct debit incurs the least charge for SHL, maximising its income, and is one of the most reliable methods to get leaseholders to commit to regular payments. 198 Leaseholders have clear information on services available and how to access them.

The leaseholders' handbook gives clear guidelines on rights and responsibilities, including maintenance responsibilities, and services that should be received, such as invoicing and new leaseholder visits. Options to ask SHL to provide gas safety checks, undertake repairs or provide contents insurance and the savings this would deliver are promoted to attract take up. This arrangement allows leaseholders to access reputable firms and contractors at competitive prices. I

SHL has 324 leasehold properties, 2.7 per cent of the stock.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 48


How good is the service?

199 Leaseholders can take up property improvements at rates secured with contractors by

SHL, discounted due to high purchasing levels and market testing. Loans are available and publicised and flexible ways to pay service charges or major works costs, including the equity release scheme, are promoted. This assists leaseholders to meet the costs related to their homes. 200 Leaseholders are consulted in a range of ways but this is not particularly successful,

with low participation. Leaseholders are not directly consulted on service charge rates, where SHL involves the tenants’ federation. Although this includes leaseholders this is not sufficient to represent leaseholder views on an area of particular importance. 201 The 2009 annual leaseholder survey found satisfaction was improving for many areas,

although several areas of low satisfaction remain. I Low numbers of leaseholders responded to the survey. Of those who did only 26 per cent felt their views were taken into account and only 60 per cent considered that overall SHL values them as a customer, although this improved to 81 per cent when they dealt directly with the leaseholder officer. An action plan has been agreed to address some concerns, but this is too recent to have yet delivered any outcomes. Leaseholders are reporting that in several areas the service does not meet their needs. Is the service delivering value for money? 202 The previous inspection found SHL had achieved improved value for money across

several key areas. There were more strengths than weaknesses and some positive initiatives were identified. The organisation was committed to ensuring that both cost and quality of housing services improved. SHL was comparing costs, areas of work had been tendered and positive work on procurement had developed around a consortium approach. 203 This inspection found strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. Tenant satisfaction

is high and costs are below average compared to other ALMOs. SHL fully understands costs and is involved in extensive benchmarking. Efficiency targets are being delivered and this is releasing funding for investment in other services prioritised by tenants. Participation in procurement consortia is delivering significant savings and SHL attracts high levels of external investment. A long term financial plan ensures a sound understanding of options available to maximise capacity. How do costs compare? 204 Low cost services are valued by tenants and demonstrate effective performance.

Costs compare favourably with other ALMOs with total costs per property of housing management at ÂŁ333 lower than average. SHL has low levels of rent arrears, maximising income, and lets empty properties quickly, minimising rent loss. SHL is one of the best performing ALMOs for tenant satisfaction with the overall service at 83 per cent, 2008/09. Levels of emergency repairs reduced from 30 per cent in 2005/06 to 16.5 per cent in 2008/09, with more repairs being carried out efficiently in a planned way.

I

With a return rate of 17 per cent.

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

How is value for money managed? 205 SHL has an embedded value for money culture. Efficiencies and performance

represent two of SHL’s eight key values and their importance is reinforced by staff awards which recognise achievements in these areas. Staff are aware of and contribute to a register recording efficiencies, reported regularly to senior management. Value for money is also prioritised as one of the four themes within the performance monitoring framework. Cost, quality and customer satisfaction indicators are brought together to give an overview of performance. 206 There is clear leadership in the areas of value for money and procurement. A

combined strategy is robust, explaining best practice and achievements over the past few years. Procurement practices including European Union procurement regulations are explained, with appropriate emphasis on supporting a diverse market place through use of local providers and consortia. There is a commitment to involving tenants and stakeholders and working in partnership. Clear guidelines support testing the market and making consistent decisions which comply with internal financial procedures and statutory requirements. 207 Targets are driving efficiencies. SHL achieved £692,585 of efficiencies in 2008/09,

slightly exceeding its 3 per cent target. SHL has already met its efficiency target of 2.9 per cent, £649,651 for 2009/10. The last inspection found SHL’s involvement in a large collaborative consortium was set to deliver significant savings in the property improvement programme. These have been delivered with £6 million of efficiencies, compared to market rates, during the four year programme. Partners combine purchasing needs to secure competitive rates and minimise procurement costs. Materials and contractor services are accessed, as and when they are needed. 208 Other significant efficiencies made through the consortium include gas servicing

delivering an annual saving of £137,000 (11 per cent), and maintenance vehicles saving £350,000 over four years. The regeneration focus within the consortium ensures the development of new employment initiatives across all framework contracts. This has resulted in over 200 trainees trained to NVQ level 2 with over 40 per cent being from a non-traditional background including Black and Minority Ethnic communities and ex-offenders. Procurement increases the capacity of SHL to invest in services and supports the local job market.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 50


How good is the service?

209 SHL is proactive at securing additional efficiencies through procurement. It is the first

partner to access the consortium's new framework contract for responsive repairs. SHL is using two of 14 successful contractors, including its own in-house service which demonstrated it could compete in the open market. Tenants were involved in procurement decisions, influencing performance requirements, the code of conduct and choosing the company name operating in SHL homes. I The contract is expected to deliver 11 per cent savings over the lifetime of the four year contract compared to previous arrangements. Efficiencies include lower schedule of rates costs and overhead reductions by combining stores and reducing back office staff. Repairs operatives have hand held computers to enable repairs to be efficiently programmed so tenants receive a more responsive service. SHL carries out joint procurement for other services such as temporary staff, stairlift purchases and maintenance and shared legal services. Discounts are secured by higher purchasing levels and procurement costs are shared. 210 SHL has a programme to plan procurement needs, consider options available and

canvass tenant views. All staff with spend authority have procurement training to raise awareness of the approach, how to comply with procedures and access specialist support available corporately. Procurement working groups take place for more complex purchasing, where there is a strong customer impact or where legislation applies. A toolkit helps staff understand procurement, including regulations to be followed. Different procurement options are explained and check lists and templates, such as the process of agreeing contracts, ensure decisions are robust and consistent. 211 SHL robustly reviews service level agreements to ensure arrangements represent

value for money. Contracts above ÂŁ50,000 go out to open tender, while benchmarking scrutinises other charges. SHL has saved ÂŁ95,000 by procuring Public Liability Insurance in house and ÂŁ74,000 by using GIS II to record land included in the grounds maintenance contract to confirm charging. This ensures contracts are competitively priced. 212 Efficiency savings are delivering services that matter to tenants. This includes decent

homes plus improvements, such as decoration and shower installations and improvements to IT such as website development and automated bidding for choice-based lettings which extend options for accessing services. Public access points have been improved to ensure access for people with disabilities and touchscreen kiosks give customers easy access to job vacancies, training and volunteering opportunities in support of the worklessness agenda. A rent deposit scheme enables people in housing need to access private sector homes. Tenants are consulted on investment decision to ensure improvements meet tenant needs.

I II

The contractors share this brand for the contract, aiming to offer a seamless and recognisable service to tenants. Geographic Information System (GIS) collects, stores and analyses data for locations.

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


How good is the service?

213 SHL is attracting external investment to deliver additional services, £5.6 million in the

last two years. This includes £189,000 for environmental schemes, £276,000 for energy efficiency works, £343,500 for collecting water charges and extensive investment for play spaces and multi use games areas. Benefits to tenants include affordable warmth and more attractive places to live. Commission from water rates collection is funding initiatives to tackle poorer neighbourhoods such as worklessness. SHL increased its capacity to deliver decent homes by bringing forward £7 million of funding. All tenants will live in decent conditions earlier. 214 SHL understands its long term capacity to deliver services. A 30-year financial

management model considers stock condition needs and is based on a range of scenarios including self financing, pending Government approval as part of the subsidy review. The Council demonstrates confidence in SHL, having recently extended the management contract to 2015. With the exception of capital funds SHL manages the Housing Revenue Account I on behalf of the Council and is therefore well placed to challenge charges made by the Council. This has reduced charging by the Council for strategic housing costs from £1,054,000 in 2006/07 to £644,000 in 2009/10, leaving more capacity for SHL to deliver aspirations. 215 SHL accesses social housing grant to develop new homes as a partner of the Homes

and Communities Agency. The 194 units being built over five years will be owned by the ALMO. In addition to meeting housing need, long term surpluses will improve SHL’s capacity to invest in other developments to meet demand for housing, now and in the future.

I

This account ensures council house rents are not used to subsidise other council expenditure and to prevent the general council tax payer subsidising council housing.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 52


What are the prospects for improvement to the service?

What are the prospects for improvement to the service? What is the service track record in delivering improvement? 216 In 2006, we found that SHL had focused on achieving improvements linked to

weaknesses identified in our previous inspections and its own service reviews and feedback processes. There had been notable improvements in performance and services even though the organisation had only been in existence for eight months. There were some recent improvements which were not yet fully embedded but these had been introduced in line with SHL's own plans. 217 In this inspection we found that strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. SHL

continues to perform well, maintaining excellent standards in many areas. Improvements since the last inspection are evident, with positive outcomes for tenants. Tenant satisfaction is high and SHL is one of the best performing ALMOs for some services. SHL has a strong track record of achieving efficiencies which are re-invested in services that matter to tenants. I

218 The previous inspection found most services to be strong. SHL has continued to

perform well and improvements are evident in most services, with tenant satisfaction high. The previous inspection found maintenance services to be effective but developing. Improvements are now embedded, with efficient ways of working to maintain homes in decent conditions which deliver value for money. SHL has improved how it ensures value for money generally through a better understanding of costs and more initiatives to deliver efficiencies and attract external investment. SHL is investing in areas which matter to tenants. Aids and adaptations and leaseholder services show improvement since the last inspection but require some improvement to meet the standards found in other areas. 219 SHL has made effective progress against recommendations, with 10 of the 11

recommendations being delivered and the other being partly delivered. Progress is set out in Table 1. SHL has particularly improved phone answering at the repairs call centre, answering 76 per cent of calls within 20 seconds compared to 62 per cent in 2006. The average waiting time has halved to 22 seconds. Customer complaints are now being dealt with effectively and aids and adaptations are now widely promoted, with tenants given clear information on what to expect from the service. There are few recommendations from this inspection since effective services are being delivered that meet tenant needs.

I

Access and customer care, diversity, income management, resident involvement, allocation and lettings, tenancy and estate management, supported housing, and housing advice and homelessness.

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


What are the prospects for improvement to the service?

Table 1

Recommendations of previous inspection

Recommendation

Progress

R1 Further improve performance management by: • ensuring that data collected is systematically evaluated and impact assessed;

Delivered.

• developing process to monitor satisfaction and timescales for delivery of adaptations;

Partly delivered: tenant satisfaction is monitored but timescales for delivery do not currently include time taken to complete occupational therapists assessments.

• develop a comprehensive HR and Training and Development strategy;

Delivered.

• deliver improvements to ICT to include, improving training on ICT systems to address issues of under utilisation;

Delivered.

• developing a dedicated SHL intranet site; and

Delivered.

• developing an asset management action plan.

Delivered. Although the action plan for the revised asset management action plan still needs to be agreed.

R2 Further improve its approach to customer care by: • exploring opportunities to expand categories for customer complaints monitoring to allow themes to be systematically highlighted;

Delivered.

• review the approach to collecting and using feedback from complaints for service improvement;

Delivered.

• review contact centre performance and delivery, to address variable performance;

Delivered.

• improve the adaptation service leaflet to include measurable targets; and

Delivered.

• explore opportunity to promote adaptation requests direct to SHL.

Delivered.

AC inspection report 2006

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 54


What are the prospects for improvement to the service?

220 Performance is strong in many areas. Service commitments agreed with tenants are

being delivered, with 99 per cent of the 111 service standards consistently met. In 2009/10, most repairs are completed on time, 96 per cent for emergency and urgent repairs and empty properties are being let more quickly, improving from 40 days in 2005/06 to 21 days at the time of inspection. All properties have a valid certificate to confirm that gas appliances are safe to use. SHL is one of the best performers nationally for rent collection rates at 98.7 per cent and arrears levels have reduced from the £906,545 found at the last inspection to £394,551, representing 1.11 per cent of the rent roll. SHL continues to raise standards in service delivery. 221 Services meet the needs of tenants and other customers. Satisfaction with face to face

enquiries is increasing from 91 to 100 per cent, between 2008 and 2010 and satisfaction with how enquiries were dealt with through the repairs contact centre, at 96 per cent is a big improvement on the 67 per cent found in 2008. Tenants report high satisfaction with the quality of improvement works, 95 per cent and tenants consider neighbourhoods are improving with 91 per cent considering them to be good or excellent compared to 83 per cent in 2006/07. Capital investment is having a positive impact on tenants and their communities. Leaseholder satisfaction, although improving, indicates improvements are still needed in some areas. 222 SHL has a strong track record of achieving efficiencies, annually exceeding its three

per cent target. This is releasing £0.6 million for investment in other priorities. Resources have been re-invested in additional priorities identified jointly with tenants, such as enhancements to the decent homes standard. SHL’s strong involvement in a procurement consortium is delivering £6 million of efficiencies I , compared to market rates, during the four year decent homes improvement programme. SHL has recently changed its contractor for responsive repairs to deliver 11 per cent savings over the lifetime of the four year contract. Its joint procurement for other services such as legal and temporary staff is achieving discounts by combining purchasing needs. 223 Improvements since the last inspection are evident and many have positive outcomes

for tenants. These include:

I

property improvements delivered to a high standard and all tenants living in decent homes by July 2010;

building new developments to better meet the housing needs of the local community;

extensive environmental improvements significantly improving the appearance of estates and providing facilities the community wants, such as defensible space, play areas and off road parking;

modern public reception points which are fully accessible for people with disabilities, which offer a range of services which tenants and other customers can conveniently access;

specialist services to support tenants to maximise income and access training and employment;

automated bidding for empty properties so applicants on the waiting list can easily show expressions of interest at convenient times;

Repaid to the Council.

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


What are the prospects for improvement to the service?

•

delivery of the Respect Standard has improved how incidents can be reported and enforcement action, with particularly investment in supporting witnesses so they can give evidence safely;

•

extension of the rent deposit scheme so more people in housing need can access private sector homes, and more furnished tenancies to support people without furniture to access social housing; and

•

supported housing is exceeding standards expected in the delivery of housing related support.

How well does the service manage performance? 224 The previous inspection found SHL had used best value principles and project

management tools to develop plans for improvement. Staff, tenants and board members challenged plans effectively. There were customer action groups where customers were consulted systematically and these groups were used as a mechanism for service improvement and development. 225 In this inspection, we found that strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. Clear

plans drive corporate objectives and performance management is effective. Staff have clear targets and performance is monitored. Leadership is effective and SHL is a learning organisation. Costs are fully understood and benchmarking identifies areas for improvement. However, SHL does not always report outcomes from actions. 226 SHL regularly meets with the Council to agree priorities and assess performance for

existing services. SHL contributes to the Council's performance for national indicators, such as affordable housing and Supporting People. The Council is positive about SHL's contribution to its objectives and states a range of outcomes for local people including, decent homes, high customer satisfaction and better value for money. Initiatives contributing to sustainable communities, financial inclusion and the green agenda are valued as supporting wider priorities for the borough. 227 A clear and comprehensive framework sets corporate objectives and manages

performance. Effective leadership is evident through strategic objectives set by the board and senior management in the Service Improvement Plan, which directorates contribute to and help to deliver. Progress is reported monthly to the senior management team and relevant board sub-group and is easily identifiable using traffic light categories. A range of budgets are in place to deliver objectives and staff lead on objectives with clear target dates for completion, ensuring accountability. Managers have clear authority to revise procedures so necessary service changes are not delayed. Board sub-groups consider significant proposals such as recharges and all strategies require board approval. The risk register is robust identifying potential risks and the likelihood of occurrence. Clear actions are agreed to prevent risks or effectively manage them should they occur.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 56


What are the prospects for improvement to the service?

228 Comprehensive service standards have been agreed with tenants and these are

regularly reviewed to ensure they remain relevant. Performance is regularly monitored, sometimes involving tenants through mystery shopping and satisfaction surveys. Tenants scrutinise other commitments are being met through customer action groups. Performance targets are realistic and challenging, aiming to achieve best performance for ALMOs nationally. A traffic light system assesses performance in scorecards, making comparisons to the previous year and against targets with trends evident. It is easy to understand if targets are being met and areas which require intervention to meet aspirations. IT automatically calculates performance for some indicators such as maintenance and antisocial behaviour. This produces accurate information efficiently. 229 Staff are effectively managed through regular one to ones, annual appraisals and six

monthly reviews. These identify whether competencies are met and areas for development. Personal targets link to corporate aims so staff know how they are expected to contribute. Regular meetings keep staff informed of service developments and monthly information helps them understand performance. 230 There are regular monitoring meetings with contractors to assess service commitments

are being met and to consider tenant feedback. An annual conference of all contractors promotes SHL practices such as health and safety, diversity and the importance of using profiling information. Contractors are aware of how services should be delivered to meet publicised standards. SHL regularly reviews service level agreements with the Council to ensure they meet requirements and deliver value for money. 231 The board demonstrates effective leadership, with a sound understanding of outcomes

for tenants, such as creating great neighbourhoods, decent homes and delivering affordable housing, and future priorities, such as the subsidy review and changes in priorities following decent homes compliance. Sub-committees ensure the board can concentrate on the most important areas and the board receives regular performance reports in relevant areas, including delivery against service standards and customer complaints. Trends against targets are clearly identified and a Chief Executive report summarises key points and holds staff to account. A decision matrix records outcomes from board meetings. The board demonstrates robust challenge of proposals such as the introduction of the water rate collection and scrutinising the governance of the procurement consortium it has invested extensive resources in. All board members receive annual appraisals which inform training plans. The board is well placed to make sound decisions. 232 SHL is a learning organisation. Many initiatives have been influenced by the

experiences of others including how it helps people in housing need to access private sector housing, its work with schools, diversity guides for staff and sharing best practice in resident involvement. SHL also learns from tenant feedback through complaints. Improvements aim to prevent service breakdowns reoccurring and include better information to tenants on what is happening with their enquiry, changes to service standards and staff training to address weaknesses found. Staff are encouraged to identify improvements through a suggestion scheme and outcomes include installing bike shelters in temporary accommodation schemes and initiatives to improve value for money. SHL develops and improves services efficiently by learning from the experiences of others.

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


What are the prospects for improvement to the service?

233 Diversity is embedded within SHL. There are clear strategies and plans to meet

statutory requirements and develop inclusive services. Diversity related competencies exist for every staff grade and service standards include several diversity related measures, such as completing tenant profiling data, which are monitored and reported. Satisfaction levels for tenants from Black and Minority Ethnic communities are regularly reported and SHL investigates reasons for lower levels of satisfaction if found to identify improvements needed. Potential contractors have to demonstrate they deliver accessible services and engage with hard to reach communities, including by offering training and employment opportunities. 234 SHL fully understands costs. Costs are identified through competitive tendering of

services on the open market and involvement in national and regional benchmarking clubs. Benchmarking has influenced governance arrangements, internal audit costs, payroll and support services such as legal services. IT systems calculate the cost of delivering services, such as a pricing system for different aspects of managing antisocial behaviour complaints and resident involvement. SHL has a sound understanding of its stock and other assets to ensure investment needs are understood to deliver and sustain decent homes. Efficiency targets are set in line with best practice and are being delivered. 235 SHL has plans to improve neighbourhoods. Seventeen neighbourhood action plans

covering all areas where it has stock identify key issues and how these will be addressed over 18 months. The tenant profile for the area informs the type of intervention included in the plan. Objectives reflect several common themes including worklessness, working with young people, providing information on services, health initiatives and improving the condition of neighbourhoods. Tenants and their representatives have been consulted on the plans to ensure it meets local needs. Services are joined up to meet the needs of local people effectively and efficiently. 236 There are some weaknesses.

I

•

Although SHL has action plans which are generally SMART I it does not routinely assess and report outcomes from delivered initiatives. SHL often states an action has been delivered, but not whether it was on time, has met required standards or had the impact it was meant to. The benefits to tenants are not fully demonstrated. SHL is not effectively reporting how services have been changed to ensure inclusion and the draft action plan to deliver aspirations of the revised asset management strategy is still to be confirmed.

•

Neighbourhood action plans are relatively new and although some initiatives are underway and/or completed these have not been formally assessed to report outcomes for the community. Some of the terms are not easy to understand so that communities know what is planned and the potential benefits.

•

There are no targets to ensure the workforce is representative of the community. SHL profiles staff against the diversity strands and compares this to the locality to assess representativeness, but there are no clear goals being set to address gaps, such as low levels of staff with disabilities.

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 58


What are the prospects for improvement to the service?

Does the service have the capacity to improve? 237 The previous inspection found there was continued enthusiasm and vitality among staff

and customers to improve services. Customer involvement had widened and there was a sense that all stakeholders had ownership of the programme to improve. SHL had strong leadership and was managed effectively. 238 In this inspection, we found that strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses. There

are robust long term financial plans and IT and human resources are effectively planned. Staff and board members have access to relevant training and SHL supports the local job market. Efficiencies increase capacity to invest in emerging priorities and SHL attracts extensive external investment to deliver additional services to tenants. SHL has received recognition and awards as an employer but has not updated its staff satisfaction survey to understand whether low levels of satisfaction previously reported by staff have improved. 239 SHL has robust financial plans. It understands the benefits of self-financing on long

term planning and intends to carry out an options appraisal if this is not approved by Government to assess other ways to maximum its potential. A 30 year financial management model sets long term capacity to deliver services and the Council has extended the management contract to 2015. This gives SHL reassurance about future funding. Budget setting and financial management systems are robust. Budget reports are split into individual services and budget holders are supported to manage budgets effectively through regular meetings with finance staff. Any overspends are identified early for intervention action. I

240 Planning of human resources is effective. Staff levels have been expanded to meet

new demand, develop additional services which give added value to tenants and deliver some support services in house. SHL is intending to employ its own occupational therapist. This will allow the ALMO to have more control over the timescales for aids and adaptations and will increase its capacity to understand the needs of tenants with disabilities. Business cases for new posts are scrutinised by the senior management team and their intended impact on the lives of tenants and the local community is clearly identified. Specialist posts ensure priorities are progressed such as tackling climate change and helping poorer neighbourhoods. 241 SHL compares staffing with other ALMOs to assess whether resources are appropriate

for an organisation of its size taking into account management responsibilities. This has influenced reviews for supported housing and caretaking services, enhanced the housing officer role and expanded resources for dealing with antisocial behaviour. SHL ensures resources invested in staffing are used to maximum effect. 242 Staff have access to a range of relevant training to help them deliver responsibilities

inline with SHL’s values and good practice in housing. The training budget is reasonable at £300 per employee and 99 per cent of staff had training in 2008/09, this includes developing leadership skills and gaining professional qualifications. Board members are experienced with limited training needs. Recent training on procurement, being a board member, the Housing Revenue Account and accreditation in governance helps board members further develop skills needed to meet roles and responsibilities. I

The complement has grown by 133 since the ALMO was created.

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


What are the prospects for improvement to the service?

243 SHL achievement of Investors in People Gold Status highlighted a range of strengths

including staff understanding of performance, a culture of involvement and empowerment and staff training and development linked to corporate priorities. Stockport Homes has also been awarded nineteenth position in the annual Sunday Times Top 75 ‘Best Places to Work in the Public Sector’ 2010. Results of the survey were based on an in-depth, confidential and strictly anonymous survey of 80 per cent of employees on a range of issues such as their employer's values and principles, what it's like to work with their colleagues and managers and how motivated and positive they feel about work. SHL receives positive recognition as an employer. 244 A group champions staff priorities. This has resulted in well being initiatives being

available to staff, such as health treatment schemes, influence of staff conferences and being involved in deciding staff awards and accepted staff suggestions. SHL uses the group as a sounding board for polices and procedures and other areas it values staff views on. This supports positive relationships throughout SHL. Staff report being incentivised by receiving recognition through awards and being mentioned in the tenants’ newsletters. SHL has implemented the single status pay review and salaried technical staff. Very few staff lost out through either scheme. 245 Staff satisfaction with working at SHL was last assessed by SHL in 2007/08 and was

low at 68 per cent. A follow up survey has not been carried out to assess whether initiatives to address issues have been successful. A recent external survey I found more positive results although the questions asked were not directly comparable with the earlier survey. Some 70 per cent of staff were satisfied with manager motivation, 77 per cent thought managers were being open and most significantly 84 per cent of staff considering they make a difference in the organisation. However, low levels of satisfaction are evident for training being of benefit at 58 per cent and pay and benefits at 61 per cent. These are mixed results. II

246 Staff turnover in SHL is below average both for the public sector at 12.1 per cent and

number of working days lost to sickness absence per employee for ALMOs at 6.5 days. SHL proactively takes steps to reduce sickness by implementing back to work interviews and encouraging flexible working. 247 SHL provides employment opportunities to local people. Procurement is used as a

mechanism to develop job opportunities and targets are set for representation of non-traditional trainees, such as women, Black and Minority Ethnic communities and ex-offenders, at 35 per cent and these are met. Contractors are also expected to offer work experience for school children. There is a supported employment scheme currently supporting three previously unemployed local people, plus one graduate employee, six ex-offenders and three school work experience placements. SHL has been awarded job centre recognition for supporting disabled people to get work and keep it. People are supported to access and retain employment.

I II

Sunday Times Top 75 ‘Best Places to Work in the Public Sector’ 2010. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Recruitment, Retention and Turnover Survey (2009) found the average for the public sector is 16.4 per cent.

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What are the prospects for improvement to the service?

248 IT has improved since the last inspection and is now fit for purpose. An intranet has

been developed to keep staff informed about the business and several systems have been introduce to managed services such as antisocial behaviour and assets more effectively. New software provision is identified by departments and an IT steering group ensures requests meet the needs of the business. SHL uses some of the Council's IT services, such as the help desk and training. This gives capacity to meet all IT needs at reasonable rates. 249 SHL is delivering efficiencies to increase its capacity to invest in emerging priorities. It

achieves around three per cent efficiencies annually, in addition to £6 million saved through procurement over the lifetime of the decent homes programme. SHL combines purchasing power with several partners to secure competitive rates and minimise procurement costs. SHL identifies funding it can access to improve capacity, for example by drawing down funding early from CLG to complete decent homes works. As a partner of the Homes and Communities Agency SHL has access to social housing grant to develop new homes. Long term surpluses improve SHL’s capacity to invest in other developments and provide homes for people who need them. 250 SHL attracts external investment to improve its capacity to deliver additional services,

ÂŁ5.6 million in the last two years. Outcomes for tenants include energy efficiency improvements and environmental improvements to make neighbourhoods more attractive places to live. Commission from water rates collection is reinvested in additional services which are benefiting tenants. These are helping people back into training and employment and maximising incomes.

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


Appendix 1 – Performance indicators

Appendix 1 – Performance indicators Table 2

Stockport 2006/07 to 2008/09

Performance indicator (former BVPI ref)

2006/07

2007/08

2008/09

England top 25 per cent 2008/09 (ALL ALMOs)

63 Average SAP rating

80

92

78 LXVI

73

66a Percentage rent collected

96.88

97.69

98.27

98.2

66d Percentage LA tenants evicted for rent arrears

1.03

0.82

0.88

0.3

74a/NI Percentage tenants satisfied with overall service

83

No survey

83

80.7

75a Percentage tenants satisfied with TP/views taken into account

75

No survey

71

64

184a/NI LA homes which were non-decent at start of year

37

32

17

5.2

212 Average relet time (days)

35

27

24

27.8

LXVI

Using the new rating system.

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Appendix 2 – Reality checks undertaken

Appendix 2 – Reality checks undertaken 1

63

When we went on site we carried out a number of different checks, building on the work described above, in order to get a full picture of how good the service is. These on site reality checks were designed to gather evidence about what it is like to use the service and to see how well it works. Our reality checks included: •

a review of key documents including policies, procedures and strategies;

a review of performance reports;

a review of information available to tenants on services;

a review of SHL's website;

interviews with a cross-section of staff;

interviews with key managers including the Chief Executive;

interview with the board of management representatives including the Chair;

focus groups with tenants and their representatives;

focus groups of partners working with SHL to provide services;

reality checks of customer access points, both in person and by telephone;

visits to tenants whose homes had received property improvements;

visits to empty properties for let;

visits to schemes with communal areas;

visits to the area with estate based staff such as caretakers;

a review of antisocial behaviour case files; and

a review of IT systems for delivering services.

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


Appendix 3 – Positive practice

Appendix 3 – Positive practice 'The Commission will identify and promote good practice. Every inspection will look for examples of good practice and innovation, and for creative ways to overcome barriers and resistance to change or make better use of resources’. (Seeing is Believing) Planning frontline services so that they meet tenant needs 1

SHL monitors how customers access services and this understanding of demand influences how public reception points and interpretation services are delivered, such as staffing levels, staff training needs and the most common languages being used in the area.

Delivering services to customers who are potentially excluded 2

SHL ensures services are accessible for vulnerable tenants and tenants who do not speak English as a first language. These tenants are identified through tenant profiling and contacted quarterly, with interpretation if required, to identify any service needs. Tenants are made aware of services available and how to access them.

Responding to climate change 3

Climate change initiatives are reducing water and energy consumption and carbon emissions, and raising tenant and staff awareness of climate change, adopting and implementing best practice, and addressing fuel poverty. Initiatives include home visits to give tenants practical advice on how to reduce energy bills and helping tenants access lower water charges.

Ensuring gas servicing takes place on time 4

SHL not only ensures that all properties have a valid gas safety certificate, but that safety checks take place on or before it is due. The database managing the programme easily monitors this.

Efficient tracing of former tenants 5

A UK search engine tracing facility successfully traces former tenants in arrears and is low cost to SHL at £5 per trace.

Encouraging tenants to take a stand against antisocial behaviour 6

Awards are given to tenants who have contributed to tackling antisocial behaviour. This includes Young Person of the Year and Parent of the Year.

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Appendix 3 – Positive practice

Working with young people 7

A member of staff work full time on school related projects and initiatives have been accessed by hundreds of school children. Outcomes include educating young people about responsibility and the impact their behaviour has on others, particularly antisocial behaviour, and giving information on allocations and lettings so they have a realistic perception of the high demand for tenancies. It also publicises diversionary activities to engage with young people in positive ways and provides work placements for young people who are currently excluded from school. School children give feedback on the events, which are interactive and involve role play.

Witness protection 8

A Witness Support Officer helps supports witnesses of antisocial behaviour including to give evidence in court. They can also arrange additional personal and home security and access victim support to provide counselling. A witness buddy scheme is training tenants who have experienced antisocial behaviour to support alleged victims.

A successful rent deposit scheme 9

Probation and asylum services have provided funds for a rent deposit scheme and a protocol with Housing Benefit ensures claims are dealt with quickly with money paid direct to landlords to protect tenancies. In the last year more than ÂŁ100,000 has been pledged and landlords have responded by actively offering private sector homes to people in housing need.

A successful choice-based lettings scheme 10 SHL runs an effective choice-based lettings scheme. Eligibility is checked at an early

stage and points are clearly allocated depending on levels of housing need. Information is clear and includes details of point levels likely to be successful. Several videos also explain the scheme for tenant preferring visual information. Applicants get tips to help them make successful bid and where necessary are supported in bidding. Applicants can easily bid for properties including online and automated bidding over the phone. Information on applicants is checked when offers are made and verified during viewings of properties. The scheme is accessible to people in housing need. Support to service users in temporary accommodation 11 There is a focus on using temporary accommodation to reintegrate customers into

mainstream life. Customers in temporary accommodation are often from chaotic backgrounds which have contributed to their inability to sustain their housing. SHL works with the Primary Care Trust to give access to medical care either directly through a drop in nurse or indirectly through joining doctor's lists. The hostels also provide a variety of activities that help customers to gain confidence, for example trips to local gyms. Services users have access to books, CDs and DVDs through a mobile library and can also attend training courses to help them back into work, or to speak English if this is not their first language.

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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council


Appendix 3 – Positive practice

Involving hard to reach service users 12 SHL runs highly effective consultation meetings with service users who might

otherwise be considered hard to reach. The temporary accommodation exert panel (TAEP) involves service users in a wide variety of activities including making detailed comments on advice leaflets, commenting on website development, getting their perceptions on why different types of homelessness occur and how best to get back into work. A group of services users of the resettlement and tenancy support services comments on policies, such as the allocations policy, and is used to share useful information, such as credit unions. This ensures that services reflect the needs of the people using them. Tenant training 13 SHL offers a wide range of training for tenants. The skills for life programme offered 40

free courses in 2009/10, including DIY, cooking, resident involvement options and skills to improve employment opportunities. Helping tenants and other service users back into work 14 SHL has produced a comprehensive toolkit for front line staff and partners to advise

people on accessing work and training, including volunteering and apprenticeships. This details options available in the area to help service users. Applicants on registering onto the housing waiting list are asked if they are interested in accessing training and employment. Applicants are then contacted by SHL's employment officer to discuss their situation and options available.

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The Audit Commission The Audit Commission is an independent watchdog, driving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in local public services to deliver better outcomes for everyone. Our work across local government, health, housing, community safety and fire and rescue services means that we have a unique perspective. We promote value for money for taxpayers, auditing the ÂŁ200 billion spent by 11,000 local public bodies. As a force for improvement, we work in partnership to assess local public services and make practical recommendations for promoting a better quality of life for local people.

Copies of this report If you require further copies of this report, or a copy in large print, in Braille, audio, or in a language other than English, please call 0844 798 7070.

Š Audit Commission 2010 For further information on the work of the Commission please contact: Audit Commission, 1st Floor, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4HQ Tel: 0844 798 1212 Fax: 0844 798 2945 Textphone (minicom): 0844 798 2946 www.audit-commission.gov.uk


Stockport Homes Report 2010