Customer Voice Group interview with YHN's Managing Director, Tina Drury
Customer Voice Group interview with YHN's Managing Director, Tina Drury
Our Customer Voice Group caught up with Tina Drury to ask some of the questions we know our customers have been wondering about. Here are here responses...
Q. A lot of customers in mid to high rise properties throughout the city have experienced an extremely poor service over the past year with regards the servicing of lifts. In some cases, with lifts being out of service for several months leaving some vulnerable customers restricted in their ability to get out and about. Can you explain what has happened and what is being done to resolve the situation?
A. There is no doubt that we have experienced some difficulties with the existing lift contractor and that customers have been left without the use of their lift, at times, for unacceptable periods of time.
We are working very closely with the contractor and the city council to improve the performance. However, in some instances it is not as straight forward as people may think – so, for example, we have some specialist lift equipment in some developments, Tree Top Village being one of them.
As this is a specialist lift, if it breaks down the lift contractor must get in touch with the lift manufacturer to obtain any new parts required, this means they have to wait until the manufacturer supplies the parts and only then can they repair the lift.
We are having regular meetings with the Regional Director of RJ Lifts and have agreed an improvement plan. I’m pleased to report that, in recent weeks, we have seen a significant improvement and we are working hard to ensure this improvement is maintained.
Q. As with the lifts – Could you give a brief overview of which major repairs are the responsibility of YHN, and which are the responsibility of the council or other organisations?
A. All repairs, whether major or day to day repairs, are the responsibility of the city council. However, through the Management Agreement with YHN they delegate responsibility for day-to-day repairs to us.
Any major works, such as bathroom and kitchen replacements or new heating systems, are funded from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA – this is basically where the income we get from rent money goes). The responsibility for the HRA sits with the council and all day-to-day repairs are also funded from it.
Whilst I appreciate some people are unhappy with the recent rent increase, the fact is that without it the council wouldn’t be able to fund any improvement works. I’m not sure if people would remember but when we had the four-year rent freeze, this left a £28m shortfall in the HRA, in other words £28m worth of major improvements could not be funded and the council will never be able to recover this money.
Q. According to your Your Home Your Voice survey from December 2022, 68% of customers said they felt safe. Clearly a lot of others may not feel safe. Can you explain what the process is for those customers that do not feel safe. Who should they contact? Who is responsible for managing anti-social behaviour and how is this area of work being publicised to and explained to customers?
A. Feeling safe in their homes can mean different things to different people. It could be about the property being safe, feeling safe in the environment or feeling safe within your home. Whichever one it is, it is very important to us at YHN that people always feel safe.
So, let’s start with the property being safe. If any customer has any concerns about the safety of their property, we encourage them to call us and let us know. Within YHN, we have a team of building safety experts who specialise in areas such as fire, gas, asbestos, water, electrical and multi storey safety. We regularly remind customers about how to keep themselves safe at home through our social media channels and Homes and People magazine.
If we are talking about people not feeling safe due to anti-social behaviour (ASB), then we also have a specialist team to deal with that. We will investigate and take enforcement action against anyone who is in breach of their tenancy agreement. I know that people often feel as though they haven’t been listened to when they’ve reported ASB to us, but I would like to assure everyone that we do listen and we do act, but I accept we may need to get better at keeping people updated on what we are doing.
Dealing with ASB is never quite as straight forward as we would like it to be. We are governed by legislation in terms of what we can and cannot do, but we work very closely with the police and other agencies to try to have a co-ordinated approach if the ASB is affecting several families/people within a neighbourhood. Our aim will always be to try to work with the people who may be committing ASB to try to get them to change their behaviour and to understand the impact it is having on other people. However, success can be limited and, in instances where our interventions haven’t worked, we will take enforcement action. I think it’s worth explaining here that enforcement action doesn’t and won’t necessarily mean someone is removed from their tenancy. It is not in our or the council’s power to take someone’s tenancy away from them; we must submit a case to the courts and a judge will decide whether or not someone can stay in their property. We do have a direct email address for customers to report ASB and it is firstname.lastname@example.org
Aging and health
Q. As the demographic changes, what is being done to ensure that properties are also changing to ensure that they are suitable for and can be adapted for older customers and those with physical or mental ill health? How does YHN promote information in a timely manner on what is available?
A. We have lots of different ways in which we help people who are getting older and perhaps are less mobile, as well as having lots of support in place for anyone who may be vulnerable regardless of their age. All new build properties are built to what is called Lifetimes Homes Standards, which means that as someone gets older or their needs change, the home can be easily adapted to ensure they remain safe and can continue to live there.
Over the years, we have developed several developments for those with learning disabilities and these are just one of the types of properties we have that help us to meet both the physical and mental health needs of customers of all ages. We have also developed Assisted Living Schemes to bridge the gap between our Housing Plus offer, which is housing with support, and residential care. All our assisted and learning disability developments have level access showers.
We also have a 24-hour call system, Ostara, in all these developments and we offer this service 7 days a week, 365 days a year, which means customers and their families have reassurance and feel safe knowing that help is available if they feel unwell, have a fall or feel unsafe for whatever reason. This service is also available to customers living in what we refer to as general needs housing, at a small weekly charge of just over £3 per week.
In addition to this, in the last twelve months, we have carried out 237 adaptations.
We currently have a budget of £1.6m for adaptations to existing homes and, whilst that sounds like an awful lot of money, it can be quite expensive to carry out adaptations in people’s homes.
We promote all of these services and others through our social media channels, as well as our website and in our Homes and People magazine.