We have been listening to feedback from our customers and we are pleased to tell you about some changes we have made as a result:
Following feedback in the STAR satisfaction survey, we carried out a second survey of tenants who had moved into one of our properties in the last two years. Overall the feedback was positive, however, there was some suggestions for how we could make improvements:
You told us:
There should be more time to view and move into a property that you have been offered.
What we have done:
Unfortunately we can’t give people more time to move, because an empty property costs us money in lost rent, which means we then have less money for work such as modernisations and improvements.
We also recognise that is important to having as much information as possible before looking around a property. We have therefore increased the information and photos that are available when an empty property is advertised.
You told us:
Some of you were not satisfied with the condition and cleanliness of the property when you moved in
What we have done:
We have raised this issue with our contractor through our monitoring meetings. Our contractors have now employed new cleaners to clean our empty properties before the new tenants move in. We will continue to carry out a monthly survey of new tenants to make sure we can respond to any issues raised and identify any areas which need further work.
Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB)
The feedback in the STAR survey in 2020 showed low satisfaction with how we handle reports of alleged Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB). Following on from this we have carried out a further, more detailed survey. You told us that you were not satisfied with how long it took us to contact you after making a complaint of ASB. You also said you were not clear on the timescales involved in dealing with cases of ASB, and didn’t understand the powers available to deal with Anti-Social Behaviour.
In response to this feedback we have produced and published a Resident’s Guide to Anti-Social Behaviour which sets out our policy and procedure for dealing with ASB. This provides timeframes for responding to reports of ASB, the powers available to deal with ASB and details of the process for taking action. We will send a copy of the Guide to everyone who reports ASB to us. The Guide is available to view or download or you can also request a paper copy by email email@example.com or call us on 01323 443363.
You also told us that the diary sheets were not easy to use, so we have now reviewed and updated the sheets to make them easier to fill in. You also didn’t feel that you were kept informed about progress with your case, so now when action needs to be taken we will agree an ‘Action Plan’ with the person making the ASB report. The Action Plan will provide information and timescales for updates and feedback on progress with the case.
Our Allocations Policy lists all the rules that apply when applying for Social Housing in Wealden. Some of the rules in the 2018 policy had made it hard for some households to join the housing register (waiting list), therefore we have made some changes.
The biggest change is for the need for a ‘local connection’. In the past, if an applicant didn’t have a local connection due to their own residency (where they live), then they would have needed a close relative living in Wealden for 10 years to be able to join the Housing Register. Following your feedback, we have reduced the requirement to 5 years. We believe this will help more households qualify to join the Register.
There are other changes around Parish local connection which can be found in our Allocations Policy
We have also changed the rules around the maximum amount of savings held to eligible to apply for Retirement Living accommodation in Wealden. The amount has been increased from £6,000 to £20,000, meaning more people can apply this type of accommodation, even if they have savings. The thresholds for general needs housing are now linked to property prices.
We have made some changes to providing documents when applying for social housing. Documents can now be uploaded online on the Sussex Homemove rather than sent in by post, making the application process quicker and more efficient for you.
You also told us that the Allocations Policy was difficult to understand so we have produced a key facts version and amended our website to explain the process in stages.
You would like us to provide a gardening/tree service for tenants?
Unfortunately, we do not have the finances to provide a free service. However, when we next procure our grounds maintenance service we will look to include a Social Value element (wider benefits) within the tender specification asking if the companies tendering could provide this service and how much they would charge tenants for this service.
Wildlife gardens start off well and then decline and start to get over grown and look untidy.
In developing wildlife gardens in the future on land owned by us, we will put in place an arrangement for some maintenance to take place, or hand management over to the Resident Association.
You don’t understand the term Local Offer.
We are required by the Housing Regulator to produce annual “Local Offers” but we are now calling these “Our Service Commitments to You”. You will find out more about these on pages 8-16.
Sussex Home Move Website
Housing Applications would benefit from better/more information on the Sussex Home Move website when searching for a property. We took on board the comments made, listened and have explored options available at this stage. While we do not have the resources for redesigning the floor plans on older properties in a format appropriate for advertising, we will be providing pictures and plans on our new builds. In addition to this, we are in the process of working on a Google maps function to place with the advert. Our long-term plan is to look at the entire empty property process and how this can work when advertising a property.
Recruitment of Housing Officer
Tenants were advising us that they are sometimes unable to get hold of a Housing Officer. We have recruited another Officer to help with workload and availability. Working alongside the Housing Officers, we have 3 Estate Wardens who work generically across the district.
Tenant Incentive Scheme
You said you would like an immediate email confirmation when you apply for the Transfer Incentive Scheme online. We asked our Digital Services Team to make this amendment, and it is now live.
Following feedback, we have added a gender neutral Title to our housing database system so that those individuals who wish to be known as something other than the standard titles (Mr, Miss, Mrs etc) can now use Mx followed by their first name and last name. We want to be seen as giving individuals the opportunity to be known by what they wish to be known as, rather than what our computer system dictates.
A tenant reported that they were unhappy with the way an Officer in Housing had spoken to them. We do need to have difficult conversations with customers from time to time and we are arranging training for Officers so they are more able to manage these conversations in a supportive way.
Termination of a Lease
A relative complained about delays when terminating a lease. While this can be a lengthy process, we have looked at how we can speed up the process, what information we provide and training for staff covering colleagues who are absent.
You wanted to be able to see your at a time which suits you. So we have created an online booking system which allows you to access the housing officers diary and book a Teams meeting with them.
Also see our learning from our formal complaints and link to: Housing Complaints
Our scrutiny group are working on an empty homes process project. The specific area they are looking at is the stage when a tenant terminates their tenancy.
They are reviewing our style of communication when ending a tenancy, with a view to suggesting ideas for improvements based on their research and findings. Work is still very much in progress and the group will be potentially interviewing ex-tenants or those about to move out of a Wealden property.
Moving into a Wealden Property – November 2022
We held a focus group with several tenants who had moved into a Wealden property over the past 12 months. Wealden is currently looking at its entire current empty homes process with a view to making improvements to the service – for both the customer and the Council.
This part of the empty homes process – before and when a tenant moves into a Wealden property, was discussed during the focus group. We asked the group about their experiences with the housing register, how they felt the sign-up process went, bidding for properties and the stage of moving into a Wealden home. The group provided us with a wealth of insight and first-hand experiences, information that will be used for the empty homes review.
Customer Service Applicants from the Housing Register January 2023
A focus group meeting was held for those who have applied for housing with Wealden. The group were very interactive and provided useful information, based on their own experiences of customer service.
They gave an insight into whether they felt they had received a good service by the Council in the past.
One of the main factors which will be investigated further was about giving customers reasons why we have reached the decision we have, to allow customers to understand why we may have said no to a particular request, for example. Communication is key, and moving forward as a Department, we will look at how we can improve this further.
We are looking to hold another focus group for our Tenants and Leaseholders middle of March 2023.
Customer Service for Tenants and Leaseholders March 2023
We looked at the Customer Service standards which are already in place at Wealden DC, to see whether Tenants and Leaseholders felt there was more we could do to enhance the customer experience. Discussions with this group were insightful and the group was very interactive, sharing their own experiences with others. More can be done in terms of communicating to our customers – whether this is internally or externally.
Following both customer service focus groups, we will explore how we can take forward some of the issues highlighted to ensure we can deliver the 5 star customer service which the council seeks to achieve.
The panel have looked at our Complaints Handling Code, which the Housing Ombudsman Service requires all social housing landlords to self-assess against. We discussed the areas of the assessment where we currently do and don’t comply and our intentions to meet these standards. An overview of complaints received between 2021-2022 were provided along with the outcome of the complaints giving details of any learning outcomes.
The performance and satisfaction reports were also discussed with the panel. Throughout the meeting participants had the opportunity to ask questions and come up with ideas and suggestions for the council to examine.
July 2022 – We gave an introduction to the Housing Ombudsmen and social housing regulator – who they are and what they do. We also introduced the Tenant Satisfaction Measures that the social housing regulator wanted to bring in that all social housing landlords will need to report on and results published. This will be happening in the second half of this year. We ran through an overview of all formal complaints (2021/22) raised and handled, and also ran through our quarterly Performance and Satisfaction report and highlighted where we are doing well and not so well. The meeting gave the group an opportunity to ask questions on each topic – many questions were asked – and to offer suggestions for improvements. One suggestion made on our satisfaction surveys, concerned ‘survey fatigue’ and to prevent this by adding information on the survey about the number of questions that will be asked and how long this will take to complete. The majority of surveys created since this meeting now include this information.
October 2022 – the meeting was attended by a senior member of our Information Governance department, who gave an update with key changes on our complaints policy and procedure. The panel conveyed their feedback and opinions on our formal complaint response letters (for Stage 1 and Stage 2 of a complaint). They asserted that the tone and language used in letters needed to change as they read too formal and neither user or customer friendly. As a result, Information Governance will be changing the tone where appropriate and are also looking at the wording on a case-by-case basis so that the letters are considered accessible. It is important to add that our own statutory obligations, the housing ombudsmen, and the local government ombudsmen expect us to cover certain points in our letters. The issue of our complaint’s letters being signed off by ‘Information Governance’ and not by an individual was also raised. Formal complaint letters are a formal response from the Council and not an individual, we are looking to make changes going forward.
January 2023 – We discussed our current housing feedback option for customers which is vastly underused and asked the panel their thoughts on this. We also discussed our average response rates for surveys and asked the panel for ideas on how to make asking for feedback more appealing. The panel came up with several points and ideas which we will be looking to work on and explore further with. The panel were updated with our quarterly overview of formal complaints, outcomes and also any learning outcomes.