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A look back at Curo’s first Residents’ Festival

 

 

This year we held our first ever Residents’ Festival which ran for a week between 13-17 September 2021.

Victor da Cunha speaking at Conference


The main purpose of festival, which included our two-day conference, was to provide Curo residents with a wide range of ways to talk to us and hear from us  – both in person and digitally. Thanks to everyone who took part!

The theme of the conference was the Charter for Social Housing Residents which sets out seven things every social housing resident should expect from their landlord.

Teams from across Curo took to the stage and bought the Charter to life through seven sessions and discussions focussing on each of these expectations, which are:

  • #1: To be safe in your home
  • #2: To know how your landlord is performing
  • #3: To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly
  • #4: To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator for tenants
  • #5: To have your voice heard by your landlord
  • #6: To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in
  • #7: To be supported to take your first step to ownership

Watch again: You can watch any of these conference sessions on our website here.


Paul Harris talks to residents at conference.

Each discussion gave the audience in the room and those taking part digitally the chance to hear about improvements we’ve made, how teams are listening to and learning from customers, and ask questions and get answers.

Across the festival week we ran 12 events and activities for Curo customers including five community workshops, four resident engagement sessions including events for leaseholders and about complaints and our estates, plus a Facebook Live Q&A at the end of the week.

Our conference featured many of the ingredients that residents have told us they find useful:

  • Hearing directly from those running the organisation: Chair of the Curo Board Liz Potter, Chief Executive Victor da Cunha and Executive Director of Customer Experience Paul Harris talked about the challenges facing Curo, how we’ve performed over the year and what the future holds.
  • Time for questions and answers: teams from across Curo answered questions from the audience and residents watching at home.
  • Celebrating amazing Curo residents: We announced the winners of the 2021 Curo in Bloom competition and the 2021 Curo Community Awards. To see the full list of winners, click here.

The festival week was made even more special as this was the first time we’d been able to welcome customers in to our offices at The Maltings in Bath for 18 months. More than 60 customers joined in person across the two conference events, with over 70 customers coming to our community workshops and digital session.

Adding those residents who took part in the festival digitally, we estimate that we reached more than 1,400 customers this year and we hope this will grow as more of you choose to watch the event on our YouTube and Facebook channels.

Don’t forget - if you missed out on watching the Residents’ Conference live you can check out all the video content here.


What did customers say?

“The event certainly did a lot for me. I feel a lot more positive towards Curo now than I did before.”

“…it was our first event and we were very impressed with all that went on throughout the day, from getting our car parked to being shown to our seats and the food and snacks provided were very good, and all the staff were so friendly. It was also very informative into the workings of Curo.”

“Feedback from the event would be great.”


Feeding back what we heard and learned

Customers asked us many questions, in person at the conference events, at the community workshops and digitally. We answered as many as we could during the conference, so please watch again to hear what we said.

We’re busy reviewing all the questions, comments and suggestions received and we’ll feedback what we heard and what we’re doing as a result as soon as we can. Where questions were specific to an individual’s circumstances, we will get back to everyone directly with answers.

We also ran a number of polls throughout the week to hear your views on a range of topics. Here’s what you told us:

  • Money, rent & service charges

    How and why does Curo increase rents?

    To keep providing our services to tenants we increase our rents. This is done using a formula linked to inflation and set by the Government. Rents for our social rent homes reduced 1% each year for four years. We increased our rents for the first time since then last year.

    We try to keep rent increases as small as we can and we always offer help to anyone who’s struggling or worried about how they’ll pay their rent.

    We always give notice of any changes to rents and we’ll be writing to residents in February with information about changes to next year’s rents. There’s also information on our website about how we set your rent.


    Does Curo support residents who are struggling to pay their rent, regardless of whether they work or claim benefits?

    Yes, we offer support for all residents facing financial difficulty, whether or not they owe us rent and whether or not they’re in paid work. If you need help with budgeting, debt, affordability, benefits or employment, we’re happy to help. Please get in touch with our Customer Accounts team.

  • Repairing resident's homes

    How is Curo improving the way it carries out repairs – including the time it takes, the quality of the work and how we communicate what’s happening?

    The pandemic has meant many repair jobs had to be delayed. We have a queue of around 1,000 extra repair jobs because of these delays. This means some customers are having to wait longer for routine repairs and we’re sorry about this. When emergency or urgent repairs are reported to us we’re still able to get to these the same day or by the end of the next working day.

    Our repairs service’s priority is to bring this queue down so customers don't need to wait long for routine appointments. We’re bringing in more people and plan to get back to the level of repair jobs that we had before the pandemic by the end of March 2022.

    We know we need to improve communication – between departments and also with customers so you know what’s happening with a repair job and when it’ll be fixed. We’ve recently made some big changes to the ways we operate which will improve the experience customers have when they need things repaired.

    We also want to be a more reliable service that provides a consistently high standard of work. When we make an appointment, we want you to be confident that we’ll turn up and that we’ll tell you if we need to rearrange.


    How does Curo check the quality of repair work?

    We carry out quality checks on many of our completed repair jobs to help keep standards high. Our trades colleagues take photos before and after every repair jobs. We send customer satisfaction surveys via text messages to customers asking them to rate how satisfied they are with the completed repair, we also give customers the opportunity to provide comments within the survey feedback. Our colleagues take pride in their work and we want all our customers to be satisfied with our repair work. If you’re not satisfied, please tell us so we can put things right.

  • Improving resident's homes

    How can residents get permission to do their own home and garden improvements or alterations?

    We have a team who look at requests from residents to carry out work on their homes. We review these requests carefully and will approve as many as we can, where we can. There are restrictions we must apply to keep customers and your homes safe. Our website has our application form plus a list of the most common types of work we’re asked about, click here to see it.

    If you need alterations made to your home to make it easier for you to live in, for example  because of a disability, ask your doctor to refer you to an Occupational Therapist (OT). They’ll be able to assess your needs and tell us if alterations are required.


    Will Curo repair things that residents have installed, charging the customer for the work?

    Usually, if a resident has installed anything in their home they’re responsible for maintaining it. We’re reviewing how we charge for repairs to make this process clearer for customers. Our Customer Commitment lists what we’ll usually repair, and what customers are responsible for fixing.


    How can I get a dropped kerb so I can park on my drive?

    If there’s a designated driveway at your home, it should already have a dropped kerb in front of it. If it’s not designated by your local authority as a driveway, it won’t have a dropped kerb. If you need a dropped kerb, you can apply to Curo for consent. You’ll also need to get planning permission and approval from your local authority’s highways department. If a dropped kerb is needed because of a disability you can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant from your local authority.


    What appointment slots do Curo offer for repairs?

    We offer morning, afternoon or all-day appointments when you book a repair. You can also tell us about times to avoid – for example the school run.


    What experience is needed to join Curo as a tradesperson?

    We advertise all our job vacancies on our website and each advert lists the different levels of experience and qualifications we’re looking for.


    How is Curo maintaining residents’ homes and what’s the plan for updating kitchens, bathrooms, heating and other parts of residents’ homes?

    Over the next five years we will be upgrading:

    • 1,800 windows
    • 3,000 boilers
    • 1,000 full heating systems
    • 1,600 bathrooms
    • 2,700 kitchens
    • 400 electric heating systems

    We’ll also carrying out maintenance and re-decoration work across 300 blocks of flats. This five-year investment will see Curo spend £68m on customers’ home.

    We work with carefully chosen specialist companies to do this work. We’ve been able to continue a lot of this work throughout the pandemic by putting in place measures to keep customers and workers safe.

    You can see what year home improvements are planned for your home by logging into MyCuro, our secure customer portal at www.curo-group.co.uk/mycuro. Or feel free to contact us if you’d like to know the plans for your home or have any other enquiry.


    What kind of heating system are going to replace fossil fuels and how else will Curo be helping to reduce our carbon footprints?

    There isn’t yet an obvious choice for replacing fossil fuels for heating. We’re trialling some of the options available to give us more confidence in choosing the right heating systems for different types of property. We’ll share what we discover from these trials.

    In the next few months we’ll be consulting with customers about green issues. We want to hear your priorities and understand more about how we can all do to tackle the climate emergency. Keep your eyes on VoiceBox to hear about this consultation.

  • Estates & community services

    Are Curo refurbishing any parks?

    Yes – we recently redeveloped five parks, turning them into community gardens at the request of customers. Let us know if there’s a Curo open space near you that you’d like to help transform.


    Does each estate pay the same rents and charges and get the same facilities?

    No. Each Curo estate will have different amenities and services available to them and these will cover different geographical areas. We calculate service charges based on what it costs to provide services to all the homes within a service charge boundary – you can see these boundaries and the services provided on our website at www.curo-group.co.uk/map. If you’d like more information about what you’re contributing to, please speak to our Service Charge team.


    What should I do if I’m not satisfied with the standard of services like cleaning, or if I want to take on some of these services?

    We try provide a high standard for all the services we offer across our estates. If there are aspects you’re not happy with please let us know and a manager will pop round so you can talk through your concerns. We can also send you a pack that explains our resident-led services scheme where customers can choose to take on some of the services Curo normally provides.


    What can Curo and residents do to reduce fly-tipping?

    Local authorities will not clear away rubbish that’s been dumped on Curo land, so we have to do this ourselves before it attracts more fly tipping. Clearing this costs money. Only the local authority has the power to prosecute fly tipping offenders. If we’re provided with evidence, we’ll pass this to them so they can prosecute. Please help us by sending us any evidence you have of fly-tipping.


    What can be done to make it easier for residents in busy areas to find a parking space?

    Our estates advisors look at sites where parking is a problem and if there’s an appetite from the community we can bring in a private parking permit scheme.

  • Home ownership

    How does Curo manage the differing views , interests and responsibilities of tenants and leaseholders?

    Tenants and leaseholders (that’s residents who own their home, with Curo as the freeholder) are treated equally as Curo customers. Rules about living in a Curo building will be the same and tenancy agreements and leases will reflect this.

    There are differences around how building maintenance is paid for. Leaseholders are charged for most building maintenance work. For tenants, Curo covers the costs of maintenance which is paid for through the rent money we get.

    We offer new home-owners a handbook as well as a welcome meeting where we can chat about what’s involved in being a homeowner and answer any questions.


    Can leaseholders arrange their own work to the exterior of their home, perhaps using an approved list of companies?

    There are a few reasons why we don’t do this. Firstly, leases often restrict what a home-owner can repair on the exterior of their building. As the freeholder, it’s our responsibility to carry out these repairs and split the costs fairly between all leaseholders and Curo. If a leaseholder did their own repairs and this incurred a cost, we’d be unable to recoup this money. Bigger jobs are subject to a legal process known as Section 20 which we must follow so that everyone contributes their fair share. Where a property is a Listed Building, we need to make sure the work complies with the relevant laws.


    How can leaseholders be more involved in planning changes to their homes?

    Yes. We’re listening carefully to feedback from leaseholders through our customer satisfaction surveys. We’re also going to run a session where leaseholders can talk to us about how we plan and charge for maintenance work and other services. At this event we’ll look at what we already provide customers, and we’ll talk about how we can improve this information and understand what good looks like to you. If you’d like to be involved in this, please let us know.


    Why does Curo mortgage freehold properties and does this affect the ability of leaseholders to sell of their property?

    We sometimes mortgage properties to access funds to build new social housing. The title being charged is Curo’s freehold title – we cannot charge freehold titles that we don’t own. This doesn’t impact on the ability of leaseholders to raise a mortgage or sell their property: leaseholds are entirely separate and unaffected.

    Where can I find more information about Shared Ownership?

    Our website has lots of information about shared ownership, including a short video explaining how it works. Visit www.curo-sales.co.uk/shared-ownership or call the Curo Sales team on 0345 140 5050.

  • Getting involved

    How is Curo making it easier for customers to get involved and be heard?

    We have a an extensive ‘resident engagement framework’ which describes the many ways Curo customers can be more involved with Curo. These opportunities are on our website at www.curo-group.co.uk/get-involved. If you prefer we can post you our resident engagement menu which includes a form you can you use to try out different ways to be involved. We advertise our these opportunities using social media, email, our website and through flyers, posters and newsletters.

    At many of our engagement opportunities a senior colleague from Curo is there to listen to customers, provide expert advice and make sure any concerns are acted on as soon as possible. Everything we do to engage with customers involves listening to you, acting on what we hear and feeding back so you know what’s happened.

    We encourage anyone who wants to get involved to contact the Resident Engagement team on VoiceBox@Curo-group.co.uk or by calling us.


    How can Curo make it easy for people of all generations, abilities, ethnicities and  backgrounds to mix with each other and get more involved?

    We have a range of customer groups designed to bring communities and customers together such as Sheltered Housing for Older People (SHOP), our Disability Action Group and Originem, which is a new group focusing on ethnicity and diversity issues. These groups are a safe space where customers can meet each other and share their thoughts and experiences with Curo colleagues.


    What social housing experience do Curo Board members have, how are members of chosen and can residents apply?

    All Board recruitment happens openly and residents are very welcome to apply for positions. Although we’re not recruiting at the moment, please keep an eye on our website and social media for details of vacancies in the future.

    Several of our Board members have direct experience of social housing and property development. At Curo we’re always trying to learn from the best, which includes learning from what’s happening in other sectors. To be able to make the best decisions, it’s important that our Board is able to draw on a wide range of skills, experience and backgrounds. All Board members (regardless of their backgrounds and experience) undertake an induction when they join us, which includes training about social housing and visits to Curo homes.

    The Board is always keen to understand what Curo customers want and need, and there are a range of ways for customers to do this. Please consider signing up for Voicebox, our Oversight Group or one of our other resident involvement opportunities – the Board really do pay attention to what our customers tell us!

  • Independent Lives

    How does Curo support people with disabilities, learning difficulties or mental health challenges?

    Our Independent Lives teams offer a range of support services including our Independent Living Service, LiveWell service, sheltered housing and Wellbeing House. All colleagues working in our Independent Lives teams have training in equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), helping them provide the best possible service to residents who have disabilities.

    In sheltered housing our Livewell Officers and Sheltered Officers work with disabled residents to help them live independently and comfortably within their own home.

    We’ll talk to residents to see what aids and adaptations might be needed within their home. We can work with an Occupational Therapist to get disability grants to pay for any building work like door widening or fitting a wet room. We also look at how residents can access and move around their home and can arrange to have ramps and handrails installed.

    Socially, our Livewell Officers organise many events that can be accessed by everyone in the community – for example coffee mornings or sign-alongs.

    If a resident’s told us they’re struggling with their mental health, we’ll work with them to understand the cause and we won’t assume anything. We’ll focus on their strengths and the support that’s available for them, whether that’s from us or organisations we work with, to help them find a solutions.

    Our Customer Accounts team provides help and advice with rent and money using whatever channel residents prefer, for example face to face, by phone, text, or email. The team can offer advice about disability benefits, including a benefits entitlement check, and can also help with applications for Personal Independence Payments.


    How does Curo decide who can live in sheltered housing?

    To live in Curo sheltered housing, residents need to meet eligibility criteria when they apply – for example being over a certain age, or needing specific support. It’s rare that a sheltered home is granted to someone who does not meet these criteria. Exceptions include people with certain illnesses or conditions, or mobility requirements that makes other properties unsuitable for them.


    Does Curo teach hearing people to learn British Sign Language (BSL)?

    We bring in professional BSL signers whenever needed. Some Curo colleagues can communicate using BSL and we’re happy to look at training more colleagues if there’s enough demand for this.

  • Tenancy issues

    How is Curo improving the way anti-social behaviour is dealt with and the support offered to victims?

    We’re starting a new group which will review cases of anti-social behaviour and look at how we can do more around anti-social behaviour. This group will be able to influence Curo policy and our procedures. We’re working closely with agencies like the police and local authorities to speed things up and get more positive outcomes. We’re also setting up a support group for victims of anti-social behaviour which will be led by customers.


    What criteria does Curo consider when offering properties to residents with drug, alcohol or mental health challenges?

    Housing vulnerable people is complex and a lot of factors are taken into account when considering the suitability of accommodation and making sure right support is in place. We want every tenancy to succeed, without problems, but we know this doesn’t always happen. We’re reviewing our lettings process and will consider this carefully as part of the review.


    Can Curo install CCTV in their buildings?

    Yes, and we already have CCTV in some of our buildings. CCTV is not a one size fits all approach so we evaluate each location separately before deciding whether CCTV is right.

    Do adult children of Curo tenants have any rights to take on the tenancy or be rehoused by Curo if their parent dies?

    The answer will depend on the kind of tenancy that the deceased customer held. Our Tenancy Management team will be able to look into individual cases.


    Can I have a dedicated contact at Curo who I can approach with any questions or issues?

    We don’t generally offer this across Curo, however in some cases you’ll be assigned a colleague who will be your contact – for example when dealing with tenancy issues, or if we’re trying to help you with a very complex case.

  • Complaints

    How can Curo become quicker, more proactive and more accountable when resolving issues?

    We take complaints very seriously and learn from our mistakes, so we can avoid repeating them. Once something has become a formal complaint, it’ll have reached a stage where we have to react to something that’s already gone wrong. We’re trying to be more proactive so that we’re having to react to problems less. We’re using information from previous complaints to spot issues and prevent things escalating. And we use information about complaints to change the way we do things so that our services improve for customers. We encourage Curo colleagues to take ownership of issues and we give them the power to take action to resolve problems quickly.

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