By Victor da Cunha, Curo Chief Executive
This time last year I gave my view on a year in the life of Curo. One year on, we’ve continued to build on our successes, to learn and adapt as we push on towards achieving our mission: "To make a positive and profound contribution to the neighbourhoods we work in - inspiring and empowering people to succeed in life." Despite a rapidly changing environment and further changes to our business model we’ve maintained our headline performance; both in terms of our finances and customer satisfaction. Here’s my look back at what we’ve helped to make possible in 2015-16…
We kicked off the financial year with the news that our Missed Opportunity domestic abuse training programme won a UK Housing Award – a fine accolade for an outstanding approach to keeping communities safe.
An unpredictable General Election lived up to expectations. With Homes for Britain we made sure our local candidates knew housing was a vote-winner. In May I wrote to all those politicians who promised action on housing, reminding them of their commitment. Read my thoughts on the parties’ election pledges here.
We held a birthday party for our rural Memory Café which is providing a lifeline for people affected by dementia and living in isolated rural communities.
Meanwhile another award underlined how seriously we take our customers’ safety, as our Gas Team won SW Contractor of the Year at the Gas Safety Awards.
I joined more than 160 Curo colleagues taking part in National Volunteering Week, tackling 18 community projects across our customers’ neighbourhoods. Over the year we funded 24 projects, committing £40k to community development activities in the region.
We extended our opening hours to 8-8, Mon-Fri – putting customer convenience first. Over the year our Customer Contact Team handled 170,000 contacts via phone, email, face-to-face and social media, resolving 90% of those right away. The following month our Head of Customer Contact, Leah Tchorniy, was named manager of the year at the South West Contact Centre Awards – hugely deserved.
We used Rural Housing Week to highlight the pressures facing people living in villages like High Littleton where we’ve turned a brownfield site into a niche development of affordable homes for local people.
We opened the doors to our Wellbeing House (pictured), a Victorian Curo property we’ve turned into a retreat for people experiencing mental health issues. This adds to our range of care and support services, which we estimate saved the public purse £7.7M last year – a remarkable ‘social return on investment’.
Inside Housing featured our accredited work placement programme as a prime example of the new ways housing organisations are helping tenants (like Charlene, pictured) into work and training. This programme is one of the reasons we were named Business Employer of the Year by Bath College later in the year.
Helping people into work is just one way we’re helping customers boost their finances. Over the year our Customer Accounts Team, working with advice agencies like CAB and SWAN, have helped customers better their finances by over £320k through grants, charity payments, tackling debts and better money management.
We also invested £15M into upgrading our customers’ 13,000 homes and this month launched a new approach called SHAW - making every home ‘Safe, Healthy, Affordable and Warm’.
We celebrated a milestone at our 700-home Mulberry Park development in Bath (pictured) as detailed plans for the first 275 new homes at the former MoD site were approved unanimously.
I learned that, according to Visceral Business, I’m digitally connected – listed in their top 10 most connected housing CEOs. If we’re not connected yet, where have you been? Find me on Twitter or LinkedIn!
We participated in a successful pilot of the Homes and Communities Agency’s new forensic in-depth assessments (IDAs), helping to inform the new-style regulatory assessments of the future.
October saw me let loose on a digger to get ground-work underway at Drew’s Meadow in Devizes, one of Curo’s first commercial developments – delivering 50 new Curo homes, and generating revenue to reinvest into our core social purpose.
This was a big month for Curo customer Nadine (pictured), recipient of the first Curo Scholarship, who started her degree course. We also welcomed Helen, fresh from university, who joined our house-building team through our new Curo Graduate scheme.
We played a big part in Housing Day once again, helping our customers tell their positive stories and experiences of social housing – including Holly who successfully completed a work placement with Curo, and Nordine Benchiba who told us why he’s proud to be a Curo tenant.
We marked the completion of the 1,000th Curo home to be built over four years of the Affordable Homes Programme. We celebrated with a special cake, created by Jake (pictured), a Bertinet Bakery apprentice who lives at our Bath Foyer.
In December we secured funding to launch Working Well, designed to help young people improve their work prospects and wellbeing through coaching in cooking, employment goals, gaining qualifications and money management.
We ended 2015 by bringing our colleagues together for our annual awards night, celebrating the outstanding outcomes they’ve helped make possible. Among the stars in the spotlight was Customer Accounts Manager Matt Dix (pictured receiving his award).
Having raised over £5,000 for CLIC Sargent, Curo colleagues picked our next charity: Dorothy House, a fantastic local organisation celebrating its 40th birthday this year.
We welcomed members of our newest ‘Neighbour Hoodies’ group in Peasedown St John. These groups encourage children to get together to make a real difference in their street, choosing and leading their own community projects.
We completed an unusual conversion this month: the basement of the former Bath home of Admiral Philips, founder of modern Australia no less. This once-empty space is now let and generating cash we’re using to build new affordable homes.
Another of our new care and support offerings, Community Connect, took to the streets of Weston-super-Mare to spread the word about this service which helps older people make connections that boost their wellbeing.
As someone who started his career as an apprentice, it was great to spend time with Curo apprentice Reece during National Apprenticeship Week. Over the year we’ve created seven apprenticeships, often through contractors, delivering on our commitment to help people into work and to succeed in life.
At our Mulberry Park development Housing Minister Brandon Lewis MP (pictured with Bath MP Ben Howlett on right) dropped by and spread a glow of pride by describing our development as ‘iconic’, ‘ambitious’ and one that will have a ‘life-changing impact’.
Our ambition and commitment to deliver more homes remains high and we’ll be investing £100M in maintaining and building new homes in our local area over 2016/17. If you’d like to do business with us this year, please drop me a line.