Victor da Cunha takes a look back at 2014-15, year three of Curo's Big Plan. Mission: to make a positive and profound contribution to the neighbourhoods we work in – inspiring and empowering people to succeed in life.
2014-15, year three of our Big Plan. Mission: to make a positive and profound contribution to the neighbourhoods we work in – inspiring and empowering people to succeed in life. In the year since we opened our Contact Centre we’ve handled 300,000 calls, emails, visits and social media enquiries; customer service is our number one priority.
Our Response teams completed 45,000 repairs then ditched the paper and went digitally mobile, cutting 88,000 paper tickets down to zero; every job is allocated instantly online.
Different thinking; this is the month we launched our new commercial house-building division, buying land and building homes for sale on the open market, so we can create the surpluses needed to continue to deliver new social housing with less Government funding. Two of our Georgian townhouses are newly available as holiday-lets, bringing our portfolio to four. We’re innovative and commercially-minded, switching some of our poor condition stock into more commercial uses so that they can recover the investment and support the building of new affordable homes.
Bath became one of ten Pathfinder areas for Universal Credit; we’ve lead a number of initiatives to support customers through one of the most profound changes to welfare for decades.
Our award-winning Independent Living Service expanded, offering thousands more people the chance to access support to stay living independently in their own homes. Our care and support services save the public purse around £8m a year.
In June we transformed the first experience customers often have with us: lettings. Satisfaction with the process has leapt 25% and the time taken to re-let a home has been cut to 24 days – that’s over five days quicker than the average in similar organisations.
As reigning national champs, we were invited to speak at the National Housing Federation’s Community Impact Awards. Curo’s Andy Iles travelled to Manchester as a finalist in the ‘Inspirational Colleague’ category of the Housing Heroes awards. And the BBC’s Ali Vowles opened a sensory garden created by the residents, ably led by nonagenarian Dennis May.
Our development programme continued apace with customers moving into 13 new homes in Bristol. See working mum Louise’s story here about what a difference it’s made to her life.
Meanwhile, a public competition found a new name, Mulberry Park, for our development of 700 new homes, community facilities and open spaces in Bath. It’s named after the floating harbours used in the D-day landings, designed by the Admiralty in Bath. We love it!
A quiet month? Not around here. We celebrated 24 new Curo homes in Trowbridge. By 2017 we’ll be building 500 every year. Every £1 spent on housing puts £3 back into the economy and every home built creates 1.5 jobs in construction plus up to six jobs in the wider supply chain.
Our ‘planned works’ programme continued apace and by the end of the year we’d invested £14.8m into planned improvements to our homes, upgrading 505 kitchens, 448 bathrooms, completely rewiring 102 homes and carrying out 450 other electrical upgrades across our properties.
We’ve been pioneering a national initiative that’s giving residents the chance to take on services like grass-cutting or cleaning shared areas. One group giving their own gardening a go is a residents’ association in Writhlington - we supported them with a £2,190 start-up grant and have been able to cut their service charge in return for their work – win-win.
Our Resident Involvement team joined 50 customers at our annual Curo in Bloom ceremony, followed by our Local Voice Conference. And we’ve been busy keeping our parks, gardens and playgrounds in good shape, managing over 580,700sqm of open spaces (that’s 1,350 tennis courts’ worth of grounds), not to mention 7,000 trees.
We rubbed shoulders with the best of Bath business as triple finalists at the Bath Business Awards, shortlisted in the Contribution to the Community, Training & Development and the blue riband Business of the Year award.
Free Food Tuesdays took off at the Bath Foyer – a chance for residents to get together and plan, cook and enjoy a healthy meal together using mystery ingredients donated by Fare Share South West.
We opened in our local One Stop Shops – offering Curo services alongside the local council, CAB and others, all under one roof. We also made three successful bids to run older persons, mental health and homeless services in North Somerset, extending our care and support services that already reach over 2,700 people each year.
Improvements in our repairs service generated savings of £300k, now being reinvested on getting more customer repairs completed faster and better. We sponsored Bath Green Homes, showcasing energy saving and making homes more sustainable.
We achieved the Investors in People’s Gold Standard, meeting 149 of the 157 requirements – the highest number our assessor had ever come across. We duly painted one of our vans gold to mark the occasion and attract more glittering candidates to Curo.
This month we posed the question: what weighs 48kg and contains 10,000 pages? Answer: the full set of documents comprising our Mulberry Park planning application.
We welcomed a new apprentice in our Response team, and our first female gas engineer, Lucy Reeve.
With Universal Credit up and running, we launched Passport to Housing – an initiative to get customers ‘tenancy-ready’ ahead of a move, providing practical advice and support. And getting to work got easier this month, with the arrival of electric bikes for use by Curo customers who we’ve supported into new jobs and work placements.
Over the year we made 22 work placements possible, helped create 4 apprenticeships and 98 customers living in our supported housing projects got into work, training or education. As well as helping customers to find or create their own work – people like Brin who tells his story here – we do business locally as much as we can, spending £29m with over 350 local firms.
We took National Housing Day to heart; we blogged, filmed, tweeted, talked and pressed the case for housing with the media, public and politicians. It became our busiest social media event to date with 234 tweets, Facebook messages Youtube views and our website taking a happy hammering with over 2,000 hits that day.
December saw the first residents move into one of Curo’s biggest developments – Bath Riverside. We were joined by the Homes and Communities Agency to declare the 55 riverside apartment homes open.
We repeated our popular ‘winter-warmer’ events, offering some of our oldest customers a well-being boost as the nights draw in and the mercury dips.
We were thrilled to hear we were shortlisted alongside high street brands including Marks & Spencer, Sky and Homebase for the prestigious UK Customer Satisfaction Awards.
We’ve extended our Contact Centre opening hours, from 8am-6pm, in response to customer feedback. From June, we’ll take this to the next level, opening till 8pm Monday-Friday – a better service for our 25,000 customers.
We started 2015 with the news that Curo is ranked 13 nationally out of 235 housing organisations for digital communications and is the highest climbing organisation in the index compiled by Visceral Business.
15th January 2015 was the day ‘Curo’ was born – that’s Curo the Labrador puppy, set for a fine future as a guide dog thanks to £5,000 raised by Curo colleagues over the year.
February brought big news: our outline plans for the major development at Mulberry Park in Bath were approved. We’ve worked hand-in-hand with local people and stakeholders to develop our plans for the area – find out more here.
The opening of a purpose-built materials store in Keynsham – run in partnership with Travis Perkins – means our repairs colleagues spend less time traveling and more time at customers’ homes getting the job done.
We took to the skies in February, exploring the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (aka drones) to carry out property condition surveys. We currently spend over £50,000 a year on inspections that require scaffolding; this has real potential to save time, money and disruption for customers.
With the General Election just two months away, we added our voice to the Homes for Britain campaign, calling on politicians to commit to ending the housing crisis within a generation.
We published the HAILO report commissioned from Professor Anne Power at LSE. Entitled ‘Is Welfare Reform Working?’ this in-depth study looks at whether the government’s changes to the benefits system are delivering their aims, and the impact on social housing tenants.
On a personal note, I completed the Bath Half, running in aid of Bath Rugby Foundation, and achieved a new personal best. Unfortunately my colleagues are insistent that this isn’t one of my KPIs.
Our development at The Pastures in Hilperton receiving a Top Development certificate at the Premier Guarantee Excellence Awards and the nearby Centenary Court scheme in Trowbridge was shortlisted for a Town Enhancement Award. That’s topped off a year that’s seen us build 244 homes across the West of England, taking our total number of homes to 12,882.