The last twelve months have been some of the most challenging faced by social landlords in recent years. Despite this Trent & Dove Housing, who are based in Burton upon Trent with over 6,000 homes around the East Midlands, have improved their performance and reduced arrears by over £70,000. This was done through intensive work and the creation of an updated, robust support network for both customers and colleagues.
After the initial hurdle of getting staff geared up for homeworking was cleared, Trent & Dove wanted to understand how these changes were affecting customers. By listening to their customers, they were able to use this information to ensure the necessary support was in place should they need it.
“The culture at Trent & Dove has always been focused on our communities and being accessible to tenants. So, when Covid hit, we set about identifying customers who may require additional help as a result of the pandemic. The project team ensured these customers were safe, whether they had any additional support needs, and how we could help.” explains Pam Bowley, Revenue Collections Manager at Trent & Dove.
The organisation also began offering additional services to support their communities further.
“From the initial outreach project, it was clear that we had customers who felt isolated. As a direct response to this we recruited a Befriending and Wellbeing Officer to identify, support and connect customers to the services available in their local communities. In partnership with East Staffordshire MIND, Trent & Dove also fund a mental health worker to offer specialist support for customers.” Jasper South, Senior Interim Housing Consultant at Trent & Dove.
A wider communications campaign that linked with local agencies enabled Trent & Dove to support schools with pupils without access to IT equipment, though the provision provision of 60 refurbished tablets, and additionally funding for free school meals whilst the schools were closed. Where possible, community projects were supported to remain open in a covid secure way.
“To ensure colleagues were in a strong position to support our customers, we needed to ensure they too were well supported. Colleague surveys identified a need for guidance though these new challenges, whether it was working alone, home-schooling, lack of space to work and so on. A range of engagement opportunities were also introduced to ensure colleagues had opportunities to stay connected. We introduced online quizzes, socially distanced walks, and mindfulness podcasts to name a few.” highlights Pam.
As a result of the pandemic, income collection has changed over the past year. Landlords have had to work differently due to the new environment, especially with the courts being closed.
“Enabling customers to maintain their tenancies was key. We were fortunate to have a range of existing support options available that we could expand upon. Our communications have been updated to reflect this, softening the language and highlighting the available financial assistance such as discretionary housing payments (DHPs),” explains Jasper.
Using RentSense has helped identify those tenants that needed additional support particularly in the over the last year. It has enabled the Income Team to intervene at the earliest stages.
“The accurate data, from RentSense, helped to identify tenants who needed support and pinpoint when they need it, which has been critical. In addition to the pandemic, we have faced mounting challenges throughout the year, including a big drop off in Housing Benefit and throughout we have also been down two team members. Despite this, the team have done phenomenally well and beaten their target which was set pre-pandemic. Their hard work and the new processes have resulted in a reduction of £70,000 in arrears.” Comments Pam.
“We have really enjoyed working with Trent & Dove and supporting them where we can. All credit to Pam, Jasper and the team for their stunning performance over the last twelve months, in supporting tenants and improving performance.” Commented Paul Evans, Director at Mobysoft.