Hello, and welcome to my November 2022 Chief Executive’s Blog.

My blogs this year are all about our Inspired by our Communities approach and, each time, I’ll take a close look at one of the priority areas from your feedback. To remind you, the priorities highlighted by our tenants for more focus or improvement are:

Communication – improving how we communicate with our tenants and each other
Good Customer Access – making it easier for you to contact us
Quality of Life – supporting you through financial hardship, employment, and training
Quality of Home – managing repairs and maintenance, and dealing with fencing and hedging
Environment – creating and maintaining our green spaces, gardens, and parks
Community Safety – managing anti-social behaviour cases and interactions with the police, and making sure you feel safe in your community
Shaping Services Around Tenants – respecting our customers, and prioritising community activities.

This month, I’ll be focusing on Quality of Home and what we’re doing to improve our Repairs Service. I’ll also update you on how we’re working to improve the way we deal with damp and mould in our properties.

Repairs Backlog

It has been a difficult time for Southway and other housing associations. The Government’s lockdowns during the pandemic meant that, for most of 2020 and 2021, we were only able to attend properties for emergency repairs and other essential or urgent work. This led to a backlog of repairs that we had hoped to have cleared by now. However, due to various issues, including a shortage of skilled staff and difficulties sourcing materials and contractors, we aren’t quite where we’d hoped we’d be.

The good news is, we have had some success recruiting new trade operatives for our own repairs team and are in the process of agreeing contracts for some of the outstanding jobs. This means we will be able to get the work done over the next few months. We’ll be in touch with you by post soon if you are waiting for works to your home, however, please bear in mind that it could be early in the new year before everything is done.

Southway staff will continue to work hard towards completing the backlog as soon as possible.

I apologise for the inconvenience this is causing some of our tenants and appreciate your patience and would like to personally assure you that we are doing everything we can within the constraints we are currently facing.

Repairs Online Portal

We’ve had some technical issues with our online repairs portal on the MySouthway part of our website. This meant we had to switch it off and our customers have had longer-than-usual waits to get through to our Customer Hub to report repairs over the phone.

I’m pleased to let you know that the problems with the portal have now been fixed and you can now book repairs online. This service is quick and easy to access and is available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you like using online services, or perhaps haven’t done it often and want to give it a try, please visit our website at my.southwayhousing.co.uk

Damp and Mould 

Damp and mould was the primary repair type that you wanted us to look at; you wanted us to look at reducing the waiting time for inspections, and some residents reported that, while we do attend to address the issue, there is often no permanent resolution and it just comes back.

In the UK, we have a problem with damp and mould in homes and the cost-of-living crisis could make it even harder for people to properly heat and ventilate their homes, making the problem worse. We don’t want anyone to have to live with this problem, so we have reviewed our approach to make sure that we offer a responsive, customer-friendly, health and safety-focussed service.

We brought together a group of staff and external specialists to look at our process, communication and training, and to learn from good practice. We have taken the time to consider why homes have damp, and how we can deal with the root causes.

As a result, we are:

  • Issuing simplified advice on how to avoid condensation, damp, and mould
  • Introducing more detailed questions as part of the repair-booking process. This includes requesting photos and video upfront to make sure we understand the issue and cause sooner. This will help us get the right type of tradesperson out to the job first time, reducing waiting times for inspections and work.
  • Trialling new approaches, and remotely monitoring their effect on property damp levels with smart technology. We’ll keep you updated on the results of this and how it will be used to shape our overall approach.
  • Reviewing the way we communicate with you when you have a repair; we’ll keep you updated on where things are up to, as well as contacting you after the repair, to make sure the solution has worked.
  • We’ve trained staff so they can recognise damp and mould, understand the impacts, and better diagnose the issue when first reported.

We’re ensuring that the work we do meets the Housing Ombudsman’s recommendations, and our Tenant Scrutiny Panel are reviewing our work so that it has customer input. We’ll soon be asking for your feedback on the new approach – if you’d like to be involved, please make sure your contact details are up to date so we can contact you, or get in touch with us.

Cost of Living

Finally, this winter is going to be an incredibly challenging time for many people. We’re working hard behind the scenes to bring you accurate and up-to-date advice on what support is out there to help make your money go further. Keep your eyes peeled for our next edition of Southway Stories, where you’ll find advice on reducing your energy bills, how to heat your home efficiently and safely, and much, much more.

If you have any comments about my blog or ideas on how we can improve it, please get in touch using the form below or email me at chiefexecsblog@southwayhousing.co.uk. Good or bad, my ears are always open!



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