Longhurst Group Customer Forum - Annual Review 2020

 

Introduction

The Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 led to the publication of the Government’s Social Housing Green Paper in August 2018. Longhurst Group consolidated its four member companies in July 2019.

In 2019, in accordance with requirements outlined by the Social Housing Regulator, Longhurst Group, with guidance and advice from TPAS (Tenant Participation Advisory Service) and a Task and Finish Steering Group set  up a Customer Governance Group (Longhurst Group Customer Forum) to represent customers and provide customer assurance to the Group Board.

The Longhurst Group Customer Forum (LGCF) will ensure that agreed service delivery standards to all customers are being achieved and that Longhurst Group meets the expectations and outcomes of:-

  • Customer involvement and empowerment standard
  • Tenancy standard
  • Home
  • Neighbourhood and community.

This meets one of the important Social Housing Green Paper objectives of “empowering residents and ensuring their voices are heard so that landlords are held to account.”

The Government’s Social Housing White Paper published in November 2020 clarifies the direction that social  housing providers need to take. The formulation of the LGCF became relevant in meeting the requirements of this White Paper.


Background

How we created the LGCF
  • A Task and Finish Steering Group was created in August 2019. Its remit was to ensure recruitment to the newly proposed LGCF was successfully completed by December 2019 and to develop and review the draft governance documentation associated with the Forum
  • Interviews and the appointment of nine candidates to the LGCF were made during  the period of September to December 2019
  • Initial appointments to the LGCF enveloped a  broad talent and balanced diversity across Longhurst Group's customer base (General  Needs customers, Sheltered Housing, Assisted Living, Leasehold and Shared Ownership)
  • An LGCF induction meeting, combined with a  meet and greet session for the successful candidates, was held in January 2020 and the first formal and inaugural meeting was held in February 2020
  • A further four LGCF meetings were held throughout the year. These fell in line with the reporting procedure relating to the cyclical meetings of the Longhurst Group Board
  • Training/current trending topics/presentations were interspersed with LGCF meetings.

LGCF achievements

Longhurst Group colleagues involved in updates to the LGCF

The following colleagues of Longhurst Group were involved in the presentations, regular updates on the Covid-19 pandemic's effects on business, performance trends and updated policy submissions for customer assurance to the LGCF.

  • Jackie Grannell - TPAS Associate
  • Sam Wylie - Head of Customer Services
  • Helen Bird - Customer Engagement Team Manager
  • Sharon Guest - Executive Director of Housing Services
  • Eleanor Cleveley - Policy and Projects Coordinator
  • Rachel Challinor - Director of Governance, Performance and Compliance
  • Francesca Collins - Governance Coordinator
  • Kadie Abbott - Customer Engagement Officer
  • Becky Budge - Customer Engagement Officer
  • Gary Wooldridge - Business Performance & Intelligence Manager
  • Sarah Gregory - Property Compliance Manager
  • Craig Taylor - Director of Housing
  • Charmaine Simei - Director of Community Investment
  • Andrena White - Head of Leasehold Services
  • Mark Rogers - Director of Assets and Property Services
  • Phil Ison - Head of Repairs, Asset and Property Services
  • Matthew Rains - Longhurst Group Procurement Team
  • Zoe Berriman - Longhurst Group Procurement Team

This represents the determination and seriousness of Longhurst Group to fulfil its commitment of customer involvement and meeting the requirements of the Government’s Social Housing White Paper.

            


LGCF aspirations for 2021

Recruitment and appointments

Since the formation of the LGCF, four customers have resigned, leaving a total of five customers representing 12 positions on the Forum. To be quorate at a formal meeting requires five customers to attend.  The LGCF sought to recruit new  customers to fill all the remaining vacancies in 2021 in order to eliminate/minimise non-quorate  meetings in the future and to continue the meeting’s function effectively.

Initial appointments to the LGCF enveloped a broad talent and balanced diversity across Longhurst Group’s customer base (General  Needs customers, Sheltered Housing, Assisted Living, Leasehold and  Shared Ownership). To fill all the vacancies will enable the LGCF  to expand its customer diversity to include age and the geographical areas of Longhurst Group.

Careful consideration is to be given to the diversity of customer categories and age range. The younger, non-retired age group may have difficulty in attending daytime meetings. Consideration may need to be given to holding some of the formal meetings in the evening in order to attract the young working customers. This'll hopefully be achieved by continuing with video conferencing using Microsoft Teams and its inherent flexibility within the revised Longhurst Group working practices and arrangements adapted to meet the business constraints made by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Appointment of Chair

The LGCF wishes to thank Jackie Grannell (TPAS  Associate) for acting as stand-in Chair during 2020 and providing her professional expertise and guidance of how the LGCF links into the Longhurst Group structure. It's intended to interview and appoint a Chair from the LGCF members in 2021.

Relationship with the Board

At the latest LGCF meeting, Sharon Guest reported upon the Board’s eagerness to develop the communication link to the LGCF and requested any solutions to achieve this aim. Discussion ensued as to the Chair being used as the contact link to the Board or a Board member may attend  future LGCF meetings and provide verbal feedback to the other  Board members. Consideration was also given to using the minutes of the LGCF, which are presented to the Board to highlight any escalated items for discussion as an item on the Board’s agenda.

Customer engagement

To continue to develop the customer engagement newsletter and encourage reports/presentations to LGCF from the Scrutiny Team, Mystery Shoppers, and Clean and Green Inspectors of their activities and achievements. This would provide a reassurance to the LGCF of customer participation and empowerment. To date there has been little mention of these bodies at the formal meetings.


    
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