Joyce is a resident and Chair of Sovereign’s new Resident and Board Partnership – a key part of how the organisation operates.
Here she talks about some items on the group’s latest agenda and how residents are helping to influence what Sovereign does.
The Resident and Board Partnership is a new group, set up this spring as part of the new engagement structures introduced following Sovereign’s merger with Spectrum Housing Group last November.
Our role is to work closely with the main Board and enable residents to have an input into Sovereign’s strategy, policies and service standards, as well as its performance.
Over the last few meetings we’ve been learning more about key service areas and we had another ‘fact finding’ session at our latest meeting. Area Development Manager, Raphael Cohen, gave us an overview of the ways Sovereign can get involved in developing new homes – either by building homes itself, entering into joint ventures with developers or by buying new homes straight from them.
These items are so informative and we had particularly interesting discussions on how rents are set and what the future might hold for homes at ‘social’ rent levels, rather than at the slightly higher ‘affordable’ rent level.
We also learnt a lot from a presentation by Matt Giles and Kevin Burgess of our customer contact centre. They explained the different ways residents can contact the business, including how newer digital channels are being used more and more.
Nowadays a number of residents communicate via Facebook with organisations like their bank or utility company for example. And they want to be able to pick up their smartphone or tablet and get hold of Sovereign in the same way.
Members were particularly interested how this works for specific or sensitive enquiries. Matt and Kevin explained that they always ask the resident to send a direct message with more details. That means someone’s not sharing their details widely and it lets us check someone’s who they say they are, before we confirm any account or other personal information. The data protection aspects of these newer channels are something we might like to delve into a bit more in the future.
As a Partnership we’re also going digital ourselves – viewing reports and papers on our iPads (a steeper learning curve for some of us than others!). This certainly makes it easier to look at the ‘dashboard’ of data we review each meeting. This shows how Sovereign’s performing across key service areas and we talk about anything where there have been changes we’d like officers to look at. If we’re more concerned, we can ask the Scrutiny Coordination Group to do some extra investigating into that service.
We’re also able to have an input into Sovereign’s future policies and procedures. This time we were pleased to support a proposed new approach to complaints (and asked to review this again in a year to see how it’s bedded in). We also agreed a timetable for reviewing other key policies over the coming year: for example, we’ll be looking at the policy around tenancy fraud at our next meeting.
Reading this blog back, the major thing that strikes me is what a wide range of topics we covered! I think it also shows how we, as residents, are getting involved and do have an influence on things. We may not have a final say, and that’s probably right, but residents’ views are being considered and Sovereign’s listening.
With that in mind we were really pleased to congratulate Gordon Holdcroft on being appointed Chair of Sovereign’s main Board. Gordon very much supports resident involvement – he was the Board’s representative on the previous Resident Council and then the link with the Partnership since merger. While we’re very sad to lose such direct involvement with him, we know he’ll continue to champion the role of residents in his new wider role, which is great news.
There are exciting times ahead!