Two housing providers have been able to provide their residents with a better service thanks to collaborative working relationships
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Close working relationship
Challenge: Ongoing maintenance contractor required
Solution: 80 multi-skilled engineers carrying out repairs
Outcome: 23-point rise in customer satisfaction
The field of repairs and maintenance is one area where services are commonly outsourced to external organisations. If a housing association goes down this route, establishing a strong working relationship with this organisation is a vitally important aspect of ensuring that the service can be best delivered to benefit the landlord’s residents.
A robust partnership between landlord and maintenance contractor is typified in the relationship between 39,000-home Orbit Group and Fortem.
The contractor currently provides Orbit Heart of England with maintenance services across the Midlands from a base in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The ‘eight years plus five years’ contract under which it works began in March 2014 and has an £11m annual turnover. It originally covered 14,284 properties, which has since risen to 15,711 through Orbit’s development
Fortem employs 80 multi-skilled engineers on the contract, who each year carry out 50,000 repairs, attend to 1,180 voids and perform 2,000 electrical checks.
Paul Richards, executive director of customer services at Orbit, says: “Fortem was appointed by a conventional tendering process as Orbit was looking for someone to take on its in-house repairs operation, buying in their expertise as we have no direct labour capacity. This is very much a partnership; it is not a ‘shared pain and gain’ contract, but there is a bonus element.”
Fortem is paid on a price per property basis and a schedule of rates is used for voids. After early teething problems, customer satisfaction has risen sharply in the past year and is now at its best score for the past five years.
Mr Richards says: “The key achievement has been to improve customer satisfaction by 23 percentage points in the past year from 63% to 86% and that follows changes in the team on both sides.
“There has been an end-to-end review of processes, revamped teams, weekly – or even daily – huddles over feedback from customers, a code of conduct for engineers when in people’s homes, and a focus on reducing work in progress.”
He says Orbit is now working with Fortem to share repairs data to target investment where it is most needed.
Rotherham Borough Council
Challenge: Partner for implementing maintenance programme required
Solution: Responsive repairs service
Outcome: Social value derived for Rotherham residents
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council takes an approach to partnership working that is supportive but challenging. It is based on principles of openness, trust and honesty between partners; shared goals and values are understood; and time and resources are invested in developing better working practices and continuous improvement for staff and tenants.
The council’s partnership with Fortem has “clear, effective leadership in place and each partner has a clear role”, says Mark Nearney, head of service for contracts, investment and compliance at Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. These principles have led to a successful repairs contract with high levels of customer satisfaction, and other innovative projects such as the Brayshaw Bungalows scheme.
Fortem has worked with Rotherham since 2010 after a first generation transfer of undertakings of a direct labour organisation. Works have included responsive repairs, a gas service, installation of aids and adaptations, voids, and planned works.
The Brayshaw Bungalows scheme is an example of how the collaborative approach used in contract management – to reinvest contract efficiencies – has benefited some of Rotherham’s most vulnerable residents with specially adapted bungalows built for disabled people and their families.
Another example of the collaborative contract management approach has seen a building transformed into premises for Shiloh, a local charity supporting homeless people.
The renovation was made possible by the innovative nature of the contracts, which ensured that the surplus made by the contractors was invested in initiatives to build a better Rotherham. Such integrated and collaborative working methods have paid dividends for the council in gas safety as well, Mr Nearney says.
Over the past 12 months, the council and its repairs and maintenance partner Fortem have consistently delivered 100% gas compliance for the first time in the council’s history. As a result, up to 1,700 tenant boilers were serviced every month throughout the entire year.