Transforming our relationship with customers

In her latest blog, Thrive Homes Chief Executive Elspeth Mackenzie discusses the new ‘deal’ set to strengthen relationships and improve communications with customers.

These are exciting times for us at Thrive, as concepts that we have been evolving for a considerable period are starting to become a reality.

One change is our roll-out of the ‘Thrive Deal’, an agreement which clearly sets out our relationship with new customers, outlining their – and our – roles, expectations and responsibilities.

The ‘deal’ we offer is that we provide and keep their home in a safe condition and in return ask customers to respect, value and take care of it. The underlying principle, of course, is that people must take more responsibility for their housing. Our starter one-year tenancies offer an increased level of support to ensure customers understand what it takes to make a success of their tenancy.

This new approach includes us taking an inventory of each property and a record of its condition, so customers sign up to ensuring they maintain the quality of their home.

We will then conduct annual ‘Home Plan’ visits to check the property’s condition, see who is living there, understand how it is being used and identify any necessary repairs. These visits also enable us to pick up on issues, such as hoarding or DIY ‘improvements’, which might impair the accommodation’s long-term safety or that of an entire block of flats.

During the course of our new seven-year fixed term tenancies, the fifth year visit will involve more rigorous scrutiny of the property and will inform our final year conversation with the customer about their changing needs, plans and aspirations for the future – and how we might play a part in those.

These home visits will promote a healthier relationship with our customers, presenting an opportunity to have a more in-depth conversation with them about what it’s like to live there, specific challenges they may face and how we might work with them to overcome those challenges – all within the context of our ‘Thrive Deal’ agreement.

Better communication

This new deal is about us, as a landlord and a business, understanding our customers better, demonstrating that we value them and want their tenancies to work. In addition, it allows us to gather crucial information that could alert us to potentially serious issues.

Our regular one-to-one conversations during the Home Plan visits will enable us to collect anecdotal feedback not currently provided by our existing systems of resident engagement.

So, as well as encouraging a closer relationship with our residents, the Thrive Deal will help us build up a truer, more rounded picture of our homes – and flag up any problems early.

This is particularly pertinent in the post-Grenfell era, when there is a focus on housing providers’ relationship with customers and how we listen to them, thus ensuring we hear what they are saying so their concerns are highlighted and addressed.

The digital shift

As part of the Thrive Deal, we have recently launched our first digital tenancies where customers ‘sign up’ at the new property, share documents and agree to engage with us digitally through the myThrive app that enables customers to pay, check rent balances and report repairs.

I firmly believe we need not shy away from encouraging customers to engage with us in this way – in a world where so many people now conduct their banking, shopping and leisure activities online.

This digital shift is good news for customers too, making it much easier, simpler and more convenient to interact with us at a time to suit them, without the need to worry about transport to our office or the opening hours of our customer service centre.

From a business point of view, we have to be increasingly smart and appropriate in the way we communicate and gather customer insight – and this must include the shift to digitalisation, as we work to bring the housing sector into the 21st century.

June

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Drop-in service for people in crisis gets a helping hand in Aylesbury

A drop-in service for Aylesbury people in crisis has been given a helping hand from a local housing association.
Thrive Homes, which owns and manages a number of affordable homes in Aylesbury Vale, has donated £600 from its small grants fund to Aylesbury-based organisation Space.

Space provides support and care to people struggling during difficult times in their lives, such as relationship break-downs, depression, bereavement, unemployment, mental health problems or loneliness.

The Thrive grant will help fund the group’s drop-in sessions, which are run five times a week at various community locations in the area.

For people in need of more intensive support, Space can signpost them to other organisations for help and also offers an affordable one-to-one counselling service.

Project Coordinator Kate Lawton said: “At the drop-in sessions, people can just pop by, have a cup of tea and talk if they want to – there’s no pressure but sometimes people just need someone to listen and be supportive.

“We are very grateful for this grant because, like many other small community organisations, we struggle to find funding for what we do – but it really is a lifeline for so many people who don’t know where to turn in times of crisis.”

Space supported 171 people through 3,251 interactions – drop-in visits, counselling sessions and general support – between April 2017 and February 2018 alone.

Daryl Pereira, Engagement Business Partner at Thrive Homes, said: “Everyone goes through difficult times once in a while and it can make you feel very alone and isolated. But Space offers support and a listening ear in a caring, non-judgemental environment to help people through tough times.”

Thrive’s small grants fund awards sums of around £500 each to good causes in need of support, including charities, organisations and projects within the communities where Thrive operates.

The fund is part of the housing provider’s ‘Thrive GIVE’ initiative which aims to benefit communities and worthy schemes, bringing social value in a variety of ways.

Thrive GIVE (Generating Income for Voluntary Enterprises) includes the ‘Give Grants’ community fund, ‘Give your Time’ staff volunteering programme, ‘Give Support’ scheme which links charities with private sector support and ‘Give a Voice’ campaign to ensure customers have their say.

Furniture recycling charity gets cash boost from Hertfordshire housing association

A furniture recycling charity has been given a cash boost by a Hertfordshire-based housing association.

Thrive Homes has donated £500 from its small grants fund to Fresch (Furniture Recycling Scheme for Hertfordshire), which is based in Welwyn Garden City.

Fresch collects donated furniture and electrical goods to reduce the amount going to landfill, then sells it at an affordable price to people in need such as those on low incomes or women fleeing domestic abuse.

The Thrive grant will help the not-for-profit social enterprise continue running its services across Hertfordshire.

Manager Michael Gadeke said: “All the money we make on selling the furniture enables us to operate, and we try as much as possible to be self-sustaining. But a grant like this is a welcome boost and very much appreciated.”

In 2016/17, Fresch saved 40 tonnes of furniture from going to landfill, received 1,100 donated items which helped 900 customers, and clocked up 8,500 hours of volunteering to provide the service.

Daryl Pereira, Engagement Business Partner at Thrive Homes, said: “We are always keen to build strong links with the communities in which we operate and support local organisations doing great work to improve people’s lives.”

Thrive’s small grants fund awards sums of around £500 each to good causes in need of support, including charities, organisations and projects within the communities where Thrive operates.

The fund is part of the housing provider’s ‘Thrive GIVE’ initiative which aims to benefit communities and worthy schemes, bringing social value in a variety of ways.

Thrive GIVE (Generating Income for Voluntary Enterprises) includes the ‘Give Grants’ community fund, ‘Give your Time’ staff volunteering programme, ‘Give Support’ scheme which links charities with private sector support and ‘Give a Voice’ campaign to ensure customers have their say.

Community charity spreads the word to improve quality of life for Dacorum residents

A community support charity is being helped to spread the word about its work to improve Dacorum residents’ quality of life.

Hertfordshire housing association Thrive Homes has awarded £500 from its small grants fund to Community Action Dacorum, based in Hemel Hempstead.

Community Action Dacorum provides a range of support to the local community, bringing people together to achieve through voluntary service, strengthening communities and enhancing people’s lives.

The charity – which celebrated its 70th anniversary last year – supports voluntary organisations and community groups at the early stages of their development, provides services to help them grow and flourish, and runs various projects that support local individuals, businesses and community groups.

Thrive’s grant will be used to promote the charity’s Support4Dacorum project, which helps community organisations in the borough with matters such as funding advice, governance support, volunteer recruitment and networking.

Community Development Officer Loretta Anderson said: “We are very thankful to Thrive for this contribution to our work, as we are always keen to get the word out to promote what we can do for groups in the voluntary sector.”

Daryl Pereira, Engagement Business Partner at Thrive Homes, said: “Community Action Dacorum runs a multitude of projects and services, aimed at improving communities and making a real difference to people’s lives, so we are pleased to support their latest venture.”

Thrive’s small grants fund awards sums of around £500 each to good causes in need of support, including charities, organisations and projects within the communities where Thrive operates.

The fund is part of the housing provider’s ‘Thrive GIVE’ initiative which aims to benefit communities and worthy schemes, bringing social value in a variety of ways.

Thrive GIVE (Generating Income for Voluntary Enterprises) includes the ‘Give Grants’ community fund, ‘Give your Time’ staff volunteering programme, ‘Give Support’ scheme which links charities with private sector support and ‘Give a Voice’ campaign to ensure customers have their say.

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Thrive cash boost launches flagship homeless project appeal in Aylesbury

Young homeless people in Aylesbury will be offered a lifeline thanks to the launch of a new flagship project which has been kick-started by housing association Thrive Homes.

Thrive, a housing provider which manages a number of affordable homes in Aylesbury Vale, has awarded £750 from its small grants fund to Youth Concern in Aylesbury.

On the back of the cash injection, the local charity is launching a fundraising drive to bring in a total of £250,000 which will fund a new service they say is desperately needed to support the area’s growing number of young homeless people.

‘The Next Step’ project will provide accommodation for up to a year for 10 young people at a time, along with intensive, tailored support around health, skills and employment.

The idea behind the scheme is to give individuals longer term support to help them get back on their feet, build their confidence, develop their practical skills and boost their job prospects so they can eventually gain employment and live independently in their own home.

Fran Borg-Wheeler, Chief Executive Officer of Youth Concern, said: “We are thrilled to receive this grant from Thrive Homes as it will kick-start our campaign to raise funds for our exciting new youth homeless accommodation project, The Next Step.
“The number of young homeless people is growing but there is not enough sustained support for them in this area, so such a project is desperately needed to empower and enable our young people to rebuild their lives after homelessness.

“As a community, we need to pull together to respond to the issue of homelessness and help young people cope with the increasingly complex challenges they face.”

Youth Concern currently runs the Aylesbury Nightstop project, which provides emergency short-term accommodation for 17-25-year-olds facing homelessness, as well as a drop-in centre and counselling services for young people aged 13-25.

The small independent charity, which is based in Whitehill Lane and celebrates its 40th anniversary next year, supported 565 young people in the last financial year alone, between April 2017 and March 2018.

Daryl Pereira, Engagement Business Partner at Thrive Homes, said: “We manage a number of affordable homes – for rent and for shared ownership – in Aylesbury, including a number that we have built as part of wider developments in recent years.

“As a social landlord, we are always keen to play our part and contribute to the local community, so we are pleased to be able to support Youth Concern and help them launch this exciting new project which looks set to transform many young people’s lives in the years to come.”

Thrive’s small grants fund awards sums of around £500 each to good causes in need of support, including charities, organisations and projects within the communities where Thrive operates.

The fund is part of the housing provider’s ‘Thrive GIVE’ initiative which aims to benefit communities and worthy schemes, bringing social value in a variety of ways.

Thrive GIVE (Generating Income for Voluntary Enterprises) includes the ‘Give Grants’ community fund, ‘Give your Time’ staff volunteering programme, ‘Give Support’ scheme which links charities with private sector support and ‘Give a Voice’ campaign to ensure customers have their say.

  • To find out more about the Next Step project or contribute to the appeal, please contact Fran on fran@youthconcern.org.uk
  • Volunteers ‘speed matching’ event to help charities in Welwyn Hatfield

    Aspiring charity volunteers will be matched to their ideal job at a ‘speed matching’ event in Hatfield, with the help of a local housing association’s support.

    Welwyn Hatfield Community & Voluntary Service (WHCVS) has received a £500 grant from social landlord Thrive Homes to run the event and other activities at its base, The Volunteer Centre, on Thursday 7th June.

    Representatves of up to 20 local charities or voluntary organisations will have three minutes to ‘sell’ themselves to each individual interested in volunteering.

    Carmen Dillon, Chief Officer at WHCVS, said: “It’s a fun and effective way of recruiting volunteers to local groups, which rely on people giving up time for free in order to carry out their work.

    “People interested in doing some voluntary work come along and move from table to table, getting a flavour of each organisation, and the charities get to know a little about that person too. If it’s a match, they can organise having a further chat later on.”

    She added: “We rely on grants like Thrive’s to run our activities, so we are very grateful for their support.”
    The Volunteer Speed Matching event will take place at Hatfield Connect, 1st Floor, The Triangle, Beaconsfield Court, Hatfield, AL10 8YE, from 10am to 1pm. Anyone interested in going along is asked to contact Carmen on 01707 274861 or email her on c.dillon@whcvs.org.uk

    WHCVS works to develop and promote local voluntary and community groups, helping them to set up, fundraise, recruit volunteers and train their teams. It also provides a community car scheme to transport people with mobility or other issues to medical or other appointments.

    In addition, the charity has recently launched a new club which runs social activities for 7-12-year-olds with autism, and the Let’s Chat telephone support service which provides regular calls and a friendly chat to people who are isolated or lonely.

    In 2016/17, WHCVS attracted 213 volunteers who applied for opportunities with local charities and community groups – and its community car scheme made over 2,000 trips, covering more than 75,000 miles.

    Daryl Pereira, Engagement Business Partner at Thrive, said: “WHCVS is dedicated to supporting groups which improve the quality of life of individuals, groups and communities.

    “Here at Thrive we are keen to promote thriving communities where people have life chances and opportunities, so we are delighted to be able to support this charity in its vital work.”

    Thrive’s small grants fund awards sums of around £500 each to good causes in need of support, including charities, organisations and projects within the communities where Thrive operates.

    The fund is part of the housing provider’s ‘Thrive GIVE’ initiative which aims to benefit communities and worthy schemes, bringing social value in a variety of ways.

    Thrive GIVE (Generating Income for Voluntary Enterprises) includes the ‘Give Grants’ community fund, ‘Give your Time’ staff volunteering programme, ‘Give Support’ scheme which links charities with private sector support and ‘Give a Voice’ campaign to ensure customers have their say.

    Valuing our greatest resource results in ‘Best Companies’ milestone

    In her latest blog, Thrive Homes Chief Executive Elspeth Mackenzie reflects on how a self-conscious focus on people management has helped Thrive on its journey to becoming a great place to work.

    Here at Thrive we recently celebrated being recognised as one of the country’s best places to work.

    We were ranked among The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Companies To Work For and named ‘Best Improver’. This was great news for us and represents a milestone in the journey our organisation is on.

    For us, these rankings are the measure we use to determine how effectively we are engaging our people and we are passionate about the role our managers play, because the way employees feel about a business isn’t something that just happens – they look to their managers for truth and leadership.

    The reason we have improved so much is that we have worked to ensure we have a real focus on our people, reflecting the value we place on them. This is rooted in our strategic framework, of which a key aspiration is being a good place to work.

    In so doing, we will not only attract the right talent, but customers will get a good service as our people will have the right capability for us to run the business well. During a period of significant change at Thrive and in an environment where we are trying to operate as efficiently as possible, this is imperative because, more than ever, every person counts.

    One particularly pleasing aspect of the Best Companies ranking is the fact that we were rated 25th overall for the regard people have for our learning and development programme, which is something we are continuing to develop. It helps our business, improves our offer and enables us to identify and nurture talent, equipping people to be the best they can be and to evolve during the course of their careers.

    Changing our approach

    In terms of people management, part of our approach has been to focus on areas where we don’t think traditional ways of operating serve us well – for instance, the annual round of staff appraisals which can become just a paper chase and box ticking exercise.

    So, instead, we have replaced the process with Chin Wag – a system based on the premise that you know what your job is and generally get on with doing it. An organisation’s over-riding objectives and focus for the year might influence the emphasis on different aspects of your job description but, fundamentally, you are just getting on with your job.

    On that basis, your conversations with your manager should be around how well the job is going, with new objectives only being set if it’s not going well or you are looking for career development.

    The other aspect of these conversations is around how your behaviour is impacting on your achievements and the achievements of others. For instance, here at Thrive, we have specific values which we need to behave in accordance with in order to work well as a team.

    The underlying principle of Chin Wag is the relationship between you and your manager, so the final element is the need to give your manager feedback. We recognised that this part of the conversation often wasn’t happening as people were unsure how to tackle it. As a result, we decided we had to equip them to do so.

    In response, we developed our Managers’ Compact. We began by asking our staff to list what was important to them in their manager and what things they most appreciated in the best manager they’d ever had, such as showing a personal interest in them as individuals. We then conducted a workshop with our managers, listing and discussing their best experiences in their role.

    When we married these two lists up, we found a lot of common ground – and our findings form the basis of our new Managers’ Compact, which sets out what we should be expecting of them.

    This compact acknowledges the different motivations that drive us and promotes recognition of people performing well. It is also permissive, enabling people to hold their manager to account and giving them a basis to flag up issues they want to address.

    It is already working well by giving everyone a reference point for how they manage or are managed – and it makes clear that being a good manager is not about being a subject expert, but about getting the best out of people.

    Looking ahead, we are developing individual Employee Compacts so that people coming into the business have a clear view of what the Thrive culture is. With that clarity, we want our people to take responsibility for themselves and have an open relationship with their manager.

    Evolving culture

    Over the last year we have also focused on our emphasis on being ‘Positive Resilient People’, clarifying our commitment to providing an open, supportive and creative environment which enables employees to deliver our vision and values but also to make grown-up decisions affecting their work.

    This is the culture we are trying to evolve and, as part of this, our Positive Resilient People Steering Group helps us identify how employees are feeling and responding to things going on within the business.

    The powerful message behind this is that the issue is so important to us – and the success of our business – that we have invested people’s time in it by creating a dedicated group looking at what is or isn’t going well, to ensure our teams are suitably supported. This allows us to gain an overview of where difficulties are and the opportunity to address them.

    At the heart of all this work we have carried out, self-consciously conducting this exercise, is the recognition that people are any organisation’s greatest resource and must be valued accordingly.

    Closure Order secured on a property in Three Rivers

    Three Rivers District Council has been successful in securing a Closure Order at an address in South Oxhey under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.

    Three Rivers worked in partnership with Hertfordshire Police and Thrive Homes to gather evidence in support of the Closure Order. The council, police and Thrive Homes had received numerous calls from members of the public reporting arguments at the address, noisy visitors, domestic abuse, suspected drug use and drug dealing.

    The Closure Order was granted at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on Thursday April 5 2018 on a property in Ballater Close, South Oxhey, Watford, Hertfordshire. No-one is allowed to enter the property for three months and anyone who breaks the terms of the Closure Order will face arrest.

    The court was satisfied that all the necessary criteria for a Closure Order had been met, including:

  • that a person has engaged, or (if the order is not made) is likely to engage, in disorderly, offensive or criminal behaviour on the premises, or
  • that the use of the premises has resulted, or (if the order is not made) is likely to result, in serious nuisance to members of the public, or
  • that there has been, or (if the order is not made) is likely to be, disorder near those premises associated with the use of those premises,
  • Three Rivers urge their residents to help them in the fight against drugs and associated Anti-social Behaviour (ASB). They are working closely with partner agencies to put a permanent stop to these crimes. Securing the Closure Order is a significant part of helping them achieve that.

    Dr Steven Halls, Chief Executive of Three Rivers said: “We very much value our close working relationship with the police and Thrive Homes. By taking this action to close the address, we hope to and improve the quality of life for our local communities and provide some respite from the behaviour that causes such misery for neighbours.

    “Three Rivers want local residents to continue to report anything of concern via the non-emergency number 101 or, if a crime or ASB is in progress, dial 999.”