Farewell from Andy Sage


A few words from Andy Sage about his time at Thrive Homes.

I stepped down as Chair of the Customer Experience Panel on 30th September 2021, after six enjoyable years to pursue new challenges. During that time, I have worked with a bunch of great people, many of whom I now count as friends. 

I was appointed Chair in 2015 by Vic Baylis (Board Member), Jo Barrett (Operations Director) and Alan Banton (leaseholder and former Chair of the Scrutiny Panel). I gather from their warm send-off that they all still think I was a good appointment. But, of course, they could have just been saying that for my benefit. The CEP was a new initiative for Thrive Homes, and there was much riding on it being a success. Everyone from the Board down was keen to ensure customers had a strong voice and a positive customer experience.

My first job was to recruit the other CEP members. I got lucky and appointed some top people, including Denise Gumustekin, Alan Banton, Joan Fernando, who are still on the Panel working hard to influence the things that matter to customers. Some came and went, including Geoff Fellows, Mark Henderson, Martin Brooks but all of them made an essential contribution along the way. Others, including Alison Watt, Eni Bankole-Race, Richard Joseph, joined the Panel during the pandemic, and I never got to meet two of them in person, which is a big regret of mine.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the CEP members, the staff members (especially Jo Barrett, Anne Bijum, Victoria Bolton, Leah Thomson and Elspeth Mackenzie) and the Board (especially the ones who were on the CEP, namely, Vic Baylis, Beverley Cook, Graham Olive and Craig O'Donnell) for their support over the years. Being an independent Chair brings its challenges, especially at a time when the social housing sector is under pressure to build more and more new homes and continue to invest ever more significant sums of money in the stock to meet the latest building safety and green homes agendas.

I am not going to pretend we got everything right on my watch, but what I would say is we had a right good go at it. From introducing robust processes and critical friend challenge to assess Thrive Homes compliance against the Regulatory Consumer Standards to hosting Customer Question Time events. The latter provided customers with an opportunity to get straight answers from a panel of experts on topics ranging from repairs and maintenance to service charges. 

Thrive Homes is currently undertaking a review of its engagement model to take account of changing expectations. The White Paper: The Charter for Social Housing Residents was published in 2020. This document was the Government's belated response to the Grenfell tragedy.  A new Regulator Social Housing (RSH) is in place, and Consumer Regulation is being overhauled. The Housing Ombudsman Service has introduced a new Complaints Code and is working closer than ever with the RSH. There has never been a better time for customers to make a difference and improve the customer experience.

A special mention goes to Jo Barrett. Occasionally we had difficult conversations but always respected each other's positions and, importantly, invariably found a compromise to make things work for Thrive Homes customers. Thank you.

Exit stage left. 

Andy Sage