This was a year defined by COVID-19. For all of us, the pandemic changed everything. At Housing Plus Group it meant that we worked very differently, with clear priorities to maintain essential services for customers and to be a good employer.
For me, 2020-21 has been a year of great pride. We pulled together across the Group, and forged even stronger relationships with stakeholders and community partners. We drew on the resilience of a stronger, larger Group and we achieved more than anyone could have expected.
This report reflects upon a year like no other.
Following the successful merger between Housing Plus Group and Stafford and Rural Homes at the end of 2019, our expanded Group was preparing to meet the challenges of integration, harmonisation and delivery against a hugely ambitious corporate plan.
As we now know, there were even bigger challenges ahead. This financial year began and ended in lockdown.
Having devoted 16 years to customers and colleagues of Housing Plus Group, Jan Goode said farewell as she went off into early retirement at the end of March 2021.
For the past few years I have had the pleasure of working alongside Jan as part of the executive team and it is a great pleasure to take on the role of Executive director of housing along with my responsibility for care services.
As I reflect on 2020/21 one word comes to mind: resilience. I have been profoundly impressed and very proud – though not surprised – by the extraordinary response of all my colleagues to the pandemic.
When we recruit for many of our roles, we value personal qualities above specific experience. People who are caring, dedicated, collaborative and determined to make a positive difference can very quickly become part of Care Plus.
When I reflect on 2020-21, the most satisfying aspect of our response to the pandemic was the adaptability demonstrated by so many teams and individuals. We adopted new ways of working, found creative solutions and provided essential services in the most challenging of circumstances.
There are some really notable achievements of which we can be incredibly proud.
The merger between Housing Plus Group and Stafford and Rural Homes was intended to give the Group greater resilience and to ensure that it would be better placed to withstand significant changes in the macro economic environment, such as changes in government policy or funding.
Throughout 2020-2021, the pandemic presented unprecedented challenges not only to the health and wellbeing of staff and customers but also to the context in which we continued to provide affordable homes and frontline services.
The financial case for merger was compelling.
As separate organisations, both Housing Plus Group and Stafford and Rural Homes were financially robust, delivering performances significantly above average in the sector.
Together, we recognised that a new, combined business would have greater financial strength, enabling it to do more than either landlord could achieve alone.
As well as achieving savings through refinancing opportunities, our merger generated access to additional investment capacity.
When we prepared for merger in 2019, we agreed outcomes that are as clear as they are ambitious for our repairs and maintenance services.
As important as our commitment to build new homes, the Group will focus investment in our existing housing stock by ensuring that homes are well maintained and benefit from ongoing improvement programmes. Our expanded scale means that we expect to invest more than £100m in improvements and repairs by 2023.
Preparing for merger in 2019, we recognised that there was a superb opportunity to integrate the care services of Housing Plus Group and Stafford and Rural Homes, to provide more choice for older people right across Staffordshire and Shropshire.
During this year we began to fulfil the promise we made on that merger, to provide one-third more hours of crucially-needed care and support.
In 2019 we asked for your support for a merger between Housing Plus Group and Stafford and Rural Homes. You agreed that we should take the opportunity to build a bigger group, offering even better homes and services.
This report has been prepared during a time of national challenge and reflects our year of change. For Housing Plus Group, 2019/20 was shaped by our successful merger with Stafford and Rural Homes.
This was a year in which the merger between Housing Plus Group and Stafford and Rural Homes transformed our organisation. The merger created a new, larger and more resilient Group which now manages 18,000 homes and provides employment, training and apprenticeships for 860 local people.