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.
I’m proud of our results, with rent arrears even lower than forecast, vital safety checks completed on schedule and incredibly, a reduction of just 9.2% in the number of repairs carried out in a year of successive lockdowns.
I’m proud that we kept our customers and staff safe. Our Health & Safety, Facilities Management and IT teams deserve particular credit for enabling us to work differently and safely.
Housing Plus Group partners with a range of organisations to help the people most in need in local communities. Our support provided a lifeline this year, when charities experienced a huge fall in donations.
I’m proud that we were able to provide an emergency base for the Barnabus project in Shrewsbury, allowing the foodbank to get vital supplies to people and families, when severe flooding closed its own premises.
We also distributed a COVID-19 emergency fund, providing grants totalling more than £30,000 to groups working with the people and families most affected by the pandemic.
Food banks, hospices, work clubs and organisations helping people to stay connected benefited from these grants and I know that some of our colleagues were among those volunteering to distribute food parcels at a time of great need.
While so much of our focus was on responding to an unprecedented crisis, we continued to deliver against our corporate plan. During 2020-21 we developed 191 new homes, provided exciting opportunities for apprentices and increased the hours of care that we deliver with the purchase of our first residential care home.
It was a year when we made great strides towards a One Landlord approach, ensuring that customers benefit from the same services and support, wherever they live. We were also preparing for an In-Depth Assessment (IDA) by the Regulator of Social Housing, which would lead to confirmation that our Group has retained its top rating for Governance (G1) and Financial Viability (V1).
In December, our colleagues came together virtually, to share what had made them proud. The CLARITY event allowed us to step back for a short while and reflect on individual and Group contributions that are so much a part of a values-driven organisation.
Like so much of our collaboration in the past year, that event took place on Teams. Time saving, remote meetings are something that will be part of everyday life going forward. Innovation and learning that have grown out of necessity are helping us to improve our services, achieve better value for customers and become an employer of choice in the area.
This report gives an overview of our work in 2020-21. I hope that you will take the opportunity to read more about the areas that interest you and to appreciate the personal insights from customers and colleagues which have created a unique timeline of this shared experience.