Throughout this year I have been inspired by the commitment of all our teams.

LesClarke's picture
Les Clarke Executive director of housing and care
16 September 2021

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.  

The last year has been a period of exceptional and extraordinary challenge the impacts of which will affect individuals, communities and organisations for many years to come. Many of our customers and staff have been touched personally by hardship, loss, fear and uncertainty. Our staff have worked tirelessly in difficult circumstances to deliver the best possible services and support. 

“The first few weeks in lockdown were incredibly busy. There were so many calls from tenants who needed to claim benefits for the first time,” recalls Andrew Sledge, one of our employment and money advice officers. Supported by our customer service centres, he provided crucial advice while working from home. 

Our employment and money advice team achieved debt counselling savings for customers of £30,566 during 2020-21 – more than double the figure for the previous year. Along with the incredible work of our income team, that resulted in rent arrears falling to 1.59 per cent during this most challenging of years.  

The first few weeks in lockdown were incredibly busy. There were so many calls from tenants who needed to claim benefits for the first time...

Also working differently was our voids and lettings team. As soon as lockdown measures began to ease, they found innovative ways to resume viewings and tenancy sign-ups, helping more than 100 people and families move home in just four weeks. 

The challenges of enforced lockdown placed strains on communities and unfortunately, we received a significant increase in reports of antisocial behaviour (ASB) during this year.  

Our community safety teams supported those who were affected. Team leader Emma Cooper worked with tenants, other agencies and external partners to minimise the impact of ASB: 

“Where we had cases going through court, witnesses needed even more support. They were being asked to leave their homes, where they felt safe, to attend a court and encounter people wearing PPE. It’s intimidating at any time but fears were amplified during lockdown,” she explains. 

And while face-to-face meetings couldn’t take place, our customer voice team found new ways for customers to share their feedback. Two of our customers have also been appointed to the Housing Ombudsman’s new national Resident Panel, which is creating a stronger voice for tenants, across the UK. Their appointment to the panel will help us to reflect on some of the best practices in our sector. 

As we worked together to support customers through the crisis, we also completed the integration of our services following the merger between Housing Plus Group and Stafford and Rural Homes. Harmonisation has introduced a new One Landlord vision which will reshape future services for customers. 

The last for 2020-21 goes to Stafford-based lettings manager; Becky Hughes who says that customers and staff pulled together to look after each other:

When we had to tell people that their move would be delayed because of coronavirus their first response was to tell us to keep safe. In difficult times you really see the strength of our communities.