As a Community Gateway organisation, we put people at the heart of our work. Made up of Watford Community Housing customers and people from our local communities, the Gateway Membership Team act as your representatives in the organisation. In 2019/20, the team worked on a range of projects to deliver improvements.
Making sure residents’ voices are heard
The Gateway Membership Team organised three Tenant Question Time events in 2019/20. The first of these focused on the question of ‘Where does the money go?’, giving residents the chance to ask questions and find out more about how we spend money, including how service charges are calculated, how much it costs us to maintain homes, how we allocate community funding and how much is invested in building new homes.
There was also a Q&A session with the Heads of Service from all our different departments and another event titled ‘Understanding your tenancy’, discussing issues such as tenancy succession, moving to a different home and adding people to your tenancy.
Scrutinising our services
One of the key contributions made by the Gateway Membership Team is overseeing and getting involved with scrutiny reviews of our services. Last year, they looked at our voids and lettings process, which covers one of the most important steps for our customers – the start of their tenancy.
Members of the team met with Watford Community Housing staff and shadowed them as new customers were being signed up, to understand how we do things and provide feedback on how we could make the process better. Following this review, we have made some improvements to make sure that new tenants have all the information and advice they need to get the most out of their tenancy.
The Gateway Membership Team also helps to steer our policies and in 2019/20 they were part of an extensive consultation to put customers’ interests at the heart of our Tenancy Policy, which will be launched in 2020/21.
Listening to customer feedback
The Gateway Membership Team has been working with our Customer Relations team to monitor the types of compliments and complaints we get from customers. By looking closely at this data, the team helped to identify areas that scrutiny reviews should concentrate on in future, to reflect what customers care about most. Using this information, they will be involved in reviewing both our anti-social behaviour service and how we communicate with customers about follow-on repairs in 2020/21.
The team also worked with other residents to help ensure a fair outcome for customers who have made complaints. They received training from TPAS, the tenant engagement expert, in how to assess complaints as part of our feedback process and have since carried out panel reviews to make sure that these cases are considered fairly, in line with our policies and procedures.
Adding fresh faces to the team
The Gateway Membership Team are always on the lookout for new people to add their expertise and insight, as well as making sure that the team is diverse and reflects all of our customers. In 2019/20, several new members were recruited to the team, bringing a wealth of experience from the transport and emergency services sectors.
A word from the Gateway Membership Team
Chris Blackett is Chair of the Gateway Membership Team – here’s what she had to say about its work in 2019/20:
“We are building a really strong relationship with the team at Watford Community Housing. We feel like our input is valued and I’m very proud of what we were able to do to help improve services for residents last year.
“By working with staff on the scrutiny reviews, we are making sure that services keep getting better. We have helped to improve the voids and lettings service and we’re also going to be involved with the review of the anti-social behaviour services.
“We’ve started working directly with the Group Board, so we are definitely seen as important and we are being listened to. We are also building strong foundations with different teams throughout the organisation, such as the Asset & Compliance team, who we have an amazing relationship with. They don’t do anything without consulting us now and we will be working with them on setting a new Homes Standard, as well as influencing the works carried out through the improvement programme to make sure they meet residents’ expectations.
“We’re really pleased with how it’s working across all departments. It’s very positive – such a lot of good things are happening now and we feel like we are really able to make a difference.”