Reaching for the stars

By on 18/08/2009 in Blog

Sheila Espin, Head of Service Improvement for housing at Birmingham City Council, outlines how the collaborative Housing Transformation Programme is improving the delivery of housing services at Birmingham City Council.

In the area of Housing, BCC has had to face an enormous challenge given the huge size of our customer base and the size of the organisation – the credit crunch means that we have more people needing social housing while there is a national shortage of housing stock and less available resource to deliver the services our customers desperately need.

Sales of council land are finite and yielding less revenue and so we need to be inventive to find ways to improve service delivery at the same time as cutting costs.

As part of the council's overall determination to transform our services through the Business Transformation Programme, our aim since 2006 has been to deliver a more efficient and customer focused Housing service that meets the 3 star criteria set out by the audit commission and delivers real improvements for our customers where it really affects them - in their homes.

We chose to empower every division in the housing service through our Housing Transformation Programme to draw up and take ownership of a '3 star improvement plan' to show what changes were needed and how they would make them, benchmarked against both the Audit Commission's 'Key lines of enquiry document' and other current best practice 3 star organisations.

Instead of imposing a corporate vision from above, the individual divisions, who of course had the most direct experience of their specialist areas, were encouraged to think for themselves moderated and guided by senior management in the Housing Transformation Programme.

  • Some of the key innovations that have come out of this work include -
    The Value for Money Matrix is a tool that helps to calculate whether a service is providing value for money. The process involves asking customers for feedback, investigating costs and comparing them with the costs and customer satisfaction from other local authorities and housing providers.
  • Partnerships are another key tool – the 'City Housing Partnership' (with housing associations, private sector and Homes and Communities agency etc) has been very valuable and a Landlords' Forum has been set up to work in partnership with private landlords to help them provide good quality homes and services to some of Birmingham most vulnerable residents. Our award winning Home Options service, run in partnership with neighbourhood offices and specialist agencies such as St Basils, has enabled us to take a more proactive approach to tackling homelessness in the city. Since 1998 our pioneering work to tackle rough sleeping has reduced rough sleepers from 56 to 4.
  • Customer interaction – The Tenants' Perfomance Monitoring Group is a group of tenants who review our performance each month against our key performance indicators. They have the ability to issue 'improvement notices' if they are not satisfied with our performance.

We promised our customers back in 2006 that we would work to deliver them a 3 star service. By 2010 our Decent Homes programme to bring all council homes up to the Decent Homes Standard will be 100 per cent complete, we have already reached over 90 per cent in 2009. And it's not just our customers who are happy!

The Audit Commission inspectors commented on how proud the staff are of the service they provide and the organisation for which they work. There has been a real culture change in the directorate. The Business Transformation Programme has reinforced our feeling of self-belief.

It's a complete change to how staff felt five years ago when we were a 'no star' directorate.

There's a definite can-do attitude and the achievements staff have made over the last four years has given them a thirst for improvements that deliver better services for our customers.

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  1. Housing assocciations i believe are making vast strides in improvement. Nothing is perfect but at least improvemnts can be measured.

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