Arches is on a journey to improve resident engagement and the adoption of the Together with Tenants Charter is an important step, but we must get this right and any worthwhile journey can take time.
In 2017 our residents made it clear that they were not happy with the quality of our older properties. This gave rise to the creation of the residents-led Arches Home Standard of 2018; a three-year programme to raise the quality of our homes.
Immediately, some of our pre-existing views were challenged - most notably residents prioritised new secure, draft-proof external doors and more electrical sockets - we weren’t expecting that, but our residents had taught us an invaluable lesson - the importance of listening to them when making decisions about their homes.
Since the introduction of the Arches Home Standard, overall customer satisfaction has risen from the 77% to 89%. We consider this to be a great achievement but I am aware that it does not recognise the true variety of experiences and I know we must go further to improve the experiences of all our residents.
Arches was not an early adopter of the Charter as our focus was on delivering the Arches Home Standard. However, we were still busily engaging with residents and our next step was the Big Conversation in 2019. From that we learnt that when it comes to engagement many of our residents prefer short term task and finish-type engagement, and that they value promises being kept and delivery at speed!
We are now embarking on the adoption of the Charter which has been approved and is supported by our Board. As a result, our open consultation was launched in February 2021 with residents and staff being asked how they feel Arches currently deliver on the Charter commitments. Responses will provide a baseline of perceptions which we will use to identify any gaps between the perceptions of our residents and our staff.
This survey is online and we have used our website and socials to get the message out as well as hand delivering leaflets, completing the survey over the phone and offering incentives. We are aiming for a 20% response rate and to enable this the survey deadline has been extended. In my view reaching our residents is more important than any self-imposed deadline.
The next step is for us to have resident task and finish groups look at our commitments and focus on how these can be tailored and made meaningful and measurable for Arches. To this end we have set up a staff steering group made up of staff and a Board Member. The residents’ group and consultation results will feed in to the steering group with the overall aim of co-create the Arches’ commitments.
While there are currently limitations due to COVID restrictions we aim to use this to our advantage as we learnt from our scrutiny panel last year that using online meeting platforms meant residents who were limited for time were more likely to get involved. We don’t want to leave anyone out and will remain alert to all kinds of barriers to engagement and work with residents to address these. Once it is safe to do so, we intend to have a mixture of face to face and remote engagement opportunities.
In my opinion we still have a way to go on this journey but we know that to get this right it is essential that we work together with our residents. As a start, this means really listening, acknowledging when we get it wrong and putting things right when we have got it wrong. In my view, this is the only way to build trust.