Update from Boris Worrall, West Midlands regional committee chair.
Housing associations across the West Midlands have responded rapidly and effectively to the second national lockdown to ensure core services are maintained for customers. At the National Housing Federation West Midlands regional committee, members talked through how learning from the first lockdown had helped keep repairs and other key services up-and-running, despite the new restrictions. A key topic was also the challenges both colleagues and customers face at what is a time of ongoing uncertainty, anxiety and pressure on the front-line. Many associations have restarted welfare calls to those who most need support and advice, alongside community investment programmes targeting everything from jobs and training to supporting food banks. Vital services such as domestic abuse support continue, and we are still on-site delivering affordable homes for local people.
What was clear from our discussions was that our commitment to our local communities is as strong as ever, and our response at the second time of asking more effective in delivering an almost ‘business as usual’ service. There are huge challenges of course – rising numbers of disputes in local communities, backlogs with repairs which may take some time to address, and a sense that we have more to do to maintain high-levels of customer satisfaction. It will take time, and resilience will be key.
Of course, there’s no time to pause on other core business in the pandemic. The regional committee is setting up a group to consider how we can collaborate on another huge challenge we face in the decade ahead - climate change. We need to do more to tackle fuel poverty and invest many millions of pounds in existing homes to ensure they meet energy Band C by 2030. We will be working with the NHF at a national level and collectively at a regional level to map out what needs to happen in terms of government funding, and simple and sustainable measures so we can meet this challenge head on together.
We also as a region showed leadership in the early stages of the Together with Tenants programme, bringing 100+ tenants together in the only regional launch in 2019. We now want to build on that and will be meeting this month to consider how we can build on that successful partnership between local associations, their customers, the NHF and the Matrix Housing Partnership. Watch this space – we will update you on our plans as they take shape.