Tenant Annual Report 2019
Welcome to the Tenant Annual Report 2019 from Cornerstone Housing.
Welcome from Chief Executive, Rick Williams
“I write this introduction as my last after 25 years as Chief Executive of Cornerstone and 34 years with the organisation in total. I will be retiring at the beginning of next year and the board are making plans for my replacement. In fact, it has been a year of change with Andy Allison retiring in May and my deputy, Bob Weatherall, leaving in June. We have welcomed their replacements, Tim Lewry (Head of Property Services) and Joanne Martin (Finance Director), and both have settled in quickly and brought renewed enthusiasm and fresh ideas to the senior management team. I am confident that, alongside Clare Beach (Head of Housing), Anne Seaborne (Head of Development) and my successor, the association will be in good hands for the future.
I hope that you will find the content of this report interesting and informative. It is particularly pleasing to see that tenant satisfaction in most areas has improved this year as we strive for continual improvement in everything that we do to uphold Cornerstone’s core values of quality, care, pride and growth.”
Message from Chair of board, Peter Heron
“Over the past year, I’ve once again had the welcome opportunity to meet several of our tenants and to hear your views about Cornerstone and the way we operate. I am always impressed by what you tell me about our staff and the way in which they are there for you. In particular, the friendly relationship between you and our maintenance, refurbishment and office teams are great to hear about, as is your general satisfaction with the way in which any issues or problems are dealt with quickly and efficiently.
It is good to see the improvements in the tenant satisfaction survey results, and I know that whilst our staff will be pleased with that, they will continue to go the extra mile in striving to ensure you have the best possible homes and service.
Rick highlights the significant changes which have taken place this year, and yet to come, and it’s important for you to know that one of our highest priorities is to ensure continuity in Cornerstone’s operations and vision.
I wish you all a happy and healthy year ahead and, as always, urge you to let us know if there are any improvements you think we could consider to make life better for you.”
Changes in Executive Team
Rick Williams – Chief Executive
Tim Lewry – Head of Property Services
Clare Beach – Head of Housing
Joanne Martin – Finance Director
Anne Seaborne – Head of Development
Statement on figures
All performance figures provided in this report relate to the period April 2018 to March 2019, apart from those we asked you about in our Annual Tenant Survey, which was sent to all tenants in August 2019 and received a 37% response rate. Any financial data relates to our 2017/18 accounts as our financial year runs from October to September.
Earlier this year we received our first in-depth assessment by the Social Housing Regulator. Our financial viability was rated at the highest grade but disappointingly our governance was downgraded to the second level. Whilst this is still compliant, it means that improvements are required and we have prepared an action plan to ensure that this happens and we regain our top grading as soon as possible. The areas we will be focussing on are testing our financial plans to breaking point and board member training in this and other governance matters.
None of this has any direct impact on the service we provide to our residents or investment in maintaining our properties.
Where does your rent go?
Where does your rent go?
|Providing services to you||17p|
|Maintaining your home||20p|
|Building new homes||23p|
|Improving your homes||25p|
|Funding costs for building new homes||15p|
Complaints and Compliments
We recognise that we don’t always get things right. We actively encourage your feedback and learn from it. But we also want to hear when we are doing a good job.
During the year we received 12 formal complaints. 8 were not upheld. 4 were partially upheld.
The complaints that were partially upheld included; period of notice required to end tenancy, staff member indiscretion, recharge of repair cost and refusal to allow a transfer.
The average response time to stage 1 complaints was 6.6 working days but we aim to make initial contact with the complainant within one working day, usually by phone.
Compliments from Tenants
“No complaints, everyone lovely and wouldn’t go anywhere else”
“Cornerstone have always dealt with any repairs, concerns or questions really well and I’ve always felt like I could ring and ask them about anything.”
of tenants are satisfied with the overall service we provide
Tenant Involvement and Empowerment
The Performance Panel is a group of tenants who give their time to us to independently review our services and policies.
They have recruited several new and enthusiastic members over the last 12 months and the panel is going from strength to strength.
The panel focuses on the tenant’ experience and has listened to tenants’ views and worked with us to complete reviews and make improvements in several areas including parking and downsizing.
The outcomes of their reviews are published in the tenant newsletter which appears quarterly.
Panel members have also joined us at several listening and community events and have actively been engaging with you to make sure your voices are being heard.
If you would like to get more involved with the Performance Panel but can’t commit to monthly meetings, becoming an Email Eagle could be for you. Email Eagles work with the Panel by commenting on reviews and documents via email and your views are shared in the Panel meetings.
If you’re interested in getting involved please contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign up to receive our tenants newsletter here
Neighbourhood and Community
Exwick Community Cafe
The Exwick Community Café was focused on community building and financial wellbeing with support from Sid the Shark from the Illegal Money Lending team keeping tenants aware of the dangers of lending from loan sharks.
The Summerway Listening Event
The Summerway listening event took us door to door with, staff, tenants and Board members, we heard about what is good and not so good and this is feeding into an improvement plan for that area.
87.5% of tenants are satisfied with their neighbourhood as a place to live, this is a 4.8% increase on last year.
We have been working with over 30 households in relation to the condition of their home and/or garden and this is has included a number of home visits. Initially, some tenants were reluctant to let us in or talk to us, some were struggling with life, had money worries, poor physical or mental health and for some this meant they were neglecting themselves and/or their home. The Housing Officer’s role is to listen non-judgmentally, look at the bigger picture, see if we can get them some additional help which in turn can help them to resolve the issues with their home.
Due to this more holistic approach 16 cases have successfully been resolved with the condition of homes improved.
Anti Social Behaviour
We received 50 new anti-social behaviour cases (ASB), this is an increase of 32% compared with the previous year. The majority of cases were noise-related complaints (46%).
100% of complainants surveyed were satisfied with how we dealt with their case.
You can report any anti-social behaviour via our website any time of the day. Click here to view our online form
Rent and Tenancy
28 tenants were helped by referrals to debt, benefits and budgeting advice, 4 tenants were supported so they did not lose their home. On average, following this referral tenants received £749 per year in additional income.
76.3% of tenants who pay a service charge are satisfied that it provides value for money, this is up 2%.
cornerstone payment card
cornerstone payment card
Universal Credit (UC) has arrived and we now have over 100 tenants claiming it, whilst many are coping well the arrears for those on UC are higher than others, support is available for tenants that need it.
Westcountry Savings and Loans
We launched our partnership with Westcountry Saving and Loans this year. They are a credit union offering savings and loan options for tenants and we partnered with them because they are ethical and community-focused. At least 14 tenants have benefited from their services so far but more of you could be, there are some great savings and loan options available.
Support and Advice
From April 2020 your rent will increase in line with government regulations which will allow us to continue improving your homes and services and to develop new homes.
It can be tricky to manage your money sometimes so we can offer free debt, benefit and budgeting advice if you need it, please don’t bury your head in the sand.
On average we re-let our empty homes within 41 days. This is higher than the previous year because following a review we re-let a number of properties that were being held empty for improvement works. We are working hard to reduce our re-let times.
Julian House Partnership
Over the last 12 months, we have leased four properties to Julian House who are working with young people at risk of homelessness. Two young people are sharing each flat with a support worker helping them to get them ready to take on their own tenancy.
Following the Performance Panel review, we set up a downsizing assistance scheme with financial and practical help now available to those tenants in larger properties who are willing to downsize.
Contact us on 01392 273462 for an informal chat.
Download our Downsizing leaflet here for more information about the process, the benefits of downsizing, eligibility to downsize and how we can help.
Being connected to the Internet and feeling confident about using it can help you with a variety of things. From ordering your prescription online to knocking pounds off your weekly shop, there’s a reason for everyone to get on the Internet!
We are now offering appointments with our “On-liners” – our Customer Service Advisors – who will provide free one to one support and advice about how to get on-line.
You can bring your own device and connect to our WIFI or we can help you using one of our laptops in the privacy of our meeting room.
Some of you have used our digital support service “On-liners” with positive feedback.
The service is still available for any tenants needing help please call Cornerstone House on 01392 273 462 to make an appointment.
We launched our texting service which allows you to text for a balance and report a repair. We are texting surveys following repairs and we piloted our annual tenant survey by text which had a great response. 86% of tenants that have used the texting service said they were happy with it.
Send a text message to 07491 163 432
Start your message with…
RENTS: To contact us about your account
BAL: To get your account balance
REPAIR: To report a repair
CARD: To order a new payment card
DD: To set up or change a direct debit
Our online tenant portal allows you to check the following
- Check your rent account balance
- View your rent account
- Report a repair
- Update your personal details
- Contact us online
Feedback was mixed, with 22% saying they didn’t know about it and of those that used it only 50% were satisfied with it. As a result of this, in the coming year we will be launching MyTenancy2, this new version will be mobile friendly and offer new features.
Social Media and Communication
We have set up a communications group which will be helping us with our social media and website content and engagement and we are delighted that we have tenants joining the group of staff working on this.
£1,381,000 was spent on the refurbishment works to 16 homes.
4 homes were improved at Mount Dinham with the final 10 to be completed by the end of 2020.
Maintenance and Repairs
- We completed 3805 responsive repairs at a total cost of £563, 491 that’s an average of £148.00 per repair
- 96.4% of tenants were satisfied with the repair we carried out
- 92.1% of tenants are satisfied with the way we deal repairs and maintenance, this is up 1.9% 88.5% of tenants are satisfied with the overall quality of their home, this is down by 1.4%. We will be looking further into this and revising our Asset Management Strategy to focus our improvement works.
“I had a problem with my light fixture and when I made the call for them to come fix it they were so quick to do it and they worked around my schedule which was great”.
- 96% of repairs were completed within target time over all
- 100% of emergency repairs were completed in time (within 24 hour target time)
- Average time to complete an urgent repair 2.27 days (target 5 working days days)
- Average time to complete a routine repair 5.67 days (target 20 working days)
- Overall average time to complete a repair is 2.98 days
- 12 homes were improved at Exwick with a further 28 to be completed.
- 100% of tenants who responded to the survey were satisfied with the quality, design and features in their improved homes and 100% were satisfied with the process. We are taking on board some of the feedback we have received from tenants moving back.
“We are very happy with everything & would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved”
“Love the open plan design, sadly second bedroom is too small”
“Removal team were brilliant on both moves and would recommend them”
Mount Dinham Restoration Documentary
Below is a short film about our work at the Mount Dinham Almshouses.
In 2012 we signed a 125 year lease with the Mount Dinham Cottage Trust to secure the long term future of 44 Grade II listed almshouses. Our ambitious renovation project is nearly complete with a spectacular transformation to the properties.
Our Mount Dinham improvements team have been comprehensively refurbishing the buildings and replacing most of the interior structure. Over a few months in 2019 we have been documenting the ongoing work of the final phases which have now been put together in a mini documentary.
My day at Mount Dinham By Tim Lewry (Head of Property Services)
As part of my new role as Head of Property Services I have been keen to get out and meet staff and tenants alike. Getting to know people, their roles and what motivates them is all part of my management style and my intention to create an inclusive team.
When the opportunity recently presented itself I felt what better way to meet some of my new team than by ‘rolling up my sleeves’ and ‘getting my hands dirty’ with a day on site. On 4th June the team at Mount Dinham were due to begin the concrete pour of the floor slabs on phase 9 of the project. Due to the tight site access and complexity of working in the confines of existing buildings the pour required ‘all hands on deck’ in order to lay the 20 tonnes of concrete.
Tuesday 4th June 7.00am
It was an early start for the team with the concrete delivery lorry on a turnaround arrangement and the first load due at 7:30am. Once the site was opened up and the obligatory cup of tea had been drank, site manager Dave Glinn delivered a safety briefing to all staff ensuring everyone understood the procedures for the day.
The laser levels were set up to get the correct depths of finished concrete and an army of wheel barrows were assembled in the site compound. 7:30am and the first lorry of concrete arrived and the military operation of barrowing, tipping, laying and finishing commenced.
I was on barrowing duty for Trevor who was finishing and floating the concrete in the end house. This particular house required deeper concrete than normal and the introduction of reinforcing in the middle of the concrete. This is due to the ground conditions and historic movement of this part of the building.
Progress was steady and with the weather being close the team had soon worked up a sweat. Although hard work the physical work was enjoyable and brought back memories of years past when I was in my colleague’s position. What immediately struck me in my conversations (in between drawing breath) was the sense of team work. Working alongside carpenters, bricklayers, labourers and the site manager everyone was involved, there was no hierarchy and everyone provided an equal effort.
The second load went even smoother than the first and the accuracy of the calculations came good as there was half a wheel barrow spare form the 20 tonnes in total laid. Operation clean up number two then commenced. The team then spent the rest of the day preparing for the same operation the next day and loading out the site with bricks and blocks so that work could continue on constructing the new rear extensions for phase 9. At the end of the day Dave Glinn brought all of those on site together and de briefed the team on how the day’s work had gone and thanked them for their efforts. I again echoed this and thanked them for making me feel welcome and giving me the opportunity to work alongside them.
I really enjoyed my day with the Mount Dinham team and getting to speak with the team in their environment. It is clear that the team is passionate about what they are doing and the achievement has been great. I learnt a lot about Cornerstone and the background of this project and also the adversities faced by the team whether it be protected Bats, staff resource, differing building conditions and even the effect of Brexit on material supply chains. However the team and Cornerstone continue to successfully deal with these.
Lastly I would like to thank Dave and his team for kindly hosting me for the day.
We have completed another successful year developing new homes for rent.
We finished the last phase of ten houses at Redrow’s ‘Warren Grove’ development in Dawlish. These are let at Affordable Rent with preference given to people with a local connection to Dawlish. Two of the family houses are adapted for wheelchair users.
Cornerstone also supervised the handover and letting of seven Rent Plus homes in the village of Woodbury. These are Rent-To-Buy homes that we manage on behalf of another organisation.
We also completed the first phase of four houses at Bewick Avenue in Topsham. These are let at Social Rents and were built by Burrington Homes as part of their EX111 development.
New Wheelchair Adapted Homes
Meeting the needs of wheelchair users is complex. The process starts back at planning application stage when either the local authority or Cornerstone will identify the need for wheelchair adapted homes in a particular location.
Sometime this will be the developers’ responsibility to deliver the adapted home (as part of a larger development) and other times Cornerstone will specify the design requirements and raise the funds. This may be based on a specific tenant’s needs.
In recent years Cornerstone has established a good track record of delivering purpose built adapted homes in Exeter and Teignbridge. We have a specific design brief and we are keen to will deliver adapted homes where there is an established housing need.
Aids and adaptations
- 51 tenants were helped with aids and adaptations to their homes at a total cost of £14,264 that’s an average cost of £279.68 per property.
- Aids and adaptations included everything from key safes, grab rails and lever taps to level access showers.
- 99% of tenants were satisfied with the process and 91% were satisfied with the quality of the work.
“Cornerstone have been great to me and for that I am very grateful, it’s made things easier for me with my illness”.
“very quick response, excellent work, really satisfied”.
Satisfaction with the standard and layout of new homes remains an important performance target. Sadly, our performance has dipped from the usual 100% satisfaction to 78%. Therefore we are working with developers and tenants to resolve these repair issues as quickly as possible.
Value for Money
Value for Money Sector Scorecard
This year we welcomed the launch of the Sector Scorecard, enabling us to compare our performance against other housing associations to ensure we are providing Value for Money.
‘Value for money’ is about making the most of the money we spend, to enable us to build more homes, improve your homes and continue to provide high quality services to you.
|Performance Measure||Sector Performance (Upper Quartile)||Our Performance|
Operating margin %
– Social housing lettings only
– Operating margin overall
|Interest cover %
|Development (New Homes delivered)||New supply delivered %||2.3%||0.7%||2.3%||1.2%|
|Outcomes Delivered||Reinvestment in Housing %(investment in new and existing housing stock)||8.7%||4.1%||6.1%||5.3%|
|Effective asset management||Return on capital employed %||5.4%||3.6%||4.3%||2.7%|
|Operating Efficiency||Headline social housing cost per unit||£3,010||£3,059||£2,906||£3,697|
One of our value for money actions was to add social value and reduce the time properties are kept empty before we complete major improvement works. We have leased four empty properties to Julian House which they are using to house young people at risk of homelessness.
Trainer Tenancy’ pilot – a partnership between Cornerstone and Julian House
Our pilot with Julian House is helping young people into shared living in our homes with support and learning to set up and manage a tenancy and home. We are delighted to be giving these young people a place to call home and a chance to help them on their path to independence.
The simplified flowchart below shows the intended model:
Who is it for?
- Young people aged 16 – 25
- Homeless or at risk of homelessness
- Have accessed Nightstop Devon
- Have low – medium support needs
- Feel ready for independent living, but lack a (positive) tenancy history
- Require assistance to manage a tenancy, and are willing to accept support
- Suitable for shared accommodation
- Are seeking meaningful activity, or are in further education
Trainer Tenancy Case Study – ‘Ben’
Before Ben stayed on Nightstop (June 2016) he was living with his mother until their relationship broke down due to his mental health issues and behaviour. He was diagnosed with Rage Disorder after becoming verbally aggressive and breaking objects in her home. The police had been called after incidents leading to him receiving a restraining order and having to attend probation. He could not live at the family home and sadly became homeless.
Ben sofa surfed with friends and family, and even stayed with his mother against the restraining order which put him at risk of prosecution, until his options ran out. Ben had started to experience very low moods and was concerned that his behaviour might escalate.
After completing a risk assessment with Ben, we placed him with experienced volunteer Nightstop hosts, who reported that he was polite and interacted with them well. He did not exhibit any of the behaviours associated with his diagnosis, and the hosts expressed a willingness for him to stay again in the future. The feedback was important as it meant volunteer hosts with less experience could safely host him (if they chose to), vastly increasing our options around arranging placements.
As time went on, we helped Ben apply for different supported accommodation but they expressed concerns about his mental health issues and behaviours. Nightstop was able to provide a reference and also demonstrate that the behaviours were contextual, i.e. did not occur when Ben was outside of the family home. Before he was accepted into supported accommodation, Ben chose to ‘leave’ Nightstop to stay with his girlfriend in a tent. She was assessed for Nightstop, but her risk issues meant that she was not suitable.
Ben did continued to engage with Nightstop staff and we made sure that he was able to access the service at any point.
After some weeks, Ben turned up at our offices one morning with cuts and bruises after being assaulted by his girlfriend. We were able to place him with a volunteer host that night and support him to engage with the police whist charges were being pressed. Ben was extremely vulnerable at this point, so the emotional support and kindness that hosts could offer was both helpful and timely.
Ben eventually moved into temporary accommodation courtesy of the District Council, but this offer was only whilst he was at risk of assault/harm. Once his ex-girlfriend let the area he returned to sofa surfing before coming back to Nightstop again.
It was from this most recent stay that the possibility of a ‘trainer tenancy’ placement was discussed with Ben. From the outset, Ben was motivated and enthusiastic and was offered a place. He has lived in the flat since July 2018 and engaged with staff well. He has completed the Outcome Star, and is working with staff to grow and improve his independence, resilience and responsibility. He has applied for a music production course and wants to start his old hobbies again.
Ben has also reciprocated the kindness which Nightstop extend to him by helping promote the project at a variety of events. His personal experience is invaluable in educating other young people about the realities of homelessness. Ben shared that he could not imagine speaking to strangers in this context, and reflected that his first Nightstop stay (i.e. with strangers) was one of the first steps in building his confidence.
Our charter is our local offer to you, this is what we said we would do last year and our progress towards achieving it.
|Neighbourhood and Community||
Introduce and promote a community fund for tenants to improve their community.
|This has been promoted|
|Work with tenants to improve satisfaction with their neighbourhood as a place to live||Listening events, estate visits, targeted tenancy visits have been completed in key areas. Satisfaction has increased by 4.%|
Develop a downsizing incentive scheme to free up more family homes.
Continue to raise awareness of Universal Credit and promote services available to support tenants in keeping their tenancies.
|Completed and on-going|
Tenant Involvement and Empowerment
Support the development of the Performance Panel in completing further service reviews.
|Two further reviews completed, new members recruited.|
Provide cultural awareness and equality and diversity sessions for staff and tenants
|Being planned for Autumn/Winter 2019.|
Improve 4 cottages at Mount Dinham and 18 flats at Exwick Road.
|We completed 4 flats at Mount Dinham and 10 Flats at Exwick Road.|
Develop 45 new homes, including one disabled adapted flat.
|21 properties including two Three bedroom disabled adapted properties. (Reduced number due to development slippage at Exmouth and Topsham)|
|Value for Money||
Improve communications with tenants through a new text messaging system.
|Completed with 86% tenant satisfaction and reduction in more costly paper based communications.|
Roll out mobile working to our painting and gardening teams to better understand costs and potential efficiencies.
|The roll out has been completed and we are looking at the data this is now providing us.|
This is our draft charter for the coming year, we have developed this based on feedback from the annual tenant survey and our existing strategies. Please let us know if you have any feedback on the charter or if we are missing something important to you.
|Neighbourhood and Community||Review the information we provide to tenants about anti-social behaviour|
|Hold further targeted community events based on survey feedback|
|Work with partners to investigate ways we can help tenants to improve their health and wellbeing|
|Tenancy||Promote the new downsizing scheme and support at least five tenants to downsize to smaller homes|
|Introduce a new digital and accessible Tenant Handbook|
|Upgrade MyTenancy to provide tenants with better access to their tenancy online|
Tenant Involvement and Empowerment
|Support the Performance Panel to complete the review of green spaces management and at least one further review of our services|
|Provide cultural awareness and equality and diversity sessions for staff and tenants (carried over from previous year).|
|Home||Review our improvement scheme strategy to ensure we can improve the homes that need it the most within our dedicated budget|
|Continue to acquire new homes (target of 30 per year)|
|Value for Money||Develop a new value for money action plan in consultation with tenants|