The Future of Housing Management by mirit35


									                                                                    Agenda Item No:

LONDON BOROUGH OF CAMDEN                                       WARD: All


Housing Management Improvement Project – Phase 1 Update


The Director of Housing and Adult Social Care

FOR SUBMISSION TO:                                             DATE:

HASC Scrutiny Committee                                        21 March 2007


This report updates Members on the results of Phase 1 of the Housing Managmenet
Improvement Project and invites comments regarding the evidence gathered and the
way forward with the Project.

Local Government Act 1972 – Access to Information

No documents which require listing have been used in the preparation of this report.

Contact Officer:          David Padfield
                          Interim Assistant Director (Housing Management)
                          Bidborough House
                          20 Mabledon Place
                          London WC1H 9BF

Telephone:                020 7974 5816


Members are asked to note and comment on the contents of this report.

   Signed by Assistant Director of HASC         ..............................................................

                                       Date               8 March 2007

1.    Introduction

1.1   Housing Management has recently completed Phase 1 of the Housing
      Management Improvement Project. Phase 1 consisted of evidence gathering,
      process mapping and benchmarking.

1.2   This review of the service began in Spring 2006. Six work streams were
       Vision
       Training and Development
       Communications
       Project Plan
       Performance
       Systems Thinking

1.3   Within the Systems Thinking work stream, six activities were reviewed:
       Estate management and customer services
       Patch management
       Minimising anti-social behaviour
       How we manage empty homes
       Collecting rent debt
       Caretaking

1.4   The high-level findings for each work stream are summarised below. The
      intention now is to use the evidence and mapping to consider the structure of
      the service and re-engineer processes to ensure efficiency.

1.5   The Housing Management Division is clearly providing a very good service to
      tenants and leaseholders. Obvious strengths include the calibre and
      dedication of staff, high levels of performance and some excellent examples
      of resident participation. However, the service appears to have fallen slightly
      behind with regard to industry best practice (as set out the in Audit
      Commission’s Key Lines of Enquiry) and many of our activities appear
      inefficient. This project has highlighted the need and potential to modernize
      the service so as to better meet the needs of customers and do so more

2.    Estate Management and Customer Services

2.1   Housing Management is very generic with officers expected to be familiar with
      up to 58 individual processes. With some exceptions, there was a high level
      of consistency within housing management processes across the Borough.
      However, this is achieved through over-reliance on experienced staff. Some
      information and procedures on Housing Management are out of date.

2.2   Most staff found it difficult to say how long tasks actually took. This raises
      questions in respect of budgeting and performance management. The
      majority of staff stated that they multi-tasked and worked within an

      environment of constant interruptions. Depending on the size of the teams,
      Estate Officers can spend over a third of their working week participating in
      the duty rota. When an emergency situation occurs or volume of demand
      becomes excessive, it is often the time an Estate Officer has been allotted for
      rent arrears work that is taken.

2.3   The Customer Services Officer role varies across the Districts. There are
      enormous volumes of personal callers at the District Housing Offices - 13,763
      visitors to Camden Town District in the last calendar year. Division of work
      between Housing Management and Customer Services exposed the variance
      of how officers worked and accepted responsibility. DHO staff are to some
      extent still struggling to define their relationship with Repairs Call Centre and
      this is an obvious source of work duplication.

2.4   There are considerable demands on staff time from vulnerable residents who
      need extra help. A small number of persistent complainants take up loads of
      time to the detriment of the service – often not the people with the most
      pressing needs.

2.5   There is scope for re-engineering processes to be more efficient particularly at
      the intersection between Housing Management and other sections / divisions.

3.    Patch Management

3.1   There are currently 16 Patch Managers. There are a number of areas where
      they have assisted Camden in providing an excellent standard of service to
      customers. Key accomplishments have included improvements to open
      spaces on estates, often attracting considerable amounts of external funding;
      developing partnerships with others, particularly in the area of anti social
      behaviour; and encouraging more residents to be involved in TRAs and
      neighbourhood partnerships. However, there is inconsistency in this area of
      their work and there are few if any measurements with which to assess
      quantifiable progress or success. Evidence to support success is on the
      whole anecdotal as we are not very good at providing outcome

3.2   Most residents know little or nothing about the role of the Patch Manager.
      There is also a gap in tenants’ understanding as to the respective roles and
      responsibilities of Estate Officers, Caretakers and Patch Managers around
      environmental issues, with no clear picture of who is responsible for what.

3.3   Residents are keen to have more control. Some residents didn’t know how
      they could get involved in TRAs. Estate walkabouts are very popular with
      residents’ groups.

3.4   Patch Managers claim too much time being taken up by quarterly walkabouts
      and processes triggered from these. Patch Managers also feel too much time
      is spent at meetings – TRA, partnership meetings, etc.

3.5    There is clearly duplication of work, especially in regard to chasing repairs.

3.6    Patch Managers feel they are being pulled in different directions with
       conflicting priorities. There is some uneven quality of work and a lack of clear
       definition of what is required on community development. Strategies
       employed by Patch Managers to engage with residents are inconsistent.

4.     Anti-Social Behaviour

4.1    There are clearly pockets of excellent practice in dealing with Anti-Social
       Behaviour. However, dealing with these problems can take up considerable
       amounts of officer time, with some Estate Officers claiming they spend up to
       40% of their time on this activity.

4.2.   Residents have raised confusion over reporting lines and the responsibility of
       the Police / Council. An integrated case management system would help in
       accessing information and keeping people updated as well as acting as a
       prompt to staff.

4.3    A comprehensive training package for staff needs to be developed to build on
       the existing toolkit.

4.4    In line with the findings of other reviews it would be helpful to devise an
       agreed definition of “vulnerability”.

4.5    Camden works well in partnership at a “high” level but there is a feeling that
       work needs to be done at a local level.

4.6    These findings relate to how the housing management service deals with Anti-
       Social Behaviour and must be considered in conjunction with those of the
       Council’s wider Anti-Social Behaviour Review.

5.     Voids

5.1    Currently up to 30 stakeholders can be involved in the void process, a number
       of whom work independently of each other under different management
       teams and have differing priorities. There are potentially a number of
       inspections of the property by different officers. Performance could be much
       improved if the process was more seamless.

5.2    We are missing opportunities to pre-inspect and allocate. Procedures tend to
       be based around worse case scenarios. Where a tenant dies intestate we
       are incurring avoidable rent losses.

5.3    Conflicting priorities may be contributing to the high number of “no shows” in
       the lettings process.

5.4   A number of different staff are involved in monitoring the voids process.
      Better use could be made of the void monitoring functionality of the Northgate
      IT system.

6.    Rents

6.1   The Council’s performance on Rents is reasonable, but not excellent. The
      agreed target is to reach top quartile performance for the relevant Best Value
      Performance Indicator (BVPI66a), which we have persistently failed to
      achieve. On this measure, we are collecting 97.2% of rent, against a target of

6.2   Several initiatives on rent recovery have failed to have the desired effect. The
      number of cases with arrears of over 7 weeks and the number of accounts in
      arrears are also big challenges for us.

6.3   TMO Performance in this area is particularly poor.

6.4   Although staff should have dedicated time set aside for rent arrears work, they
      clearly face many challenges in ensuring that the correct level of work takes

7.    Caretaking

7.1   Camden has a high-quality caretaking and cleaning service. However,
      residents are clearly concerned at the costs of the service as expressed
      through tenant and leaseholder service charges.

7.2   The service is highly responsive and provides good local emergency cover.
      However, this level of service is partly at the cost of a high number of
      residencies – which significantly increases the cost of the service.

7.3   The long-running implementation of the Tru-time time recording system for
      caretakers is clearly a significant issue in respect of development of the

7.4   The idea of giving residents more choice over the level of service is popular,
      but implementation would be fraught with difficulties.

7.5   There is some lack of clarity over the roles of caretakers and estate cleaners.
      It may be possible to make greater use of mobile technology.

8.    Comments of Acting Head of Law

8.1   The Acting Head of Law (Acting) has been consulted on the contents of this
      report and has no comment to make.

9.     Financial Implications

9.1    This report is for information only and does not contain detailed proposals that
       can be costed. The HRA remains in good financial health for this year and
       next but is facing significant pressures over the following financial years.
       Proposals that are drawn up following this review will need to be mindful of
       this financial pressure.

10.    Conclusion

10.1   The items listed above are only the high level findings arising from a large
       amount of work. Phase 1 of the Housing Management Improvement Project
       has provided us with a solid base for reviewing the structure of the service
       and re-engineering processes for greater efficiency.

10.2   Analysis of the data is still ongoing and the comments of Scrutiny Committee
       will be a welcome contribution to this process. Once proposals are
       formulated, a consultation process will start with Members, residents and staff
       / unions.

10.3   It is intended to complete this process by the end of the current calendar year.


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