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Customer Annual Report 2019/20

Chair and Chief Executive’s report

Firstly I would like to apologise that this report, which usually comes in the Autumn Network newsletter, is being published later than usual. Due to the ongoing pressures of the pandemic, we decided to separate the two and issue the CHS Customer Annual Report for 2019/20 a few months later.

For this report, we are looking back at a year which ended in the early days of the pandemic and so won’t include the full impact it has had on your services; this will be reflected in next year’s report for 2020/21. However I would like to say a big thank you to all of you for bearing with us where we haven’t been able to provide quite the normal level of service, at a time when the pressures of the pandemic have been very challenging for many of you.

Even before Covid19 we realise that things have been tougher than usual for many CHS customers. This was the year many CHS customers moved over to Universal Credit with the number of claims growing very fast throughout the year. This added more financial pressure and uncertainty for many people. Universal Credit did little to improve chronic economic inequality, with Cambridge in particular being the UK’s most unequal city.

As an organisation CHS continued to deal with the financial pressures which we face as an organisation. We are looking closely at the balance between how good you think our services are and their cost and risk so that we can improve their value for money to you. We also need to review our services to make sure we are meeting the new, tougher requirements of our regulator, the Regulator of Social Housing. We are determined that our services show the spirit of CHS for many years to come.

E-mail Scam warning

You may often hear about e-mail scams and think that it won’t happen to you. Sadly it is too common and CHS customers have been affected. You may receive an e-mail that looks like to comes from CHS, and may ask you to pay money to a particular bank account.  

Please be extra vigilant – check any email address really carefully, especially one that is asking for money or personal details. The scammers are very aware that people are isolated and perhaps less likely to check details. If your email account is hacked, the scammer can pick up on the topic of e-mails to trick by sending an e-mail about the same theme. CHS will not send you our bank details by e-mail, and we would ask you to make rent payments through Allpay.  

Fake emails often (but not always) display some of the following characteristics:

  • The sender’s email address may be similar to the one you trust, or it may be a ‘spoof’ that looks exactly the same.   
  • The email does not use your proper name, but uses a non-specific greeting like “dear customer”.
  • A sense of urgency; for example the threat that you must act immediately.
  • A prominent website link. These can be forged or seem very similar to the proper address, but even a single character’s difference means a different website.
  • A request for personal information such as user name, password or bank details. Or they give you new bank details and demand a payment.
  • The email contains spelling and grammatical errors.

Protect Yourself

  • Renew your passwords regularly, don’t make them easy to predict and use different passwords for different sites.
  • Don’t give any personal information (name, address, bank details, e-mails, passcodes) to anyone without verifying their identity.
  • Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text.
  • Remember email addresses and phone numbers can be spoofed, don’t use them to verify a message is authentic.

What should you do if you think you’ve received a scam email?

  • If you’re not sure an e-mail is genuinely from CHS, phone us on the usual CHS number or go to our website for Livechat.
  • Do not click on any links in the scam email.
  • Do not reply to the email or contact the senders in any way.
  • If you have clicked on a link in the email, do not supply any information on the website that may open.
  • Do not open any attachments that arrive with the email.

If you think you may have compromised the safety of your bank details and/or have lost money due to fraud, you should immediately contact your bank. You can also report fraud or cybercrime to Action Fraud (0300 123 2040).

Value for money (VfM)

Community investment

To help deal with some of the impacts of the public sector spending cuts and welfare reforms our Community Investment service provides money and debt advice, benefit advice, career preparation and employment advice.

VfM performance against internal targets

In addition to the regulator’s metrics, the Group has developed a suite of internal measures and targets. The key measures are below:

We’re not perfect…

Sometimes we don’t achieve the standards we set for ourselves so we have a Complaints Policy (for further details, see , or ask any member of staff) which tells you how we will try to resolve problems. We take all complaints very seriously as it is only by listening to our customers that we can improve our service.

During 2019-20 the Housing Ombudsman has kindly delivered two training sessions, one for customers who are members of our Complaints Panel, and one for the Housing team on handling complaints about anti-social behaviour case handling.

Complaints Panel

CHS has a Complaints Panel, made up of our residents, which is formally recognised by CHS and registered with the Housing Ombudsman. The Panel has reviewed our Complaints Policy and made recommendations about monitoring complaints. The Panel can help us to review
complaints from a customer’s point of view, and customers can ask the Panel for advice about any complaint or to act as advocates when making a complaint to CHS.

During 2019-20 we worked with customer facing teams in Housing, Customer Services and Property Services to help to improve satisfaction and handle any complaints more effectively. A new training programme was rolled out using a new external trainer. This has been followed by a review of the Complaints Policy with the Panel, to ensure that CHS complies with the new Housing Ombudsman Complaint Handling Code published in July 2020.

The Complaints Panel carried out a phone survey in February 2020 with customers who told us that they had been unhappy with the way CHS had handled a complaint. This gave us much more information on where problems can occur in keeping customers informed about the progress of a complaint, and how important it is to assure customers we take complaints seriously.

Lessons Learned

Making and keeping repair appointments is a cause of on-going dissatisfaction. We try to balance our customers’ expectations with the availability of the right operative to carry out the work needed. We also have to respond to the unexpected e.g. the customer may not be available due to an unforeseen event, the operative may be stuck in traffic or needed to spend longer on a previous appointment. One issue that arose during the year was that Foster were sending some operatives to appointments earlier than planned – this happened when earlier jobs did not take as long as expected. It was agreed with Foster that they would ask customers when making the initial appointment if they could be contacted in advance to find out if they were available for an earlier appointment.

Communication is another source of dissatisfaction – often this is related to making and keeping repairs appointments. One formal complaint reviewed by the Complaints Panel identified the lack of communication both with the customer and between CHS and Foster as one of the main problems. A monitoring system has been put in place to remind staff at CHS to keep in touch with customers when there is a complicated repair issue that will take some time to resolve. Staff will keep in touch even if there is no new update, just to reassure customers that their issue has not been forgotten.

We received a lot of complaints about gardening during spring and summer 2019. Our new contractor, CGM, told us that many of the sites had not been properly maintained previously, and work that should have been carried out the previous winter was not completed. This was mainly for large hedges and shrubs that had not been pruned at the right time, so could not be cut back away from paths and car parking areas. We agreed a recovery plan with them over the winter months to bring the areas they identified back to the right standard so they could be properly maintained during the spring and summer of 2020.

We also introduced a customer portal with CGM, where customers can view ‘before and after’ photos of their estates, see the proposed schedule of visits and leave comments – good and bad.

…but we work hard on providing excellent services that we would be happy for our own families to receive.

Some compliments:
Responsive Repairs

• Mrs P wishes to compliment the Foster operative that attended to install her economy 7 storage heater. Mrs P advised that she had ‘lost faith’ in Foster initially as they had been sending operatives with lack of knowledge.

• “Just wanted to pass on my thanks to the engineer that attended today. Our Housing Officer has just reported back to me that the servicing has been completed and your engineer was very professional and understanding throughout. This was a complex situation and we appreciate your assistance.”

• PC called to say how amazing CGM have been.

• Miss D complimented the efficient service that she received from Foster electrician that attended.

• Miss J e-mailed to say that the two operatives from CGM were polite, courteous, introduced themselves and could not be faulted and took time with her autistic son without it being detrimental to their work.

• “Just to say thank you for your response to my recent repair to my boiler. It was sorted that night thanks to Stephen who explained the problem and fixed it professionally and sorted a dehumidifier the next day. Many thanks for your service that was efficient and quick when needed.”

• “All of the men that have been to the house have shown their ID badges and all been polite and professional. Great service from Elec Group today”

• Compliments to the Foster operative who has attended today. Customer very happy with the operative who attended.

• Customer was very happy with the gentleman who did her floor. She said he was very polite, very clean and tidy and very helpful.

Boiler Replacements

• “Plumber was friendly and helpful and kindly showed me how to work the system”

• “Good guys. Polite and non-intrusive.”

Bathroom/Kitchen Replacements

• The (Fosters) workers were very nice and worked really well, especially as we had problems with the old flooring, which delayed things.

• “I am really satisfied with my kitchen, everything looks amazing! Everything went smoothly, in short period of time. Really happy.”

External Door Replacements

• “I love my new front door it is beautiful, the guys that fitted it were polite, professional and on time.”

• “Noticed that it has kept the house much warmer”

In our last annual report we said we would:

Housing & Customer Services:

Continue to adjust to the full rollout of Universal Credit working with our customers to raise awareness and offer support in order to minimise the financial distress caused to our customers and reduce the expected increase in rent arrears.


• Finalise our accreditation by the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance and continue to develop and promote good practice.


• Continue a joint review with the Property Services team to achieve efficiencies in the void works process and develop improved reporting.


• Work with customer groups to deliver a new Customer Engagement Strategy aimed to deliver higher levels of customer satisfaction.


• Migrate as many customers as possible to more cost-effective payment methods – this has improved and will continue to develop.


• Develop improved presentation of business intelligence data e.g. infographic format for Quality Assurance.


• Work with partner agencies to improve support for customers with cluttered homes to reduce fire and impact on neighbours.


Property Services:

• Work with Foster Property Maintenance on agreed action plan to enable CHS to make a decision in September 2019 on whether to extend or retender their contract. Completed and contracts extended to March 2021


• Revised Asset Management Strategy and agreed action plan in place. Delayed due to operational issues – planned for April 2020


• Embed working arrangements with new contractors to ensure contracts deliver required service quality and value. Mainly embedded though still some issues to be resolved


Housing with care:

• Tenders for existing Extra Care contracts at Dunstan Court and Moorlands – all three contracts have been extended to 2023 and a review of extra care services will be carried out in 2020.


• The Older People’s Services strategy was reviewed and approved by CHS Board. Part of this review was the sale of Vera James House to another care provider. This work was largely undertaken in 2019 and completed in 2020.


• The e-learning system has been rolled out to all care services. It is an excellent learning tool, but is hampered by technology issues – which we hope to resolve in 2020.


• The quality of the meals experience in care homes has been improved by the introduction of an Apetito service with specialist diet and nutrition improvements and we have made progress to moving the meal times – this project will continue into 2020.


Community Investment:

• Maintain Cambridgeshire Local Assistance Scheme to provide support for people suffering significant financial and personal difficulties.


• Secure funding for Timebanks to build stronger local communities.


• Lean Reviews – complete lean reviews of Money Matters Service and CLAS to ensure that these services are as effective as possible.


• Develop and implement way of working for CI services using strengths-based approach to ensure that these services are as effective as possible.


Community Support Services:

• Implement software at our nurseries to improve integration with our Finance system, reduce administration burden on staff and improve customer experience.


• Implement customer relationship management system in directly managed projects to reduce administration burden, improve data security and deliver improved management information.


• Contribute to the commissioning phase of Housing Related Support services in Cambridgeshire.


• Contribute fully to #ittakesacity movement in Cambridge.


• Standardise leases with external parties to achieve consistency and reduce costs.


CHS rent levels

To rent an average 2 bed flat/house from CHS in Cambridge at social rent costs £5,494.32 per year

To privately rent an average 2 bed flat/house in Cambridge costs £15,288 per year

Out of 15 comparable property types in different areas of Cambridgeshire, CHS rents are lower than the Housing Association average in 10 of them.


The lowest level of satisfaction was with the value for money of service charges, with the main reason being the quality of the gardening service. An action plan with the contractor over the winter 2019/20 led to some improvements in the service provided and the feedback from customers. The contract with CGM ends in October 2021 and we are already starting the process to procure a new contract, with the help of Customer Committee members.

The comments you made were very helpful in telling us where we need to focus our efforts. For example, some of you told us we need to improve handling of complaints as we don’t always resolve the issue, or it takes too long to resolve the complaint.

This year we worked with the Customer Complaints Panel to improve our approach to complaints and are planning a number of steps to improve the way we address your complaint. We also found that a common answer was ‘neither satisfied not dissatisfied’ – we want to continue improving all services so that you feel more able to say ‘satisfied’ or very satisfied’. We will continue to monitor what you tell us with the help of Customer Committee.

Brexit – EU Settlement Scheme Applications

We wanted to remind people about applying to the EU Settlement Scheme (if applicable, and if an application has not already been made) by 30th June 2021.
What is the EU settlement scheme? It’s a scheme which has been designed to offer EU, non-EU, EEA and Swiss citizens the opportunity to protect their residence in the UK, after Brexit. (i.e. beyond 30th June 2021).

What’s the difference between settled and pre-settle status?

1. Settled – you’ll usually get settled status if you’ve: • Started living in the UK by 31st December 2020 • Lived in the UK for a continuous 5-year period (known as ‘continuous residence’)
2. Pre-settled – you’ll get pre-settled status if: • You’ve started living in the UK by 31st December 2020 • You don’t have 5 years’ continuous residence when you apply Note – You don’t need to apply if you have: • Indefinite leave to enter the UK • Indefinite leave to remain in the UK • Irish citizenship (including British and Irish ‘dual citizenship’) You can’t apply if you have British citizenship.

What your rights will be with settled or pre-settled status:

You’ll be able to:

• Work in the UK

• Use the NHS for free, if you can at the moment

• Enrol in education or continue studying • Access public funds, such as benefits and pensions (if you’re eligible)

• Travel in and out of the UK

How do I apply?

Applications can be made online, via

What is the deadline for applying?

The deadline for applying is the 30th June 2021.

Does it cost anything to apply?

It’s free to apply to the scheme.

How can you get involved with the running of CHS?

You could join the Customer Committee, Complaints Panel or Scrutiny Panel, become an Estates Inspector or apply to become a Board member.

Contact Melanie Johnson, Customer Involvement Officer, on 07540 122624 or email 

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