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The Network – The CHS Newsletter

Customer Satisfaction with CHS

STAR (Survey of Tenants and Residents) helps us to monitor the satisfaction of our customers with our services. This report summarises the results of the two-year STAR survey cycle (April 2017- 2019).

Survey sent to 3467 CHS tenants

20% took part

680 customers took part in the survey, which was a 20% response rate

These figures combine responses of satisfied, very satisfied and neutral.

Customers are most dissatisfied with the value for money of service charges, the reasons given are low perception of the grounds maintenance of communal areas. We changed our gardening contractor to CGM in March 2019 and we are working on an action plan to bring this service up to a standard that customers are happy with.

The highest number of comments were on the theme of CHS listens and acts upon my views – Some customers felt that either they were not kept informed about their repair or ASB case, or complaint. In February 2019 staff completed training on reacting to customers’ requests and handling complaints, following this feedback.


Naval veteran celebrates his 100th Birthday

Mr Basil Trott has been a CHS resident for nearly 20 years and he is celebrating his 100th birthday in December. He is the last surviving member of HMS Exeter, a battleship that played a pivotal in the Battle of the River Plate, the first major naval battle of the Second World War. The victory was a great boost to British morale. Mr Trott was a 16 year old able seaman in 1939, he was in a gun turret and he set elevation of the gun to give the shell the range required to hit the target.

In 1939 the German battleship Graf Spee, commanded by Hans Langsdorff, sank 8 British merchant ships so 23 British warships were sent to look for her. Commodore Henry Harwood closed in on the Graf Spee off the River Plate in South America with HMS Exeter, Ajax and Achilles. Initially there was heavy fire between Graf Spee and Exeter, destroying most of Exeter’s guns and forcing her to leave. Ajax and Achilles caused significant damage to Graf Spee forcing her to break away for the port of Montevideo, in neutral Uruguay. A warship could only remain in a neutral port for 24 hours. Langsdorff, convinced that strong forces were waiting, sank Graf Spee himself rather than risk another battle. Two days later, Captain Langsdorff shot himself. HMS Exeter managed to repair the damage to the ship in the Falkland Islands and made it back to England to a rapturous reception.

“This brilliant sea fight takes it’s place in our naval annals and in a long cold dark winter it warmed the cockles of the British hearts”

Winston Churchill

Sheltered Housing ‘Starts at Home’ caption

‘Starts at Home’ day was celebrated by the three sheltered housing schemes coming together for a coffee morning with homemade cakes made by the tenants and mystery gifts, followed by lunch ending with a game of bingo. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day, which promoted the positive impact supported housing makes on thousands of people’s lives.

The Time Exchange report

Tea Parties tackle loneliness

Cambourne Timebank have launched a tea party group for older people who want to get out and socialise. One Sunday afternoon a month, our volunteer drivers enjoy taking their older guests to a volunteer host’s home where they join a small group for tea, talk and companionship. The group is warmly welcomed by a different host each month and everyone can join in easily and get to know each other properly. One guest said it was the first time she had been invited into a house in Cambourne in the 5 years that she had lived in the village. She now looks forward to seeing her new friends at the monthly tea parties.

We are so sorry!

‘The delivery of the grounds maintenance this year has not been up to the standard that we all expect or demand.’

You have told us that the delivery of grounds maintenance is not to the standard expected. We have worked with our contractors, CGM Ltd, to put in place a recovery plan. CGM will be delivering this agreed plan between now and the end of January – this will be in addition to their normal winter maintenance visits.

The works that CGM will be doing will bring all sites to the right standard before next year’s growing season. CGM will be using an extra team of operatives to deliver these works, so you should be able to see the improvements being made. There is a schedule of when this extra team will be working on the different areas – this can be found on our website or on the CGM Customer portal

CHS staff and customers will be inspecting these works to make sure they are up to standard.

Support CHS Group with

When you use easyfundraising to shop with any of their 4,000 retailers, the retailer makes a small donation to say thank you and those funds are sent to your cause.

Start at and search for CHS Community Support. Use the website or App to browse 4,000 retailers. Click on the retailer you’d like to shop with and shop as normal. When you check out, the retailer gives your cause a donation!

Congratulations to our garden competition winners!

1st Prize of a £50 voucher goes to Mrs Douglas at Barnabas Court for her lovely garden. Photo kindly provided by Colin Duff.

2nd Prize of a £30 voucher goes to the young people at 204 Wisbech for their allotment

Volunteer for us: customer panels recruiting now


  • Customer Committee
  • Complaints Panel
  • Scrutiny Panel

Give us your views, help us make decisions that affect tenants, ensure you get value for money. Learn new skills and meet other like-minded people. We offer Time Credits for your volunteer hours and we cover Travel expenses. If you would like to make a difference, please contact Laura Papanikolaou on 01223 713542 or

Customer Annual Report 2018/9

Chair & Chief Executive’s report

Change and challenge

Although the Cambridge area is relatively wealthy and has relatively high economic growth by some measures, Cambridge is the most unequal city in the UK.  Northern parts of Cambridgeshire do not share the affluence of the south.  CHS believes that we can and should make a significant contribution to tackling this inequality.  Affordable housing is a key part of this but is not enough on its own.

Our approach is to listen to and work alongside tenants, customers and partners in an innovative, collaborative and business-like way.  We restrict our work to within 35 miles of Cambridge so that we have strong local knowledge and partnerships and can use these to focus on developing local solutions to local problems.  Our aim is to provide high quality services which are highly valued by our customers and stakeholders.

We retain a strong focus on building new affordable housing given the local pressure on affordability and plan to increase our affordable housing stock by 5%.

Many of our support, care and community investment services are aimed at people on the lowest incomes or who are most vulnerable and therefore rely on public funding through local authorities.  In the face of continuing cuts in local authority spending we have worked very hard over the last year to sustain the services we already provide rather than setting up new ones.  We have revised our approach to appraising new services to reflect this financial uncertainty.

As the financial pressures and uncertainties grow, we are working hard on considering how to get the right balance of social benefit, financial return and risk across our services.  We have considerable data about our financial performance but much less about the social benefit of our services and we are continuing to work on improving this.

Value for money (VfM)

Our Community Investment and Community Support services alone achieved £3.9m in social impact.  Further details of how we have achieved value for money can be found in our main annual report on We continually re-assess and evaluate the effectiveness of our systems, procedures and controls, in order to maximise our efficiency and in response to customer feedback and to events in the wider housing world.

As required by the Regulator of Social Housing, for the first time we reported our VfM metrics performance on a benchmark basis against a selected peer group. Whilst we performed strongly in regard to social housing lettings, ranking first amongst local peers, CHS undertakes a range of activities that are so diverse for an organisation of our size, that we expect to compare poorly against others that only provide affordable housing.  New VfM targets have been set to drive continuous improvement in all areas and to reflect the balance required between our commitment to delivering social value, whilst ensuring both social and commercial activities are viable and sustainable.

Target 2020 Actual 2019 Target 2019
Deliver sustainable growth in social and affordable housing:

Development: handovers – affordable general needs









Development: handovers – affordable shared ownership units 65 28 27
Provide excellent services:
Tenants satisfied with CHS services % 81.0 75.5 80.0
Reduce % of all voluntary leavers who leave within 6 months % 31.0 35.3 32.0
Responsive repairs – stay fixed % % 90.0 n/a n/a
Responsive repairs – right first time % % 75.0 n/a n/a
Ensure financial viability and excellent governance:

Average responsive repair cost per property (exc voids)









Average void repair cost per relet £ 1,600 1,373 2,199
Average relet days – general needs days 17.0 29.0 18.0
Average relet days – sheltered days 28.0 47.7 47.0
Average relet days – extra care days 28.0 29.4 24.0
Bad debts written off % 0.7 0.4 0.7
Average sales time for shared ownership units days <88 114 <90
Average sales time open market units days <88 181 <90
Open market sales – handovers units 32 4 7
Average first let time for new affordable development handovers days 14.0 19.1 14.0


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.

Complaints Panel

Anyone with a complaint has the choice to involve a Designated Person (MP, Councillor or Tenant Panel). If the complaint is unresolved, the matter can be escalated to the Housing Ombudsman, who will only investigate where internal complaints procedures or the Designated Persons cannot achieve a satisfactory outcome and there is a ‘significant adverse effect’ on the complainant.  Unresolved complaints about our nurseries can be referred to OFSTED.  Anyone in receipt of our care services which are regulated by the Care Quality Commission can complain to them or to the County Council at any time.

CHS has a Complaints Panel, made up of our residents, which 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.

This year, we have 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 and further training on anti-social behaviour complaints will take place.

Formal complaints by year and service

Of the 18 formal complaints in the year, 2 were fully upheld, 7 were partly upheld and 6 were not upheld. 3 complaints were ongoing after the year-end.  3 complaints were escalated to Formal Review by a Director.


A total of £4208 was paid in the period to complainants, mainly on repairs issues.

Lessons Learned

A tenant had reported incidents of anti-social behaviour and abuse, and CHS was taking steps jointly with the police. Over a period of time, the anti-social behaviour improved and CHS was monitoring the situation. CHS should have contacted the person who made the original complaint of anti-social behaviour each month, to see how things were going. However we did not do this regularly and this led the tenant to believe CHS did not take the issue seriously when a further incident happened. CHS had not fully explained the action it had taken alongside the police, which might also have reassured the tenant, and had not explained what would be required to take legal action against their neighbour.

A repair was required in a resident’s room in one of our Care Homes and the operative arrived very early in morning.  The resident was being assisted with personal care needs at the time so this was very inconvenient.  Our responsive repairs contractor will now only attend resident rooms after 9.30am to carry out repairs to minimise disruption to residents as much as possible.

Tenants have complained that on occasion the heating contractor is late for an appointment and they do not receive any communication so they do not know if the repair is going to take place.  Our heating contractor has now implemented Text Message alerts if the engineer is running late which reads as follows “We haven’t forgotten you, we are still due to arrive today but may run a little late due to emergency work volumes.  Please call our office on 01603 404755 if you have any questions or wish to rebook”.

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

Mrs B lived with her husband and three children in a four bedroomed home in Cambridgeshire.  Her two older children left home, leading to a reduction in housing benefit due to under-occupation, and she was getting further and further into rent arrears.  Her Housing Officer was having to take eviction action because of the arrears, but wanted to get the family some help, so referred her to the local authority for tenancy support.

Unfortunately, Mrs B then suffered life-threatening injuries and spent some time in hospital.  Her husband was unable to cope, and left, taking their youngest child, leaving the home in disrepair, with damage to doors, flooring, loose wiring and damaged smoke alarms.  The property was now unsuitable to return to and Mrs B would fall further into arrears due to further under-occupation.  Between them, CHS’s Housing Officer and the Tenancy Support Officer arranged for alternative accommodation; Mrs B gave up her CHS tenancy and we agreed to take no action over the arrears/damage to the property.

The Tenancy Support Officer at the local district council wrote to us:

‘Thank you for letting me know, I feel quite sad about this case. Thank you for not taking things further and being sensitive and making decisions on a case by case basis. I have noticed this more with CHS compared to other housing associations. It’s a real credit to the organisation’s ethical ethos.’

In our last annual report we said we would:

Housing & Customer Services:

Work with our Doing Things Better team to:

a)            Increase the use of more efficient rent payment methods

b)            Further increase the proportion of customers subscribing to the myCHS portal – 600 customers are now signed up, leading to savings of £13000 in production of rent statements, postage and customer newsletter

c)            Increase the volume of online transactions with customers via myCHS

d)            Deliver ‘Call2Collect’ an additional method of engaging with customers needing to get up to date with rent


Prepare for the full rollout of Universal Credit in the Autumn, working with both the teams and our customers to raise awareness and offer support
Co-ordinate a corporate approach to Domestic Abuse – CHS has met the four requirements of the Chartered Institute of Housing ‘Make A Stand’ pledge, and a cross-department team has completed a lot of work towards accreditation by the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance



Property Services:

Re-procurement of grounds maintenance contract – poor quality work by our contractor was the main source of customer dissatisfaction during the year and an improvement plan is in place.  An apology letter was sent to all customers in the customer newsletter and an overall refund has been agreed which will be reflected in service charges from April 19
Improve cost certainty – this is key to addressing the overspend on the Responsive Repairs budget in 2017/8.  An independent review of Price Per Property and Void banding in our contracts was undertaken and achieved savings of around £60k
Hackitt review on fire safety – response to the review recommendations
Stronger culture of accountability – supporting staff to improve the way we keep customers up-to-date with progress on their repairs, handling and learning from complaints


Housing with care:

Tenders for existing Extra Care contracts at Dunstan Court and Moorlands will be released in 2018 and we will bid to retain these – all three contracts have been extended to 2023
Our Customer Scrutiny Panel has recommended changes to our marketing of care homes following a thorough review. These recommendations were reviewed/implemented in 2018 -19
Nourish electronic care data management has been embedded and rolled out to all older people’s residential care services.
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


Community Investment:

Secure funding for Timebanks and New Horizons II – funding secured till December 2019 and September 2022
Carry out lean reviews of Money Matters Service and Cambridgeshire Local Assistance Scheme – partially completed…..
Fully prepare for introduction of Universal Credit & processes agreed with Housing Services Team


Community Support Services:

Retain our place on the Cambridgeshire County Council’s Looked After Children’s Framework
Continue to represent and lobby on behalf of CHS on Government consultation proposals for Supported Housing
Participate in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s County Council’s review of supported housing, influence the results and plan for 2018 onwards


Expenditure associated with £13.6m of rent collected (financial year 18-19) – Alex can provide.

CHS rent levels

To rent an average 2 bed flat/house from CHS in Cambridge at social rent costs £5,554.12 per year

To privately rent an average 2 bed flat/house in Cambridge costs £14,352 per year

Out of 27 types of property in different areas of Cambridgeshire, CHS rents are lower than the Housing Association average in 15 of them.

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 Board member.  Contact Laura Papanikolaou, Customer Involvement Officer, on 01223 713542 or email

Reporting Structure

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