Tag Archive | Celtic Horizons

Creative thinking

As part of our 25th anniversary celebrations, our Director of Housing and Communities Lynda Sagona takes a look at the culture of United Welsh and how that has shaped the way we deliver for our communities.

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Who was it that said ‘the only thing that is constant is change’? Having Googled it I can confirm it was Heraclitus. I’ve not met him but it is a good quote!

Gosh, have we all seen some change in the past five years? … and much of that change has been challenging. But it has challenged us to work differently, with tenants, with partners and as a team and while we may have been fearful of it and nervous about the future (just as I was when I joined the organisation 5 years ago!) we can now look back and recognise that actually that change, in many cases imposed on us by the external environment, has resulted in some very positive outcomes. Gone are the days when we did things because ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’.

The prospect of Welfare Reform caused us to take a step back, review how we work with our tenants and really consider how best we can align our services and our support. So what’s changed as a result of that? We talk to our tenants more and we know much more about them. We see our tenants more – some of them now work with us and many help us to develop our services. We meet with them to support them with money management. We tailor delivery of information and services to meet individual needs.

We are thinking outside of the traditional box and we recognise that we will need to continue to do this. If we are to address need in an environment of significantly reduced public spending, we must continue to work flexibly, to develop new solutions to housing need, to feel confident to flex tenures and to deliver services in new ways.

When I joined the sector it was very traditional in its approach to service delivery. At United Welsh we’ve broken the mould. Our asset management delivery model, embodied in Celtic Horizons, is the first of its kind in Wales, employing our tenants and offering training opportunities. We deliver repairs on a day and at a time to suit the customer, minimising visits with the introduction of the Complete Property Service. We work productively with social enterprise partners. There’s more to do but we are continually listening and learning.

The recent partnerships we have developed are fresh and sustainable. They are not partnerships that are imposed on us but those forged from shared values and a common vision to make a difference to people’s lives. If ten years ago someone had said that a Registered Social Landlord would develop, in partnership with the Local Authority, a library and a clinic at the heart of a town centre regeneration initiative, making a massive difference to the community, people would have laughed and told us to stick with building homes.

At United Welsh we are very lucky to have a team that is always up for the challenge, constantly reviewing what we are doing and how we are doing it. To have a team that is so engaged and committed to doing its best for our customers provides us with such a fantastic platform for development and creativity. It is the ‘Can Do’ attitude.

More change ahead?  I think that Heraclitus would say deffo… Are we up for it? Deffo!

 

 

 

 

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United Welsh wins Project of the Year at the National Housing Maintenance Forum Awards

By Steve Bowen, Procurement Project Manager, United Welsh

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In the immortal words of the Four Seasons, ‘Oh what a night’!

At the National Housing Maintenance Forum (NHMF) annual awards in Stafford on Tuesday 21st January, we sat with baited breath as the awards were read out; first the Gas Service awards – lots of delightful whooping and hollering and flue-analysers being handed out to the superstars of the Gas Service world.

As I sat there, enjoying the atmosphere, I thought back over the work that had brought us here.

The Celtic Horizons ‘project’ had commenced in 2011 with an acknowledgement that we needed to improve customer satisfaction across the services we provided. This was supported by a report carried out by the University of Bath in conjunction with our Property Team, and was followed by a series of hearts and minds seminars facilitated by Echelon.

The bold decision to adopt a ‘wholly owned subsidiary’ model with expertise and experience in the form of a main contractor partner resulted in an Official Journal of the European Union – or OJEU – notice being placed in February 2012. After a Bidders’ day, the pre-qualification questionnaires; the Invitation to Submit Detailed Solutions; the informative Competitive Dialogue and Best and Final Offer evaluation process involving over 30 of our staff and a team of tenant representatives we finally appointed Mears, who had risen through the process into a worthy partner for us.

Back to the awards evening… we had submitted an entry into the ‘Best In-house maintenance service provider’ category for our Complete Property Service Project that went live a few days ahead of schedule in March 2013 – on time, within budget and with all the quality boxes ticked.

This was the third award to be announced and when the announcement came that Broadlands HA from Norwich had won, we looked around our team and thought our chance had passed for an award this year… apart from our Project Lead Luke Mitchell who insisted “we are still in with a chance!”

And so we arrived at the final award of the evening – the overall Project of the Year; the most prestigious award! And the announcer used words such as “outstanding project…unanimous choice of the judges….innovative…exceptional use of both staff and tenants…..with all the evidence showing the improvements in service!”

“And the winner is….UNITED WELSH!!!”

At that point Lynda Sagona – our Project Sponsor at United Welsh and keen supporter of the process at every stage – looked as though she had won the lottery; Jane Nelson, Mears Executive Director, punched the air in delight, Luke Mitchell said “told you” and none of us moved! We were then applauded onto the stage to receive the award and pose for some photos.

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Steve (left) and Luke Mitchell showing off the award with pride!

It’s been brilliant to be involved with Celtic Horizons… and winning this award was the icing on the cake!

Celtic Horizons is launched

Celtic Horizons, a wholly owned subsidiary created through a unique partnership between United Welsh, the South Wales based housing association and Mears the UK’s leading provider of Repairs & Maintenance services, has begun to deliver its services to communities in South Wales.

Celtic Horizons is the first wholly owned subsidiary of its kind in Wales; created in consultation with staff and tenants to deliver total asset management solutions for United Welsh spanning 11 local authority areas in South Wales. The contract which was rolled out on March 28th has a total potential value of £145 million over fifteen years.

The procurement process, which led to the creation of Celtic Horizons, started in February 2012 with the aim being to develop a model that will improve customer service standards, and reduce the time it takes to resolve enquiries from the first point of contact with United Welsh. It was decided during extensive consultation that a wholly owned subsidiary would most benefit tenants and give them greater involvement in the delivery of estates services.

Celtic Horizons will give scope to mould and improve service delivery and introduce new concepts such as the Annual Property Service, a trial of which has been part of a recent research study by Bath University. It is a concept of lean working to improve efficiency and maximise resources.

Although a number of tenants engaged with the process, four tenants each gave over 100 hours of their time to ensure that throughout the process there was input and feedback from those who experience the service. At a ‘welcome’ event on March 28th these tenants were recognised and thanked by both organisations. The process of consultation will not cease with the launch of the Celtic Horizons, in fact, more tenants will be engaged and meet monthly to discuss the subsidiary and undergo professional training to critique its service delivery.

The new 91 strong team were welcomed to their premises on Van Road in Caerphilly Business Park from where they will deliver their services to United Welsh’s 4700 properties.

Lynda Sagona, Director of Housing and Communities for United Welsh and lead on the delivery of Celtic Horizons said; “28th March has been a landmark day for the United Welsh Group seeing the launch of Celtic Horizons, a unique partnership with Mears, the first of its kind in Wales.

Celtic Horizons has been developed with the enthusiastic and invaluable input of our tenants and staff and today we have welcomed 70 new employees.

This exciting model provides us with a platform to deliver our asset management services in new and innovative ways whilst maximising the benefits to our customers and communities.”

Jane Nelson, Executive Director Mears said; ‘United Welsh, Mears and local tenants have worked really hard to get us to where we are today. Mears are proud to be working with United Welsh and its subsidiary, Celtic Horizons and we look forward to a bright future providing the best possible levels of customer service.”