How do you work with your contractors to ensure they are competent and safe?
It starts with the procurement process, then effective management and quality systems that highlight performance, along with site inspection.
We did a useful exercise at the end of last year when the safety team dropped in on our teams and contractors unannounced and that provided a great deal of genuine insight. Personally, I feel there is an opportunity to invest more deeply with some of our key contractors and learn from them because they are often the experts.
How do you ensure the housing association has the correct certificates in place?
There are lots of different people involved in making sure Sovereign’s performance is right and that we have the necessary certificates – these range from an administrator, a contact centre advisor or a housing officer – and what we’ve been doing recently, and getting great feedback on, is investing in those roles to ensure everyone is skilled.
There’s a tendency to focus on gas safety, electricians and the alarm testers who are delivering the work. As a result, the support teams in the office are sometimes overlooked but their role is equally important, not only because they can identify where there might be issues, but also because they can offer ideas and innovation to how we can do this better.
Has new technology had an impact?
Yes, it plays a big role. Since our merger we have consolidation systems, and now we’re looking to improve on them and how they are used to produce high-quality data.
Two or three years ago our focus was on a tactical level of data-checking and challenging our own data. This has matured into a more strategic approach.
We use our data to make sure we have the right certification in the right place, at the right time – gas safety checks, electrical inspections – through to secondary tiers of quality checks on our external providers, leading indicators of training and competency.
Headlines from the data flow through to our executive team and a mass of data goes to our health and safety leadership group.
Overall, this means Sovereign’s board has increased transparency and, ultimately, our residents have greater reassurance that the home they live in is safe – with all the necessary compliance and certificates.