Last year, we experienced an increase in the number of repairs being reported by customers. To help meet this demand we employed additional operatives and sub-contractors which meant we were able to complete more repairs than the previous year. This coupled with problems accessing materials and parts meant some repairs took longer to complete than we would like.
This increasing demand, has affected our efforts to improve how we deliver repairs. We will continue to focus our efforts next year on how we can diagnoserepairs more accurately and reduce the time taken to complete repairs from start to finish.
Damp and mould
At the start of the year, we committed to investing £3m to tackle damp and mould in homes to keep customers safe. We used this to fix leaks and prevent water entering properties and to upgrade ventilation to help manage humidity in homes.
We now have a new Damp and Mould Policy which sets out how we will support customers to minimise the risk of damp and mould occurring and make sure we meet our regulatory responsibilities. Everyone who works at Riverside now completes training on damp and mould, how to spot it, report it and act.
New customer information is available on our website and in our ‘Ready for Winter’ information leaflet and we’ve made it easier for customers to request inspections or report a damp and mould repair through My Riverside.
After completing a pilot for a new Care & Support Empty Homes Standard, we launched it in May 2022 completing more than 3000 properties during the year. Customers tell us they are happy with this improvement.
We’ve also changed how we survey homes when they are empty, introducing new checklists to ensure we deliver a consistent standard across all properties. Another important change is the introduction of a Damp Survey Checklist so we can map any signs of water ingress and fix it before the next customer moves in.
Planned Maintenance and Investment
During 2022 – 23 we spent £75.57 million improving homes.
This included carrying out an upgrade programme to bedrooms in short term supported housing, a programme called SHIPS. The programme modernised and improved 2,184 bedrooms for short term accommodation across 90 schemes, costing just over £4m. We also invested over £6m through our Residential Living Improvement Programme to upgrade communal areas.
We replaced 925 bathrooms, 1,347 kitchens, 1,362 windows and 2,624 boilers as part of our planned maintenance programme to improve customers’ homes. We also installed 354 major adaptations and 1051 minor adaptations to make homes more suitable for customers with specific needs, for example walk in showers, specialist baths, stairlifts and grab rails.
Fire Safety continues to be a top priority and we invested £9.76m to ensure our residents are safe in their homes.
We were successful in securing £12.7m of funding from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, along with match funding from Riverside this means we are investing £25m to retrofit 1100 homes over the next 18 months. This will improve the thermal efficiency of these properties making them warmer and more cost effective to heat. Planning for this significant project has started and we’ve appointed experienced contractors and consultants to help us deliver it.
We are continuing to use technology to tell us how homes are performing. Over the last year, we have installed an additional 1000 Switchee devices and this information has been very useful. When a property has been at high risk of developing damp and mould, we’ve been able to ask for more information and fix it at an earlier stage. We’ve also been able to identify customers in fuel poverty and provide support to assess and agree how to tackle it.
We are focused on improving the customer experience and undertook a survey to understand how customers feel about the safety of their shared space. The first survey in 2021 tells us what it was like before we implemented new Building Safety inspections and Building Safety Manager roles in our high-rise buildings.
We’ve assessed properties against the criteria under the Building Safety Act 2022, registered our buildings with the Building Safety Regulator and started a range of intrusive fire investigations including external wall surveys.
We improved how we manage the risk of fire within shared spaces, including inspecting flat entrance doors and communal fire doors in buildings over 11m/5 storeys. We’ve also introduced an annual communication on fire safety to all customers living in blocks of flats.
We have started a programme to improve safety within customers’ homes ensuring at least one smoke alarm is installed on each floor of a home, and there is a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation which contains a fixed combustion appliance.
Good progress is being made with fire safety remediation, and we have a Long-Term Financial Plan (LTFP) and delivery programme in place for remediation of cladding.