Our pledges and our progress

So what are our pledges? And what have we done so far to meet them? Check out our progress below.

Better Services for customers

A Customer Offer document was agreed and shared with customers last year.

We have worked with a group of engaged customers from Riverside and One Housing (our Customer Pledges Task and Finish Group) to develop the Customer Experience Strategy – our roadmap for bringing our housing services together and improving them. We also worked with this group to develop ‘Our Riverside Way’, a set of refreshed values to guide the way we work.

Customers are already having an opportunity to influence the way we deliver services overall, as we bring our operations together. Three consultation sessions have been held with the Task and Finish Group: one session on digital services, one on local services and another on ensuring the services are accessible and equal.  A summary of their feedback has been drafted. Residents on the Task and Finish Group also suggested wider consultation with residents with protected characteristics such as ethnicity and disability, to ensure their views are taken into account. This survey is currently out for consultation.

Rents have not increased as a result of the merger and are varied in line with Government determined Regulatory standards. The April 2023 rent increase was capped at 7% for the majority of tenants (3% below the level of inflation) – going beyond the requirements of our Regulator. This cap was extended to shared ownership and retirement living customers.

Our rent increase in April 2024 was 7.7%, in line with the requirements of the Regulator of Social Housing.

We have opened up the opportunity for Riverside and One Housing tenants to move by applying for a transfer or mutual exchange across the whole Group.

There has been no impact on tenant or leaseholder rights as a result of the merger.

A louder customer voice

The Customer Pledges Task and Finish Group has continued to meet with us, to consider issues which affect both Riverside and One Housing residents. It was involved in agreeing the priorities for the new Group-wide Customer Experience Strategy and had a strong influence in the development of the Communities & Livelihoods Strategy. This sets out how we will provide extra support for customers through money, affordable warmth and employment advice, small grants and support for community groups.

Riverside and One Housing are still delivering housing services separately, and so our approaches to customer involvement are still largely aligned to our current structures. However this will change, and we will develop a Group-wide approach over the next two years, agreed with customers from across Riverside and One Housing.

Customers are represented on the Boards of Riverside and One Housing (one customer member each and one observer). In addition, throughout the year there were four customers sitting on Riverside’s and One Housing’s Customer Experience and Care and Support Committees, which oversee the way we deliver services.

From January 2024 our governance has changed, and there is now a single Board, and integrated Customer Experience and Care and Support Committees for the whole Group. Customers sit on each of these bodies, with a member and observer of Group Board who are customers, and three members of the Customer Experience Committee who are customers. There is a currently a vacancy for a customer on the Care and Support Committee.

Three customers serve as Trustees of The Riverside Foundation, the charitable trust that funds our work to help build communities and support customers struggling with the cost of living crisis.

More investment in existing and new homes

We have already invested £470m in repairing and improving your homes since we merged in December 2021.

As part of this, last year we invested £5.1m in tackling damp and mould, carrying out repair works to over 3,800 homes. We know that this remains a major area of concern for our residents where further improvement is still needed, and so as well as spending more money, we have completely changed our approach, with a new Damp and Mould Policy and Strategy in place, and a specialist team of 23 people appointed.

We have brought the main delivery of all of our repairs services in-house, extending this approach for customers in Cumbria and Riverside customers in the Midlands, London and the South of England, seeing improvements in customer satisfaction where we have done this. We still use sub-contractors for some specialist work.

We are still some way off integrating our repairs services across the Group. In the meantime, we recognise that there is a significant gap in the experience of customers, with satisfaction much lower for One Housing customers than the average for all customers across the Group, where we are dealing with a backlog of inspections and works. This is not acceptable, and we are currently putting together a plan to improve services which we will discuss with the Customer Experience Committee.

Since the merger, we estimate that we will have spent £72m on fire safety improvements at One Housing, completing 16% of our programme.

We continue to seek Government support, and so far have received £38.2m in grants to help address building safety.

We have appointed an 11 strong Sustainability Team to identify and prioritise the work that’s needed, and then co-ordinate energy efficiency improvements.

The team has made a great start, securing £12.8M in Government funding (through the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund) to help fund a £27m programme that will see extensive improvements to 1100 homes in Liverpool, London and Carlisle.

We’ve also had £0.9m in additional grant from Greater Manchester Combined Authority which is being targeted on our estates in Rochdale, and funding from the Scottish Government to help fund a £1.5m programme to improve energy efficiency in Dumfries, Scotland.

We have completed 1063 new homes over the last year, of which around 90% are affordable homes for rent or low-cost homeownership.

Whilst this is an increase on previous years, for the time being we are having to slow down our development programme, given high inflation and interest rates. This is to ensure we focus our funding on both new and existing homes.

Our new Corporate Plan sets out our commitment to delivering ten regeneration schemes in London and other parts of the country. We now have the support of tenants for eight of these following tenant ballots and have secured planning permission for the first phases of four of the ten schemes. This year we completed our first new homes under the regeneration programme at Gillan Court, Lewisham.

We are currently reviewing the speed at which we can deliver some of these schemes in the light of cost pressures and will be discussing this locally where tenants are affected.

Better Care and Support services

Care and Support remains a key part of what we do, and we have confirmed this in our new Corporate Plan and Care and Support Strategy. Care and Support is one of our five main Corporate objectives.

We are now bringing together the delivery of our Care and Support Services, looking at how cost effective each service is to ensure we can sustain them into the future, focussing on what we do best. To guide our work, we have developed a single Care and Support Strategy for the whole Group.

In October 2023, the first joint customer satisfaction survey of customers across our combined supported housing services took place. Over a third of all our customers took part in the survey which helps us to understand what is going well and where we need to improve. Overall 89.9% of customers were satisfied, while we took away some great insight into how we can improve the facilities offered in our services.

Whilst our focus is on improving the services we already run, we are developing some new services with local partners.

Following the success of the Street Engagement Hub in Manchester, a second Hub launched in 2023 in Wigan. This new service engages with and provides practical support and advice for people who beg or engage in antisocial behaviour and may be homeless or sleep rough. Continuing our work with armed forces veterans, we are now delivering a national referral service, working with individual veterans at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Since launching mid-way through 2023, 1,000 referrals have been received and 400 veterans helped into accommodation.

We are also building a number of new extra-care schemes for older customers, with 138 new homes completed over the last year in London and Greater Manchester, and a further 302 in our development programme going forward.

Great support to improve opportunities and livelihoods

We are investing more than £2.5m each year to help build communities and support customers, on top of £500k Riverside was already providing in funding. Over this past year the Foundation committed to funding projects costing around £2.4m, and has already earmarked another £3.3m in funding for projects over the next 3 years.

Funding is being provided through The Riverside Foundation (a charitable trust). Since the autumn of 2021 Foundation funding has:

  • Helped customers gain an extra £2.57m of benefits through money advice.
  • Helped customers save £54k on their energy bills
  • Provided small grants of over £700k to nearly 2900 customers, to help them get through the cost of living crisis.
  • Helped 282 tenants to stay in their homes, when the risk of eviction was high
  • Provided 53 grants to  community organisations, potentially helping over 24,000 people.

Overall, over 29,000 people have been supported through projects funded by The Riverside Foundation.

Keeping our promises

This is our second annual report showing progress against the pledges we made at the time of the merger. We have recently launched a new three-year Corporate Plan for the Group, ‘Forward Together’, and the pledges are built into the plan to ensure they are hard-wired into our priorities.

We will continue to provide annual updates, although from next year (2025) we plan to provide the update in May, so that it can cover the whole financial year which ends in March. This brings it into line with other reporting in Riverside.

We will also be reporting our overall performance against the Regulator’s new Tenant Satisfaction Measures every six months, which will enable you to compare how we perform with other social landlords.