Wales and West Housing Association
Wales and West Housing Association (the Association) provides and manages accommodation throughout Wales for 25,000 people in over 9,000 homes.
This work was supported by a network of offices. However, consultation showed that only clients who happened to live close to an office actually made use of the facility, others used the telephone or asked for an on-site visit. Consultation also demonstrated that residents preferred to see more local staff out on estates and in communities.
In 2003, the Association closed the four regional offices except for the head office in Cardiff and the Flint office. Staff were relocated in the areas to be closer to customers. The Association was able to dispose of three offices and sub-let the fourth.
An increased focus on central co-ordination involved removing almost all administrative and paperwork duties from front line staff while technology such as wireless email, mobile phones and laptops enabled them to work away from an office. Front-line staff now spend up to 80 per cent of their time working face to face with residents. They work from small bases throughout Wales, most of which are either within established Association schemes or shared with other community organisations. The infrastructure has been enhanced with broadband-enabled access points. Initially, internet access was mainly dial-up but has switched to broadband as it has become more widely available. The Association envisages that broadband will be available everywhere by the end of 2008.
On the job training and support for managers of field workers was provided by the Head of Housing who was the lead officer on field working. In addition field working meetings are held regularly which bring all sections of the Association together to resolve issues or change processes on the spot, with a bottom up approach. Additional training for those managing field workers is identified as part of the Association' overall approach to identifying training needs.
The Customer Service centre based in Cardiff was set up in 1999 to provide 24 hour, seven days a week service for repair reporting, housing applications, reporting anti-social behaviour, emergency alarm response and debit card rent payments. Feedback from tenants has been positive. The Association is continuing to develop the Customer Service Centre as a one-stop shop for tenants. (See Wales and West Inspection report, Wales Audit Office July 2007 ).
The Association estimates that changing working practices saved £480,000 per annum. This represents a little under two per cent of its total income.
Staff costs were reduced by around £400,000. Office costs have reduced by £250,000 but these savings are partially offset by additional IS costs of around £170,000.