BVT is an organisation that exists to improve the quality of life for people living in communities, and one of our guiding principles is to encourage tenants wherever possible, to share in decisions that affect our community. With this in mind, front line departments within our organisation have been working towards establishing truly tenant centred services.
The Maintenance Department’s approach to achieving this began with three technical officers (including the Maintenance Manager) being asked to form and support a new consultative panel, with 10 tenant volunteers. The brief was very clear - that this project would not just pay “lip service” to tenant involvement, but over time, a flourishing, experienced tenant panel would evolve, setting its own agenda and having significant input into all major decisions affecting the delivery of the maintenance service
Four specific goals for the panel were agreed at the start:
* To ensure that there is enough and the right type of information for tenants prior to experiencing maintenance works.
* To ensure that there is always an adequate range of options & choices available in maintenance works
* To achieve through the panel a significant input into the selection of external contractors
* To review and have input to maintenance policies & procedures
Achieving these goals was always going to be an evolution rather than a revolution, as effective tenant involvement can only be possible with some intellectual empowerment. To this end, officers on the panel began the process of training tenants on the panel to develop knowledge and understanding of not just the technical issues, but also to nurture an appreciation of operational constraints. Beginning with a “job awareness event”, officers organised for tenant panel members to spend time with key staff at our maintenance depot, providing the opportunity of experiencing first hand the reality of front line service delivery. Having an understanding of the challenges facing colleagues delivering the services, our panel were now able to make decisions & judgements on subsequent topics with a holistic approach, rather than a one dimensional “tenant-centric” view.
Alongside this better understanding of internal processes, coupled with technical support from officers, our panel were ready to begin reviewing BVT standard specifications for capital improvements. This culminated in changes such as a complete overhaul of bathroom suites used and it is now a permanent function of the panel, that no Maintenance Officer should alter a standard specification without seeking Maintenance Panel approval. This helps to ensure that our service is always tailored to meet our tenants’ requirements.
Prior to our panel getting involved in the selection of contractors, a consultant trainer was appointed to deliver a “Recruiting Contractors” session. Giving an overview of the whole tender process, this session equipped members to evaluate contractors’ presentations and decide on what basis they should be appointed. Utilizing this newly acquired knowledge, a working party of the panel (made up of two officers and two tenants) appointed a new contractor for our large electrical repair contract. Scoring of the contractor was on the basis that each individual had 25% of the overall say, giving tenants the same overall status as the officers.
Since choosing the “day to day” electrical contractor, the panel has chosen our Rewire contractor, and is currently deciding whether it would be in BVT tenants’ interests to change kitchen supplier. To aid this decision, officers arranged for representatives from “Procurement for Housing” to provide a series of presentations to give an understanding of the implications of a full OJEU tender. Now this training has been completed, we look forward to receiving the panel’s decision shortly, as to whether BVT does indeed change kitchen supplier.
Intended for tenants due for major renovations, the panel agreed that being able to see full sized samples of the choices of kitchens, bathrooms, windows, boilers, electrical hardware, and decorative finishes would give people the best chance of making the right choices for them. And so the panel set to work. In conjunction with maintenance officers, January 2007 saw the first BVT Planned Maintenance Exhibition. As with all BVT initiatives, the effectiveness of the event was evaluated by our “Business Improvement Unit”, who asked all attendees to fill out an evaluation form before leaving,
(and entering a prize draw for doing so!).
The feedback was reported to be resoundingly positive, specifically, of the 73 households who attended, 99% of attendees rated the event positively; especially appreciated was the opportunity to meet with the Maintenance Surveyors & Contractors responsible for the works and ask any questions.
A major achievement of 2008 that the tenant panel was instrumental in, was the production of a bespoke BVT Maintenance DVD. Intended for tenants imminently due major maintenance works, whilst remaining resident in their home, it covers all aspects of planned and cyclical maintenance. From editing the script, allowing their homes to be turned into film studios and even taking on starring roles, the DVD simply would not have come to fruition without the support of our motivated and knowledgeable panel.
But the single, most significant landmark for our tenant panel in 2008 was the permanent appointment of two tenant panel members onto our Housing Services Committee. This Committee is responsible direct to the Board of Trustees for all the housing-related strategies and policies across the whole of BVT; it comprises Trustees and resident representatives, and is one of the most influential committees of the Trust. The two tenant panel reps now have the same opportunity as senior officers for direct input into strategic decision making. Achieving this goal has shown us all how powerful true tenant involvement can be.
Bournville Village Trust
0121 415 6533