NHMF: Client Visits

On behalf of the NHMF I was commissioned during the summer of 2005 to carry out a series of visits to 35 organisations using the NHF Schedule of Rates, Locator and Housecall. The purpose was to evaluate the use and success of the products...

NHMF client visits

On behalf of the NHMF I was commissioned during the summer of 2005 to carry out a series of visits to 35 organisations using the NHF Schedule of Rates, Locator and Housecall. The purpose was to evaluate the use and success of the products and obtain feedback to assist with future development and also to comment on the capability of individual organisations to deliver their services effectively.

A wide range of client organisations were visited including rural, urban and national RSL’s and Local Authorities with stock levels from 250 to 14,000 units. Approximately 2 hours was spent with each organisation to obtain a ‘snapshot’ of their methods for ordering repairs, procurement of works and contract and performance management.

There are a wide variety of Housing Management and repair information systems being used by clients many of whom already have or are actively considering repairs diagnostic software to assist staff with taking repair reports. Locator Plus is the most common diagnostic tool used and generally users are very pleased with it finding it simple and relatively straightforward to use. However it was apparent that the organisations which had invested in training for their staff and had good processes built around it were operating Locator Plus much more effectively than those that hadn’t. The result was that the organisations with inadequately trained staff and poor processes have to deal with a higher number of variations requests by the contractors carrying out the work.

A number of organisations expressed the view that the NHF Schedule of Rates has too many items for dealing effectively with day to day repairs. This is a view commonly expressed in other quarters particularly those taking repair requests from tenants. Some clients take the trouble to remove items that they do not need for their own purposes, most do not.

The general feeling was that a schedule specifically for day to day repairs, with a reduced number of composite items would be welcomed. It could be used in a number of ways to:

  • Compliment the use of the full schedule of rates.
  • Provide standard job descriptions for use with day rates.
  • Provide standard job descriptions for Call Centre use.
  • Provide commitment values.
  • Provide standard job descriptions and appointment timings for work scheduling systems.

Around half of the organisations had some method of allowing tenants to report repairs through their website, usually by completing an on-line form. A small number of organisations had implemented Housecall within their website and were reporting an increasing interest from residents to use the service. Housecall was seen as a service that most organisations would need to embrace in the future.

Typically only complex problems such as damp or high value repairs are now pre-inspected. Contractors are being allowed to determine the works required to complete a satisfactory repair and the inspection resource is being redeployed to ensure that the quality of the repair carried out is satisfactory and the invoice is valid. Organisations could use the opportunity to evaluate the quality of their repair service as a whole, from the tenant initiating the repair report to the organisation making payment to the contractor and obtaining feedback from the tenant.

The NHF schedule of rates is used by clients in a number of ways.

  • > 56% have tendered in the traditional way.
  • > 21% use the schedule for ordering repairs to provide a standard job description and / or providing a commitment value but pay their contractors on day rates.
  • > 6% have entered into partnering arrangements with the schedule of rates as the payment method.
  • > 11% have negotiated agreements with contractors or DLO’s
  • > 6% do not use the schedule of rates at all.

Generally those organisations with formal contractual arrangements have more robust methods of contract and performance management in place, with regular meetings where issues are discussed and addressed. Those without formal contracts, usually the smaller organisations, do not have structured dialogue with their contractors.

All organisations measure the areas of performance demanded by the RSR and the vast majority appear to report acceptable levels of performance. But very few have had their methods of performance reporting externally validated and service managers did not have demonstrable performance statistics to hand!

Nick Wood
M3 Consultancy

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