Housing association Ongo has published its performance and achievements for the year 2019-2020 in its annual report.
Highlights include supporting over 700 local people with employment support, achieving the lowest rent arrears since 2013 at just over £616,000, and setting up a new board structure to enable Ongo to run even more efficiently – despite the disrupton posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Janine Garner, involved tenant at Ongo, said: “There has been so much great work over the last 12 months – my proudest moment has to be us getting back onto our feet and dealing with the governance review so well.
“Not just because of all the progress we’ve made, but because us tenants were able to help and support with something so business critical. This to me really proves how valued tenants are.”
Chief executive Steve Hepworth said: “The last 12 months have been a time of learning and change for us here at Ongo. We continued to work through our governance review and the voluntary undertaking we agreed with the Regulator of Social housing, which I’m pleased to say we have recently completed.
“A recommendation to come from the review was to look at our board structure, which we have, and now we have a new more streamlined structure. This means we’ll be able to run more efficiently as a business.
“What has made me most proud over the last 12 months is how Ongo colleagues have worked closely with our tenants on a number of different projects, to really improve the way we do things and make positive changes.
“Whether this has been working to redesign our rent statements and saving over £13,000 a year, making savings of £180,000 by moving to a new kitchen supplier – our tenant group played a key role in selecting this new supplier – or working together as a group to really raise the issue of equality, diversity, and inclusion in everything we do.
“Of course, towards the end of the financial year, something we could not have predicted had a huge impact on us – the global Coronavirus pandemic.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to my colleagues for working so hard during this time to keep our services running, and to our tenants for being patient with us and working with us to make sure we all stay safe.”
Ongo says a key focus for 2019/20 was improving the way in which its offers its services digitally. Sessions were held with tenants on the look, feel, and functionality of the Ongo website to see how it could be further improved.
Following these sessions, a plan was put in place with many already implemented and more planned in over the coming months.
Ongo’s My Home app also saw further improvements to make it simpler and more efficient to use. There was an increase in tenants using the app over the last 12 months, increasing from 3,405 to 4,384 active users.
Supporting local people with employment and skills opportunities is also an area in which Ongo is keen to invest, and during 2019/20 it proved £1m in funding to programmes and projects with the aim of improving local communities and opportunities for tenants and clients.
This was bolstered by an additional £447,723 in external funding to deliver employment support and wellbeing type activities.
This money has been spent on projects such as Ongo Talk, a counselling and life-coaching service aimed at helping people improve their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Homes and repairs
The construction of new homes was a highlight for Ongo, with a variety of tenure types becoming available in the region. This included the completion of its first outright sale site in Blyton, the availability of its first Rent to Buy homes, and the development of more shared ownership homes.
There were 26,295 repairs and maintenance jobs completed by the Ongo team during 2019/20, with 95% of tenants satisfied with the quality of the work and 84% satisfied that the work was completed right first time.
Overall, 86% of tenants were satisfied with the repairs service.
The full report is available on the Ongo website.
Ongo & Investors in People
The report follows Ongo’s recent silver Investors in People (IIP) accreditation.
This is the third time Ongo has achieved IIP accreditation, which provides a framework for organisations with a framework for their own continuous improvement in the way they look after and invest in staff.
Ongo was rated against nine key areas to identify where it is performing well and where it can improve.
The key areas are:
- Leading and inspiring people
- Living the values of the organisation
- Empowering and evolving people
- Managing performance
- Recognising and rewarding performance
- Structuring work
- Building capability
- Delivering continuous improvement
- Creating sustainable success
The assessment consists of an initial meeting with IIP assessors, Ongo’s HR team, and senior management; an online survey, which all staff had the opportunity to complete; and virtual one-to-one interviews with staff from across the organisation.
These were to identify how Ongo invests in its staff, areas in which they perform strongly, and ways in which the organisation can improve further.
Mo Mathieson, organisational development manager, said: “We’re really pleased with our result, especially in a time where we’ve had to adapt pretty quickly to new ways of working, and over the last year or so we’ve seen quite a lot of changes to the business.
“IIP recognised lots of positives in the ways we invest in our staff, and that we’re an organisation that really cares.
“Our culture was highlighted too, and that it is underpinned by our three values of partnership, drive and responsibility – IIP felt that our culture is really engaging with staff having lots of opportunities to have their say and make a difference.
“Of course there are always areas we can improve on, particularly making sure we’re consistent in our approach to investing in and supporting staff across the business, making sure we’re clear and consistent when communicating change, and making sure everyone feels fully supported in their role.”
Following this assessment, Ongo will feedback in more detail to each department on the result in order to look at ways to improve further.
They will also look at the recommendations made and how these can be implemented.
There will be interim reviews each year for the next two years, before another full assessment in 2023.
Ongo says it is aiming for gold next time.
Main image: Ongo Chief Executive Steve Hepworth with staff
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