Last month, Livv Housing Group received a G2 upgrade from the Regulator of Social Housing after a G3 downgrade in 2018. Chair Philip Raw says a focus on rebuilding belief in the provider has been crucial to its journey back to compliance…
Governance, fire safety, and compliance led to Livv Housing Group’s regulatory downgrade from G1 compliant to G3 non-compliant in August 2018, when it was still known as Knowsley Housing Trust.
Recently upgraded to G2, it’s been a radical, root-and-branch two-year journey back, one realised at pace and during a pandemic. It’s been achieved with a lens relentlessly focussed on trust, safety, and data.
Rebuilding belief is about starting from the honest, straightforward, and unvarnished truth; and our fundamental and forensically detailed approach to the future began with an acknowledgement of the past and that the starting point for the journey back was, in truth, a traumatised organisation.
How do you start the journey back to belief against this backdrop? Such a question may sound like an epiphany of the obvious, but it begins with calmness and conversation. It starts with time and listening to people and looking them in the eye. It starts with people having a voice again but, more poignantly, being heard.
With a new leader in chief executive Leann Hearne and the creation of a new common purpose board with 150 years plus combined experience, the message of confidence and conviction about the future could start in earnest.
Our message cascade was simple and clear. We’ve got control of this. We value our employees. We want to work with you to make this social housing organisation great again. We want our people to go home at the end of their working day smiling because they’ve made a real difference to a customer that day.
But that doesn’t happen without employees who feel like someone is fighting their corner. It doesn’t happen without colleagues who feel like someone believes in them – individually and collectively. Getting back to a culture with a core tenet of trust and belief was our foundation stone to build the organisation back up, and to build it back better.
What were our building blocks? Well, we had new leadership at the helm, in a bold move we turned back to a regulated parent structure, and we collapsed six boards to create a new 12-strong skills-based board. This governance and structural simplification allowed the focus pull of the lens to turn to control, clarity, and back to our core context: being a successful social housing provider.
To get there, we sifted through the mud and silt of the past to create overarching visibility across every asset and every penny spent, ensuring value for money and efficiency of process. We worked collaboratively, recasting policies, practice, and procedures to clear the fog and establish a critical and full line of sight.
We’ve established our ‘one truth’ in doing so. By conducting the most detailed stock condition survey on our 14,000 homes, we now have the absolute base plate for the future of our assets and their safety.
In 2019, we brought forward a programme of Fire Risk Assessments for all communal properties, completing 100% of re-assessments in May of that year.
This approach has ensured that we have taken into account the latest fire safety recommendations from our assessors, and as a result this has led us to invest more than £5.5m in improving fire safety in communal properties since.
Throughout that time, we have continued to work closely with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service to ensure a joint approach to fire safety and any mitigations that may be required in our properties. We have sought to build a strong and open relationship with them, and the proactive work we have undertaken over the last two years has been recognised.
The stock condition survey results have in turn been used to create a fully integrated property function underpinned by a new data system, C365. This has enabled evidence-led management of all compliance data and it’s complemented by a proactive approach to compliance and fire-safety assessment checks.
“Rebuilding belief is about starting from the honest, straightforward, and unvarnished truth”
Scheduling these checks earlier than 12 month cycles ensures nothing goes out of timeline. It’s not just fire safety that has been scrutinised; all processes and procedures around compliance have been renewed including gas safety, electrical safety, asbestos safety, water safety, and lift safety.
So, back to that one truth. Yes, Livv’s journey back from G3 went far beyond the reasons for its downgrade. The root-and-branch process changes made have been tested and embedded to put the belief back in to Livv at the grassroots around critical safety procedures.
But the true complement is the culture change that has been realised. A change that has put pride back onto the organisation. When we talk about the built environment, homes, and communities, we often hear that tied to the term ‘placemaking’.
That’s what we’ve done here as an employer. We’ve made a place for colleagues to shine, grow, and develop. We’ve made a place where they can be heard, a place where they can make a positive difference to the lives of customers.
So, when it comes to placemaking, we’ve made the journey back to belief, and G2, together. We’ve made a place of pride, together. A place to make a positive impact and flourishing communities.
Main image: Philip Raw, chair, Livv Housing Group
Are you a social housing professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.