Property Pool Plus Review

 

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Property Pool Plus Review

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cobalt scrutiny panel property pool plus review march 2013 excellence has nothing to fear from scrutiny

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contents page

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overview of property pool plus in june 2012 a new choice-based lettings system was introduced within liverpool this new system is very similar to the old system property-pool but will be called `property-pool plus property pool plus also includes housing providers in halton knowsley sefton and wirral full list of scheme partners can be found on the cobalt housing web site the housing associations advertise their available vacancies every week through property pool plus the property pool plus scheme offers increased choice allowing applicants who are looking for affordable housing to see what vacant properties are available and express an interest in selecting a suitable new home property pool plus informs applicants what priority banding they have based on the urgency of their need to move from their current property properties are advertised and applicants are invited to place a bid express an interest the system then puts people into priority order for the property they have bid for based on their priority band and application date in line with property pool plus from june 2012 cobalt changed the way it allocates its empty homes cobalt has always let its homes using a time on list policy applicants would be placed on a waiting list for a period of time for a particular property in a particular neighbourhood this is now changing to enable cobalt to allocate its empty home to those in greatest need panel members taking part in this scrutiny larry shelbourne chair phyllis booth vice chair debbie mottram secretary joyce cooper rhona parker janet heckingbottom edith hodge ronnie thomas joan johnson sophia muncaster beryl robinson william tynan

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cobalt housing scrutiny panel review of property pool plus plus 1 introduction the purpose of this report is to set out the progress made by the scrutiny panel members in relation to our scrutiny of the property pool plus ppp this report sets out · · 2 the approach we took and the activities we carried out as part of our review our findings and recommendations background how was this service identified the scrutiny was identified by the scrutiny panel as an area of investigation this was supported by a referral from the norris green neighbourhood committee certain members of the neighbourhood committee argued that during cobalt s housing lettings process priority seems to be given to immigrants from other countries in particular the polish the review the scrutiny panel s third started in september 2012 and the research phase was completed in january 2013 the approach we decided to adopt in scrutinising services is as follows · fact finding reviewing service standards policies procedures and performance information costs quality and tenants views relating to the service · challenge and compare examining what other landlords do and try to identify good practice · recommendations analysing our findings and making recommendations to cobalt s board followed by asking cobalt housing to produce an action plan demonstrating how our recommendations will be addressed · monitor and evaluate once we have an action plan we will monitor progress and evaluate outcomes for tenants in conducting our review we have · produced a scope for the review · received an initial overview from cobalt about property pool plus and reviewed additional performance information we requested afterwards · reviewed data from new tenant survey · carried out follow up meetings with cobalt staff · reviewed advertising of cobalt properties on property pool plus · spoke to norris green committee and asked for specific examples · reviewed actual lettings · reviewed documents relating to the service.

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3 · details of the activities we carried out job shadowing members of the panel met with a cobalt services officer and had a trial run of registering applications they used the kiosk in the reception area and looked at cobalt s page on the website including the email inbox the panel were concerned there may be confidentiality issues with the kiosk see appendix 1 for full findings and they discovered 200 unanswered emails in the cobalt inbox the findings inbox was full and no more could be received due to the importance of this matter the issue was immediately raised with the re-housing manager · review statistical data members wanted to get a statistical overview of cobalt lettings they reviewed continuous reporting of lettings and sales in social housing in england core reports 2010/11 and 2011/12 and results from 2012 new tenant satisfaction survey quarter 1 and 2 and any for complaints recorded against property pool for full findings see appendix 5 · property pool plus website members of the panel reviewed the ppp website they looked at what photographs were used how properties were described and supplementary information that was included the group determined that a number of improvements could be made full report see appendix 2 · case review in order to respect people s confidentiality the resident involvement officer randomly selected up to 17 lettings through property pool he made a note about how many people bid which bid was successful and why the other bids were unsuccessful members noted the report and confirmed that the correct procedure had been followed and that no one had for jumped the queue for full report please see appendix 3 · specific examples of black and minority ethnic bme tenants receiving preferential treatment after already agreeing to scrutinise ppp a referral was submitted by norris green neighbourhood committee who expressed concern that there was a view amongst some of the community that polish applicants were getting priority on property pool plus as part of the scrutiny members of the panel attend the norris green neighbourhood committee meeting on 15th january and gave a full detailed report on their findings to date |pa ge 2

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they informed the committee members that the scrutiny panel had not found any improprieties regarding cobalt s letting policy and asked committee members present if they knew of any specific examples or concerns which the panel needs to know as part of their review so they can investigate on their behalf a debate surrounding the issues raised took place but no committee member present raised any concerns regarding unfair lettings by cobalt housing · how do cobalt determine which properties go onto property pool as opposed to direct matching panel members met with the rehousing manager on 27th november 2012 and asked her to explain why cobalt only put 50 of properties on ppp which properties cobalt put on how much influence cobalt has with property pool and what support cobalt gives to vulnerable full tenants members were satisfied with the responses full report see appendix 4 · support given to vulnerable people appendix as detailed above appendix 4 panel members met with the re-housing manager who detailed the support given to people who don t have access or have problems using the internet if it is determined that tenants don t know how to use the internet a member of staff can show them or they can come into reception and the duty officer will complete a search for them if they can t come into reception then they probably should be applying via access which although is not covered in this review it was noted that access is not clearly advertised on cobalt s website satisfaction survey · members also reviewed satisfaction with cobalt as expressed through the results of the new tenant survey members queried the result of 97 satisfaction with the customer care given during the lettings process new tenant survey q2 2012/13 they thought it was relatively high considering that they had thought that the ppp website was not user friendly the chair was asked to follow this is up by speaking to the performance and research officer who is responsible for producing the report on 30th january she explained to the chair that the report measures satisfaction with cobalt not necessarily property pool the chair said that the panel had not scrutinised cobalt s satisfaction results however given the excellent work from the performance research office in past scrutinise he was satisfied that results set out in her report would be accurate |pa ge 3

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· eligibility criteria members met with the housing services manager on 28th january 2013 to discuss the eligibility criteria they enquired about cobalt s housing needs policy and who were the panel housing services manager said no tenants were members on cobalt s housing needs panel the housing needs panel is made up of managers from the different services within housing management and is chaired by the head of neighbourhood services the chair raised the concerns of the tenants at the norris green neighbourhood committee that polish tenants were getting priority housing services manager stated that he and representatives of cobalt housing were not only morally bound they were also legally obligated to ensure all their lettings were fair and met the criteria set out in property pool appendix plus banding scheme to prioritise applications appendix 6 the housing services manager went on to say all cobalt housing letting had a full and transparent audit trail the chair said he noted that property pool plus advertisements in cobalt s reception were targeting a certain type of tenant for a number of properties for example properties saying no young people he asked could this be construed as discriminatory the housing services manager responded by saying there were certain types of property that were specifically for the elderly and vulnerable tenants · review of documents at the scrutiny panel meeting on 24th january 2013 members reviewed the standard letters which cobalt send in relation to property pool members noted the documents and had no further comments to make 4 our main findings strengths system has been demonstrated to be fair open and transparent cobalt is supportive of all ranges of applicants there is a high rate of satisfaction in respect of the support given by cobalt during the application process areas for improvement website is not user friendly and technical problem still exist application form should be smaller and less complicated |pa ge 4

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5 our recommendations · delegate responsibility for checking the emails in the cobalt inbox on the property pool website on a weekly basis all existing queries should be checked to see if they are still outstanding and if not was that individual s application adversely affected look into kiosk is it user friendly and private enough confidentiality could potentially be breached possibly introduce a re-housing surgery with computer in interview room sign above kiosk could be made prominent and be in different languages look at timing out issue on ppp system the panel recognise this may be outside of cobalt s control look into being constant with the number of reference which cobalt asks for ie one required by properly pool plus two required by cobalt housing to have a marketing strategy for properties on property pool plus to address the above issues including training for staff · · · · 6 action plan as agreed with the board we require cobalt housing to produce a smart action plan setting out how and when they will implement our recommendations we will monitor progress against this action plan and monitor outcomes for tenants through the feedback we receive from customers we will require cobalt to produce an action plan by the time of our monthly meeting in april 2013 so that we can commence monitoring we would expect all our recommendations to be completed within six months of the board s approval we require monthly updates from officers regarding progress in implementing our recommendations we will send the letters immediately after the board meeting to thank every one who took part in this review we feel that it is important to let people know how their involvement has made a difference as well as thanking them for their input |pa ge 5

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7 concluding remarks and learning points after a full scrutiny the panel could find no evidence of any preferential treatment given to any particular group when applying for cobalt properties the panel were unanimous in there findings that cobalt housing rigorously follow the banding system set out by property pool plus the panel would like to extend their thanks to alan langan and sharon edwards burke for their support and there willingness to provide any information we required during our scrutiny the panel would like to give a vote of thanks to zoe gawnthorn for her help the panel members would like to acknowledge the support we have received from residents involvement team we would also like to thank the board and senior management team for their continuing support finally the chair and vice chair of the panel would like to thank all panel members for their hard work and dedication in carrying out the review and producing this report |pa ge 6

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appendix 1 feedback from job shadowing which took place with zoe gawnthorne on 08/11/2012 findings in relation to ppp · panel members felt it was a waste of time completing the form out online as you still have to print out the forms and bring them into the office with your references and id and you still have to have an interview to get a reference number the website is not user friendly the application form is too long panel members discovered 200 messages in the cobalt inbox on the ppp site they do not look like they have been responded to also it looks like they stopped at 200 as that is the maximum allowed other queries will not be accepted however those applying will not receive notice informing them of this so may still think cobalt has received their query some messages go back to april 2012 it was noted that other rsls do respond to queries this has been flagged up to re-housing manager panel member carried out a dummy run only on properties with 40 or more applicants to ensure they did not get offered it panel members discovered that applicants will not receive notification if they are unsuccessful due to the potential volume of bids internet times out after a certain amount of time even if you are actively using the site 15mins if the site is too busy then you can t go on liverpool section on property pool plus has been under construction since at least 30th january 2013 ppp website states you only need one reference cobalt ask for two people are coming in to cobalt and getting turned away from reception because they are missing a reference · · · · · · · · findings in relation to the kiosk · if you don t log out then everyone can see your details this issue was raised immediately and a sign has now been put there kiosk should be enclosed for confidentiality · recommendations · delegate responsibility for checking the emails on a weekly basis all existing enquiries should be checked to see if they are still outstanding and if not was that individual s application adversely affected look into kiosk is it user friendly and private enough possibly introduce a re-housing surgery with computer in interview room · |pa ge 7

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· look at timing out issue on ppp system the panel recognise this may be outside of cobalt s control look into being consistant with the number of reference which cobalt asks for · appendix 2 notes from meeting on 30th october 2012 to review property pool plus adverts · 11 of 24 46 cobalt properties have no photo including cobalt s newest and most expensive properties altcross way · number of street view shots doesn t show you which house you are meant to be looking at |pa ge 8

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· · · · · number of photos of properties poor quality i.e bad lighting we could possibly learn from how estate agents frame photos possible train one person or number of people to take good photos some photos not up to date no marketing information on some of our properties |pa ge 9

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we don t take the opportunity to display extra photos e.g internal photos · · · · · could we dress properties in hard to let areas internal and or external could dress one property per street to show how it could look and use the photos on each property which comes up in that road if investment work is to be done in area highlight it on the advert worth noting other associations are no better put pressure on ppp to restore link to upmystreet recommendations · to have a marketing strategy for properties on property pool plus to address the above issues including training for staff |pa ge 10

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appendix 3 review of actual lettings via property pool plus 18 properties picked at random on 2nd november 2012 1 estate bidding round no of bids applicant who was successful reason why other said no 2 estate bidding round no of bids applicant who was successful reason why other said no colesborne 8th july 1 0 applicant did not have references gems 8th july 5 0 under occupied under occupied under occupied under occupied applicant refused 3 estate bidding round no of bids applicant who was successful reason why other said no 4 estate bidding round no of bids applicant who was successful reason why other said no gems 8th july 1 0 withdrew bid gillmoss new build property 22nd july 6 0 property had to be re-advertised applicant had history of asb under occupied under occupied withdrew bid under occupied under occupied 5 estate bidding round no of bids |pa ge gillmoss new build property 29th july 19 11

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applicant who was successful reason why other said no 6 estate bidding round no of bids applicant who was successful reason why other said no 7 estate bidding round no of bids applicant who was successful reason why other said no 1st na sedgemoor 9th september 1 1st na scarisbrick 12th september 4 3rd under occupied offered elsewhere 8 estate bidding round no of bids applicant who was successful reason why other said no 9 estate bidding round no of bids applicant who was successful reason why other said no colesborne 30th september 0 na na sparrowhall 30th september 7 0 under occupied unsuitable couldn t manage stairs couldn applicant refused withdrew bid no response offered another property property too small 10 estate bidding round no of bids applicant who was successful reason why other said no formosa 30th september 12 5th no response no response no response applicant refused 12 |pa ge

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