Improvement strategies are key to success, says Dave Bradley
QUALITY frameworks and business excellence strategies are fundamentally important to housing associations in Scotland. Improving the quality for housing association tenants is a most important driver, regardless of whether the association sits in the urban Central Belt or rural Highlands. Each association defines quality from the views of service users and the assortment of social care staff and others who make housing associations “champions” of business excellence in our country.
Many of these housing associations in Scotland have adopted strategies that go beyond providing housing for tenants that need simply a roof over their head and associated care services that make improvements to their lives. They adopt a raft of policies that seek ways to continually improve not only its core services, but can help regenerate neighbourhoods and enable communities to thrive.
With welfare reform now ratified, a growing number of housing associations in Scotland are playing a key role in providing social housing which is led by customer healthcare needs and this is intended to provide the efficiencies needed to deliver a further improvement of integrated care. Providing consistently high-quality support tailored to individual needs early on can not only bring huge benefits and opportunities to an individual, but also help reduce the pressures on public services elsewhere.
To be able to deliver truly integrated care and support that offers the potential to make measurable improvements in results, it is important in my view that housing associations come together with a wide range of ancillary services to provide a truly holistic approach to health, care and support needs. It is equally important that organisations delivering care across the country engage with housing associations and, in line with local needs and requirements, gain crucial information and intelligence from these housing providers.
Quality of service continually underpins this important issue.
The more rigid the quality and business improvement strategies are, the better placed the housing association is to embrace change, adapt its service provision and augment itself with these other intermediaries. Reinforcing self-assessment and staff training, adopting benchmarking procedures and good corporate governance, enables housing associations to be one of the most visible sectors in Scotland and one which embraces quality and business improvement.
A good example of this is the Wheatley Group, which is a proud and effective standard bearer for quality and business improvement. As Scotland’s largest social housing provider, it brings the ability to satisfy the requirements of the Scottish Housing Regulator by continually self-assessing and generating continuous improvement. And when you see the comprehensive nature of its business practices, you immediately understand why these tools are vital to them.
It has joined forces with partner organisations to contribute to a growing demand for improved housing, care and regeneration across the country, by investing in the communities in which it operates. This improvement is gained by a workforce ethic of “Think Yes”, where staff are encouraged not to prevaricate on customer requirements but to meet the needs of the customer and the community by meeting expectations.
Improving social housing, creating jobs and training places, adopting partnerships with core emergency services to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour, and providing specialist healthcare and support services for people as they grow older and need specialist care and support are just some of their specialities.
Underpinning all of this is a robust commitment to continuous improvement and business excellence modelling which Quality Scotland has helped the group adopt because it wants to be seen as the best possible provider of services in the sector as well as recognised for being an excellent organisation in Scotland and in Europe.
Amongst Wheatley Group’s core values is one phrase which stands out – “Excellence to deliver quality in everything we do”.
It encapsulates the spirit of excellence and business improvement which is both visionary and inspirational and really sets the benchmark in the provision of housing and social care.
But there are many housing associations embracing the culture of excellence.
This brings into focus the clutch of housing-related groups that have won the Scottish Award for Business Excellence in recent years. North Ayrshire Council Housing Services was victorious last year, in 2011 Glasgow Housing Association – part of the aforementioned Wheatley Group – received the accolade and in 2006, the award went to West Lothian Council Housing Services.
It is a sector that is taking business excellence and continuous improvement to its heart with the wider goal of improving the overall needs of communities and better services for all.
• Dave Bradley is chief executive officer of Quality Scotland www.qualityscotland.co.uk