P49 Social Paul Hackett2 1
Paul Hackett CBE Chief Executive at Southern Housing

We recognise the failures that led to this investigation and fully accept the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) reports and recommendations. We’re truly sorry to our residents who have experienced service failures, including the 67 that the report shows we let down. Any service failure can be distressing, and we’re determined to do everything we can to achieve the standard of services our residents want and deserve.

Southern Housing was formed in December 2022 when Optivo and Southern Housing Group merged. Of the complaints reviewed in the report, 76 out of the 77 determinations started before the merger. At that point the combined maladministration rate of both (as calculated by the HOS) was a third lower than the London average.

 

Improving complaints handling

We acknowledge there were failures that led to this investigation, but since the merger we’ve already implemented many changes to support in improving services for our residents including the introduction of a customer service training programme for all our colleagues.

We’ve introduced a Customer Service Promise that was informed by 180 residents, and we’re changing our culture to elevate the importance of managing complaints quickly and effectively. We placed the entire process under the responsibility of a single executive director to ensure visibility and accountability. We’ve restructured our complaints handling process and we’ve grown our Complaints Team to clear the backlog of complaints following the merger. Our Complaints Team have closed 2,582 complaints since 1 January 2024.

Investing in Repairs

We know that getting it right when it comes to repairs is a top priority for residents. We’ve invested significantly in our Repairs Team, creating over 90 new frontline jobs and increasing the amount we spend on repairs and planned improvements. This means that in the next 12 months we expect to invest over £268 million in our existing homes – an increase of £64 million since the merger.

We’ve already retendered our London repairs service contract, which has been the root cause of much dissatisfaction. We expect these changes to result in improvements during 2024.

 

Resident Governance

Listening to our residents and involving them at every level of our new organisation is critical to the success of our improvement journey. We’ve a proud history of putting residents at the heart of all we do and we’re unique among large landlords in our resident involvement approach. Residents are integral to our decision making and our new governance structure reflects this, including having four resident places on our Board.

More than 100 residents are involved in our resident governance and scrutiny structure with many more participating informally. This has made a huge difference to how we operate and we’d encourage any resident that would like to get involved to contact us.

In the year since our merger, residents have, among other things, endorsed our new Anti-Social Behaviour policy, examined our approach to damp and mould, scrutinised our tenancy sustainment service and approved our new Key Performance Indicators, Fire Safety and Sustainability strategies following their co-creation. This is only the beginning, and we’re confident that the continued involvement of our residents will lead to service improvements across our organisation.

Moving forward together

Throughout the investigation process, we’ve worked proactively and transparently with the Ombudsman and his team and have welcomed their collaborative approach.

We’ve listened carefully to the Ombudsman’s concerns and we’ll use the Ombudsman’s report, together with our long-standing commitment to resident governance, to drive further improvements.

We’re confident that our commitment to listening to residents, investing in existing homes, and cocreating service improvements will ensure we continue to provide safe, affordable homes and great services for our residents.

You can read more about the improvements we’re making to resident services here.

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