David Mawson is managing director for Kier housing maintenance. Here, he explains how a series of new contract wins and extensions are testament to a genuine spirit of partnership and collaboration within the business.
The term ‘partnership’ has become a bit of a buzz-word for the housing sector and yet it remains rare, in my opinion, to see a genuine spirit of collaboration between the public and private sectors that moves beyond the contractual obligations and embraces partnership in its truest sense.
Here at Kier, genuine partnership and collaboration with our public sector partners is at the very core of our business. The extent and scope of our recent contract wins across our Northern and Southern housing maintenance businesses pays testament to this.
It is the skill and professionalism of our staff and the relationships we have built that have enabled us to grow our portfolio of maintenance activity by £90 million, delivering a whole host of disciplines – from window and door repairs, to kitchen and bathroom maintenance and rewiring - in hundreds of thousands of homes across the country.
So, what’s the key?
Aside from our attention to detail and the high quality of our work, I believe it is our knowledge and understanding of the challenges our partners face which set us apart from the competition. Compliance is one such challenge that quite rightly continues to draw close attention from the entire housing industry, with growing levels of regulation and scrutiny.
These contract wins show that we are at the forefront of this process, guiding organisations through what will be a period of upheaval. For Kier, as a major name in housing maintenance, there is no other place to be. We should be taking the lead in managing changes to the sector, ensuring both we and our clients are navigating the shift in focus smoothly. This is why we have agreed with the Government to be one of the first contractors to implement new building safety procedures recommended in the Hackitt Review. In so doing, we hope the insight we can offer by being a part of this process from the outset can bring about real improvements across the industry.
Overall, our target has to be to continue to meet and exceed our own high standards while taking into account the new priorities expected to shape the sector following the Hackitt Review and the much-awaited Social Housing Green Paper.
We’re also seeing a growing focus on the delivery and measurement of social value, following Chris White MP’s review of the Social Value Act late last year. Our long-term partnerships mean we have a valuable opportunity to embed ourselves in local communities and contribute to their long-term growth and sustainability.
The welfare of local residents is a good place to start and we have been working closely with Erosh, the national consortium for older people’s housing, to tackle the growing epidemic of social isolation and loneliness in the UK.
For some residents a repair team may be the only human interaction they have in a day. We need to be able to spot and respond to signs of loneliness and isolation working together with our public sector partners and the voluntary sector to facilitate positive action and change.
Similarly, we are using our partnerships as an opportunity to upskill young people and reintegrate those not in education and employment back into society. Our Working Roots programme in North Tyneside brings us together with both the local council and a social enterprise in a unique three-way partnership and has recently been recognised by Tpas for its outstanding contribution to skills and training.
For our public sector partners, these are the areas that matter and that set us apart. We are able to demonstrate skill in the work we do, a leading knowledge of the challenges facing the sector and a genuine appreciation of our social responsibility to the communities in which we work – and rightly so. We will continue to prioritise people and partnerships, because we want to, and offer the very best levels of service to clients and residents.”