Thursday, November 20, 2008

Venture Housing defends Audit Commission rating

As readers of the blog will know, I joined the board of Venture Housing Association in September after becoming a co-optee in June.

June also saw the Audit Commission come in to carry out their inspection and their findings have been reported today.

The Daily Post and Liverpool Echo (I cannot find a link to this on their site) have both covered the story.

As has Housing News - I cannot link to that as it entails letting you see the password and email address we used to register for the newsletter, but I have recreated it below.

My own thoughts are that, like the Chief Executive I am very disappointed in the star rating and I have told him and the board that I would not have taken the step of joining if I did not believe in them and the service they offer. After all, I am not remunerated for my time or expenses and I am not a council nominee, I am a member in my own right. I think they deserved a much better rating.

As far as I am concerned I am proud to be a member of VHA, proud of the 90% satisfaction ratings of the tenants, proud of the current campaign to recruit new members, proud of the new chair (our last chair sadly died in the summer), proud of our training last week on Equality and Diversity Impact Assessments, proud of the advances we have made in obtainings gas certificates for our properties, despite the difficulties of some tenants in allowing access to gas engineers, and proud most of all of the overwhelming desire to improve and to put into action the recommendations of the Audit Commission.

It is clear that the partnership working is making a real difference to the community and obvious the staff are dedicated to that community and show that by their own volunteering for clean-up days for instance.

Here's looking to the next inspection!


Satisfied tenants, customer focused staff and a firm handle on anti-social behaviour are among the strengths highlighted by Audit Commission inspectors following a visit to Liverpool-based Venture Housing Association.

The Audit Commission also commented positively on Venture’s support for vulnerable tenants, including victims of anti-social behaviour.

Despite this positive practice, the Audit Commission has today awarded Venture a zero star, ‘poor’ rating. Inspectors did, however, give the association a vote of confidence by rating its prospects for improvement as ‘promising’.

A series of recommendations has been made to enable the organisation to build on its strengths and improve its weaker areas. These recommendations have been accepted unreservedly and work to make changes for the better is already underway.

Chief executive John Tolen said the rating was extremely disappointing.

He added: “We do not feel the judgement reflects what we have achieved in, what are, some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.

“Having said that, our prime focus now is to improve the aspects of our service which did attract criticism to ensure our tenants receive the very best provision across the board.”

Recent survey results show tenants are highly satisfied, in a number of cases above the national average, with the service Venture provides. In 2007/08, 90% of those who completed a questionnaire following repair work rated the service as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

And 88% of tenants said they were satisfied with customer service, compared to 79% nationally. In their report, inspectors’ state: “Customers receive a personal service due to the small nature of the organisation.”

Venture HA is on track to meet Government’s Decent Homes Standard by the 2010 deadline while ‘diversity champions’ have been appointed at management and board level to widen the established focus from race equality to also include age, gender, religious beliefs, disability and sexuality.

Yvonne Davies, Head of Housing, Northern region, for the Audit Commission, said: “The services provided by Venture Housing Association are below the acceptable standard that we would expect to see. Services have not been developed in line with changing expectations, with a slow pace of improvement in a number of key service areas.

“However there is now a drive within the organisation to improve services, with a positive change seen in some areas such as income management and estate management in recent months.”

Mr Tolen added: “It’s very important at Venture to provide tenants with a high standard of service. The feedback we have from our customers and community partners tells us satisfaction levels are already high but it is our absolute aim to now raise that bar higher still.”

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