Tell us about your organisation
Flagship Group builds homes, lets, improves, and maintains them for people in need. We don’t simply want to make a difference to our customers and communities – we want to solve the housing crisis too. To help us, we build homes for sale, reinvesting any profit we make where it’s needed most – we call it profit for purpose.
By spending money wisely, improving relentlessly and working together in partnership with other businesses, housing associations and local authorities, we believe we can meet our ambitious goal.
What challenges were you trying to address?
During this difficult time, our priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff, customers, and communities. We monitor the situation closely and follow government guidelines.
Our services have been heavily impacted, but we are working hard to attend to emergency repairs and provide essential services where it is safe to do so. A key area of disruption for the Group has been our development programme. We try to build between 600 – 700 new affordable homes a year but COVID-19 has significantly impacted the ability to deliver. Therefore, the focus for some staff has shifted to helping support our customers through the outbreak.
Social distancing measures and the lockdown have forced many people to be in vulnerable situations – in their homes, or on the streets. As a landlord with over 30,000 homes in the East of England, we feel we have a responsibility to support our existing customers and communities in a time of crisis.
What was your solution?
In tough circumstances, Flagship has worked hard to fulfil its purpose of providing homes for people in need. Along with other housing associations across the country, we’ve made commitments to keep customers secure in their homes, help them to get the financial support they need and not put unnecessary pressures on our customers if they are struggling.
Our staff have called thousands of vulnerable customers to ensure they are safe, have what they need and to offer support. Repairs operatives have delivered food parcels to local communities and we have doubled our ‘kindness fund’, a pot of money designed to support those who are struggling.
Partnership working has also allowed us to help tackle the immediate challenges presented by COVID-19 and ensure the most vulnerable are supported. Together with local authorities, we have housed rough sleepers, adapted homes to prevent customers from being admitted to hospital or enabling them to return home safely, and have worked with charities to help those suffering from domestic abuse.
Bringing forward the launch of Hopestead – our initiative to end homelessness
Over the last year, we have been working hard to establish Hopestead, which we intend to be our new charity that supports our goal and is committed to end homelessness in the East of England.
We hadn’t expected to launch Hopestead so soon. However, due to COVID-19, we had to think differently and ask what else we could do now - especially as the pandemic has the potential to further increase homelessness, with social renters being most at risk. We have an opportunity to help those who need it most, right now - that’s why we moved Hopestead forward, as an initiative, with the hope for it to still become our registered charity.
Hopestead will help those experiencing genuine hardship as a result of COVID-19 and will provide extra support to keep people in their homes. By working in partnership with local authorities, charities and social enterprises, Hopestead aims to prevent, reduce and alleviate homelessness, help to build sustainable communities and ensure everyone has a place to call home.
In tough circumstances, Flagship has worked hard to fulfil our purpose of providing homes for people in need.— David McQuade, Chief Executive, Flagship Group
How did you roll out your approach?
Our flexible approach and agile working culture helped us to react quickly to the changes – staff are working from home and continue to make the best choices for them and their families in these challenging circumstances. We have also offered multiple wellbeing resources to staff and over 10% of employees are Mental Health First Aid trained. This has helped staff to feel secure in their role and has allowed them to continue to deliver outstanding customer service.
What have the results been?
Staff from across the Group have stepped up in incredibly challenging circumstances and customers have been appreciative of the calls and support. And by working in partnership, we’ve been able make better, more methodical decisions, with a real focus on individual outcomes – to ensure our communities emerge stronger than before.
What advice would you give to other businesses looking to do something similar?
For us, our biggest takeaway will be the partnership approach. We would encourage all local authorities and housing associations to collaborate closely with other agencies around specific challenges – just see what you’ll achieve together. The outcomes could be great for society and have the potential to profoundly impact the lives of individuals for the better.