A new way of focusing on customer needs has helped the Council to renew an important quality accreditation. Six years ago, the Housing service was awarded ISO 9001:2000 certification. This is an internationally-recognised quality award which must be renewed every three years. Following a successful re-assessment, the 2008 certificate renewal report noted a number of further improvements, including the introduction of an innovative `customer perspective programme`.
The customer perspective programme was introduced last year to take a close look at all the ways in which Housing communicates with its customers. Leaflets, letters, forms and every other kind of communication have been subjected to close scrutiny. The customer perspective group meets regularly and includes the Chairman of the Tenants` and Leaseholders ` Federation.
The external assessor of Housing’s ISO 9001 quality management system is Lloyds Register Quality Assurance (LRQA). In addition to the three-yearly assessment, LRQA carries out regular audits, inspections and site visits. The re-certification assessment took place recently over a three-day period. LRQA`s assessor said that the service provided is of a consistently high quality. He also recorded in his report that the Housing Directorate has a matured and user friendly quality management system, with effective control measures. As well as praising the customer perspective programme, reference was made to the Housing Business Plan and the fact that a number of key performance indicators are in place to demonstrate the system`s effectiveness.
The ISO 9001 accreditation covers most of the Housing Directorate`s work, including:
- Council housing repairs, maintenance and management
- Housing options and homelessness prevention
- Older people`s housing (incorporating the Careline emergency alarm system and sheltered housing)
- Housing resources (including the Council home ownership team, housing information and strategy, Council rent administration and support services)
- Architectural services
Following a transfer of the private sector housing function into the Housing Directorate under a recent restructuring, Housing’s Quality and Performance Officer will be working with private sector housing staff over the next year in order to seek extension of the certificate to cover this area of work.
By taking steps to improve continually the quality of our service and our performance, we aim to bring direct benefits to the public who use our services, says Councillor David Stallan, Housing Portfolio Holder. Our systems are rigorously assessed by an independent, accredited body and through internal audits. Gaining ISO 9001 accreditation involved a major commitment from the staff in Housing and we are proud to have retained our certification.
The Housing Directorate also has the Cabinet Office`s Charter Mark award for customer service excellence in the public sector.