Mapping leaseholders’ experience of caretaking services at Royal Greenwich

An update on our work to improve the services Royal Greenwich provides for leaseholders, focusing on what we've learned about estate caretaking.

Since our first update on our discovery project about Royal Greenwich’s leaseholder services, the team has been focused on building its understanding of who our users are, and what their current experience is like.

Our immediate goal is to gather enough information to describe the problems that exist in the current services and prioritise which ones we should start working on. We’re focusing on four services where we think we can have the biggest impact:

  • Understand and pay for my service charges 
  • Request and pay for a repair
  • Understand major works proposals, and respond and pay for them 
  • Ensure my building and estate is kept clean and tidy 

This post dives into what we’ve learned so far about the fourth of these services – providing caretaking on the estates that Royal Greenwich manages.

 

How we went about it

Creating service maps has been useful, as it’s allowed us to build up a picture of each service. The maps are a visual tool which help us to understand the big picture as well as the detail. For example, we can see both the context that the service sits in as well as the things that happen at each step. It has helped us to understand the relationship between problems that occur for different groups of users along the journey. The map has also helped us to understand clearly how the service works - it’s much easier for people to point out gaps and errors, now that we’ve visualised our thinking.

We built the caretaking map together with staff members – such as property account officers, service charge officers, and the caretaking team. To ensure residents’ voices were represented, we included insights from leaseholders we interviewed in previous weeks. We also included what we learned from listening to resident phone calls in our contact centre, and reviewing content across the existing website, and letters or bills that are sent out to residents.

 

A map showing the stages of the caretaking service and the pain points and positive experiences described in the blog. The stages to the service include awareness about my caretaking schedule and quality standards, getting my building/estate cleaned on a daily basis, getting lower-traffic areas cleaned weekly/monthly, making a complaint, making a request, getting an issue resolved, receiving my estimated bill in April, receiving my final bill in SeptemberA high-level summary of the “Ensure my building is kept clean and tidy” service map

 

What we learned

Greenwich has around 200 caretaking staff, who maintain the grounds of estates and work to keep the communal areas of buildings clean, on behalf of leaseholders and council tenants alike. Most of our caretaking staff are based on estates, with a very small “back office” team that supports with planning and technology.

We saw really strong relationships between leaseholders and their caretakers, often knowing each other by name. As well as keeping estates clean and tidy, caretakers tended to act as a ‘first line of contact’ for the council, signposting residents to other services they need, keeping an eye on elderly or vulnerable residents, and reporting repairs that are required.

The caretaking teams have a robust set of standards that were developed jointly with residents. Random inspections take place throughout the year, and the target of 95% of inspections achieving a ‘pass’ is met frequently.

However, it was also clear that the experience varies from leaseholder to leaseholder, and estate to estate. One such area was the impact of anti-social behaviour on estate cleanliness. Vandalism, fly-tipping or other types of anti-social behaviour contribute to residents feeling dissatisfied with the value they receive in return for the service charges they pay. More caretaking time is required to tackle these issues, which in turn increases the service charge costs for residents, leading to a perception of unfairness. In more extreme cases, the effects of anti-social behaviour have left some residents feeling unsafe in their homes: “I pay for…a service, so I want it to be cleaned. I have kids and it’s not safe for them”. Caretaking staff have a lot of empathy for leaseholders’ views on this issue. Anti-social behaviour impacts them too, by making their working conditions harder, and taking their time away from the scheduled cleaning tasks that they know are important to residents.

Finally, we observed an imbalance in the information that is available, between leaseholders and staff. As mentioned above, Royal Greenwich has a strong set of processes in place to monitor cleanliness and safety in estates, which generates a wealth of data. However, internal systems and structures mean that this isn’t generally shared with residents. Instead, staff have to spend a lot of time exporting data from systems and processing it manually, to generate service charge bills twice a year. Leaseholders often have queries about the caretaking duties when they are billed for them, which can be time-consuming to resolve, for staff and leaseholders alike.

 

What next?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be concluding interviews with staff about the remaining three services, and bringing all of our learnings together. Our next goal is to distil this information down into a set of problem statements, that describe what we’ve observed, the impact of the issues, and the causes. This will enable us to discuss the issues in detail with staff, to prioritise which areas to tackle first.

 

If you are interested in learning more about our work, or would like to share your views, please get in touch.

 

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