New Housing Professional 2018 finalist blog: Sarah Felvus
Sarah Felvus from Melin Homes gives her views on a session on the value for money challenges facing housing organisations at TAI 2018 as part of our New Housing Professional competition.
I attended the value for money (VFM) session delivered by Paul Edwards, director from HouseMark. A bit like governance, VFM has a reputation for not being the most exciting of subjects. However, following the session I now appreciate the importance of value for money and how it effects the delivery of every service we provide.
VFM is at the forefront of our minds, due to the recent Public Accounts Committee enquiry and the push for more transparency and accountability in the sector. In England demonstrating VFM seems to be determined heavily by saving on costs. For example, following the 1% rent cuts, many organisations cut back their community development programmes. Comparatively, in Scotland, considerable amounts of money was invested in collecting data to drive resident involvement and scrutiny around VFM.
We’re in a great position in Wales, we have an opportunity to get the balance right. VFM is not just providing the cheapest service possible, it is about ensuring that we achieve the best value in all we do for the short and long term; meeting resident’s needs as well as ensuring well run, sustainable and viable businesses.
To achieve true VFM, we as housing providers need to do the following:
• Know our stock, strategic asset management should not just be about financial return on assets; we should also assess the level of positive impact this has on the community and markets that we operate in.
• Procure the right services and ensure effective procurement practices are in place.
• Consult with our residents as much as possible
Measuring the impact of VFM can be quite difficult, especially the softer outcomes that don’t include cash savings. So how do we demonstrate that we’re achieving VFM in our services? At Melin, we measure the social value of our investments using HACT (other social value measuring tools are available!), which means that we can put a value on things such as wellbeing. This helps us to target our resources ensuring that our investments in our communities are making the biggest impact that they can. We also invest in counselling services, employment support and money advice which creates longer term social value, with the aim to sustain tenancies.
This will ensure that resources are spent effectively, and we can plan and adapt to the challenges ahead. It makes me proud to work in the housing sector in Wales because we haven’t lost our social purpose, investing in these activities means a better future for our residents and communities.
As a Governance Officer sitting in on the session it really highlighted the importance of Board involvement in order to successfully deliver an organisations VFM strategy. Boards need to be taking centre stage on this to make it happen. Boards must demonstrate accountability and ensure VFM is embedded throughout the organisation and aligned to objectives.
It was clear in the session, that VFM in Wales is not just about cost, its about evidencing the wider impact we have on our economy, our society and future generations.