Bromford is a social landlord with 26,000 properties across England, and some parts of Powys. In 2012, the organisation developed the Bromford Deal to respond to the many challenges that austerity posed to the organisation and its tenants.
It was also an opportunity to radically change the relationship between tenants and housing officers from one where housing officers act on behalf of tenants, to one where they discuss each tenant’s needs with them and collectively agree a way forward. At the time, new social housing cost around £150,000 per property and Bromford wanted to make this investment about more than just bricks and mortar.
Bromford aims to challenge negative associations for tenants applying for social housing by getting them to sign up to the Bromford Deal to make a difference in their lives. Tenants agree to a range of conditions, such as looking after their property and resolving disputes with neighbours, and get a home and a range of support from Bromford as a result. Officers also work with tenants on a to-do list based on their needs and ambitions.
Tenants can get support to find work, help with managing their tenancy agreement, money advice, access to training and learning opportunities, and a range of other support such as confidence building, or help with addiction or other health issues. Marketing of the scheme emphasises the role that tenants or customers play and what they get as a result. A video on Bromford’s website [Opens in new window] asks: "have you got what it takes to be a Bromford customer?". If tenants do not keep their side of the deal, they put their tenancy at risk.
Bromford funds the scheme itself as part of its core offer for tenants. The first 12 months of the scheme involved more work for officers having more lengthy conversations with tenants to get the initiative right, but after this, officers saw a reduction in the reactive work they had to do to manage issues with tenancies and disputes between tenants. The Bromford Deal has led to a reduction in the number and level of rent arrears, positive outcomes from individual tenants and fewer anti-social behaviour disputes.
The organisation has also developed the Starting Well service for tenants with more complex needs who receive 12 weeks of support from specialist coaches on a range of areas. In the future, Bromford will analyse data to see whether the initiative has resulted in improvement to the length of tenancies. Bromford is also supporting tenants to move to direct housing payments where housing benefit is paid directly to them and they in turn pay rent to Bromford. This is to help prepare for the changes expected with universal credit and has involved support for tenants on managing money. This support has also led to a decrease in rent arrears.
Bromford has developed strong partnerships with other agencies working in the area but also with local employers so that it can offer training to meet the needs of the job market. It has also worked with large employers such as Debenhams and Premier Inn to deliver recruitment events on Bromford’s premises to give tenants the best opportunity to gain employment locally.
The Bromford Deal has generally been well received by tenants, but there were challenges in changing organisational culture. There was healthy debate in the organisation, with some people who were concerned about the conditions tenants were expected to meet to keep their homes. Bromford was able to reassure people that tenants’ goals are self-defined and tenancies are not subject to tenants finding employment.
Bromford is also reviewing whether internal targets on employment and training need to be revised to reflect that fact that many tenants are a long way from the job market and require a range of support to get to this stage. It also took time to work out the best type of intervention for tenants. The biggest challenge was in moving housing officers away from a traditional rescuer role to that of enabler or coach – supporting tenants to make their own changes rather than doing things for them. Bromford ran a 12-month training scheme to support staff including role plays with actors to address this issue.
The Bromford Deal is the process used for all new tenants except those in temporary or supported accommodation but there are plans to extend the initiative to these tenants in the future. In the future, Bromford aims to reduce the number of houses each officer deals with to improve the quality of service for tenants. The organisation is also looking at whether more services can be delivered by one individual so that tenants could get money, employment and tenancy advice from the same person rather than engaging with a number of different professionals.
Name: Darrin Gamble