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Modernisation plans for council tenants in Swansea

PLANS aiming to modernise housing services for tenants in Swansea are to be considered by Cabinet next week.

council housing

Services for vulnerable tenants are set to be improved. An upgrade to telephone services and online rent payment methods are also all part of plans to re-shape council housing services provided in communities across the city, in a bid to make them more accessible for all.

The improvements follow a widespread review of housing services by Swansea Council, including how current tenants make use of district housing offices.

Restrictions introduced during the Covid 19 pandemic have already prompted the council and tenants to make better use of digital services while access to district housing offices has been stopped.

A reorganisation of DHOs is also proposed, providing six offices instead of the current nine, resulting in the closure of Penlan, Eastside and West Cross DHOs. This will enable housing staff to increase the number of home visits to tenants and also see the introduction of housing surgeries within communities.

If Cabinet approves the report, the changes are expected to be introduced from next April.

Andrea Lewis, Cabinet Member for Homes, Energy and Service Transformation, said the changes being proposed would ensure tenants get the right service in the right place at the right time in the years ahead.

Cllr Lewis said: "Our emergency response to the pandemic has provided us with fresh evidence of the need to implement new and modern ways of working that are sustainable for the future which ensure we're able to maintain effective communication with the tenants and communities we serve.

"Although we initiated a major consultation on the way forward for managing housing services before Covid-19 happened, the experience throughout the pandemic has demonstrated that some of the changes we introduced made a real difference in supporting tenants through tough times."

An extensive statutory consultation exercise carried out among tenants and representative groups before the Covid-19 pandemic happened highlighted a need for improved availability of services to the most vulnerable, such as the disabled and housebound.

Cllr Lewis said that the changes would free-up staff to safely deliver services to people in their own homes rather than needing to visit a DHO.

She said: "What the pandemic showed us was, that while we had to close DHO reception areas to the public to help stop the spread, we were still able to provide the majority of services.

"We continued to maintain a 24-hour presence on estates, respond to demand for emergency repairs, re-housing requests, and respond to complaints about anti-social behaviour.

"At the same time we were able to stay in touch with the vulnerable, carry out rent surgeries online and respond to local issues alongside police community support officers and local area co-ordinators."

She added: "Giving direct access to officers' mobile phones and email addresses made it quicker and less hassle for tenants to get the advice and support they needed compared to having to call in at a DHO or ring the housing switchboard.

"It was reassuring that while demand for services continued there was no reported difficulties with accessing services."

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