Keeping tenants properly informed has always been a priority for Manningham Housing Association (MHA), but never more so than during the pandemic. As soon as the first Government COVID restrictions were introduced, MHA staff contacted every tenant to ensure that they were safe and receiving any additional support required whilst self-isolating. Some tenants had been furloughed and MHA’s Welfare Benefits Officer was on hand to offer help. The association’s Community Investment Team provided online courses including confidence-building and assertiveness. MHA ran hundreds of online events for tenants and the wider community, ranging from yoga sessions to CV writing. Tenants without access to a laptop were given or loaned machines. Alongside MHA’s in-house magazine, which is delivered to the doorsteps of all tenants, weekly newsletters have been sent out by email with updates on the association’s activities that tenants can get involved in, together with the latest national COVID updates. These have been supplemented with regular updates on MHA’s website and through social media channels.
MHA has also sent out frequent SMS updates to tenants, not only in relation to COVID but also with details of local job vacancies and upcoming events. Being a community-based BAME housing association
means that MHA’s services are tailored to ensure that the needs of diverse and vibrant communities are met.
The association has always had its tenants at the heart of what it does and sees communication with them as a two-way activity. MHA has a strong Customer Panel which has been instrumental in helping shape the services it provides. The panel scrutinises MHA services and all operational policies are reviewed by them prior to being approved. To ensure that the tenant voice is heard in the Boardroom, MHA has a policy of having at least one tenant on the Board. The current Chair of the Customer Panel is also a Board member. Keeping in contact with friends and family has been every bit as important as hearing from MHA staff. These efforts were greatly helped by the launch of MHA’s Building Bridges Bradford project which had three strands – community conversation, connecting communities and good neighbours events – coupled with online and outdoor exercise sessions such as yoga and shadow boxing as well as coffee mornings. As well as keeping in close contact with tenants, MHA has made a concerted effort to spread the positive news about its initiatives to partners, the housing sector and the wider public through the media. Guided by a bespoke External Communications Strategy approved by the Board, over the past 12 months MHA has disseminated stories in a wide range of subjects including a £50.5 million funding deal for more affordable homes, the launch of a programme of projects to tackle discrimination and guide the local community through lockdown, a VIP visit of the West Yorkshire Metro Mayor and the association’s support for National Inclusion Week. MHA’s Chair and Chief Executive have also had opinion pieces published on several issues including on the inequalities highlighted by the pandemic, anti-racism, Universal Credit and the need for housing associations to prioritise the health and wellbeing of all tenants. Several senior MHA representatives have been interviewed by local,
regional and national broadcast media. All stories and interviews have been geared towards spreading MHA’s key messages as laid out in its External Communications Strategy. Also this year, MHA’s Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive were invited to deliver a joint presentation on “Achieving Outstanding Levels of Customer Service Excellence Through A Commitment To Inclusion and Diversity” to the Institute of Government & Public Policy’s event “Building A Better Social Housing Future 2021.”
Outcomes and achievements
Over the past year, MHA’s Facebook channel grew almost five times from 46 followers to 217. Its Twitter followers jumped from 120 to 305. YouTube videos and profiles had nearly 600 visits and its LinkedIn
page followers almost doubled from 340 followers to 635 in total. In one month, 10,000 people viewed
MHA’s profile on Google. MHA tenant H. Khan commented: “I have nothing but compliments and praise for MHA, for all the support they have provided for my family during the lockdown. They have been very helpful, and patient, and just simply very understanding. My parents really appreciate all the help Zahid has given to them, he literally has gone out of his way to help my parents, for this I can’t thank him enough, MHA thank you for everything you do.” Media outlets featuring good news stories about MHA included Inside Housing, Housing Executive, Housing Digital, Social Housing, HQN, Northern Housing, Keep the Faith, Bradford Telegraph & Argus, Keighley News, Yorkshire Post, The Voice, Bradford Zone, Business Mondays, Business Up North, Business Mondays, Yorkshire Business daily, Bdaily, Public Sector Executive, Public Sector Building, Construction UK , TheBusinessDesk.com, ITV (national and Yorkshire), BBC Radio Leeds and Bradford Community Broadcasting.