CMathiesonOn Scottish Housing Day, Grampian Housing Association’s head of people experience Chris Mathieson celebrates housing as a career and outlines Grampian’s learning and development initiatives.

This Scottish Housing Day, we want to celebrate the commitment, professionalism, and personal values which drive the contribution of people working in our sector, and which they showcase through the delivery of person-centred support every day.

Quality affordable housing remains of systemic importance to Scotland, and for the people who establish their homes in our properties. The full return of the contribution social landlords create for communities and local economies is immeasurable.

But the Scottish social housing sector’s impressive track record and its bold plans for the future would not be possible without our people.

In the almost 20 years I’ve worked in the sector, it’s both heartening, and indeed inspiring to see the reputation and profile of housing shine brighter than ever – a career as a housing professional is something we can, and should all be proud of.

We hear talk of Scotland following the English model, where it is now compulsory for social housing managers to be qualified. Speaking personally, I believe the Scottish sector has nothing to fear from any drive towards increased professionalism precisely because of existing high standards of excellence evident north of the border. Us Scots are modest, but nevertheless, we should continue to do everything we can to showcase and project the excellence of our Scottish sector – where we genuinely aspire to place people at the centre.

In terms of developing our people, the CIH have highlighted the particular skill set and knowledge required for a career in housing, and the need to keep these fresh and relevant. Taken together, the CIH Professional Standards, and the Frontline Futures Report 2014 provide a route map to excellence which remains as relevant to housing professionals today – in every area of the business - as the day they were written.

People professionals in housing know that the current labour market is exceptionally tight; and although partnership working is a vibrant lifeline between RSLs; all organisations are seeking to raise their profile as an employer of choice. In an era where applicants are assessing us, as much as we are assessing them – a commitment to lifelong workplace learning as part of a comprehensive Employee Value Proposition can help organisations stand out, to be that employer of choice and ultimately win the war for talent.

At Grampian, we’re proud that commitment to lifelong learning sits as the keystone of our current People Strategy. Learning and Development is one of the main pillars of our employee performance conversation framework – Great Growth with Grampian – an initiative co-created with colleagues, for colleagues.

Coupled with innovative approaches to colleague wellbeing and resilience; initiatives to foster a culture of recognition and appreciation – we believe that we are nurturing, supporting and developing our staff. Whether through formal sector qualifications such as CIH, ILM or CIPD; accessing recognised SVQ qualifications via Grampian’s partnership with The Skills Network; or a host of workplace opportunities, our colleagues are embracing the opportunities offered – with 89% in 2022 understanding their responsibility to pursue their own development.

That’s why Grampian is delighted to launch GOALS (Growth, Opportunity, Achievement, Learning) our new learning and development centre of excellence. Drawing all our learning and development offerings together into one initiative, we are demonstrating our commitment to individual learning and development, equipping and supporting colleagues to achieve great growth during their time with Grampian. Every colleague is a fully-fledged ‘student’ simply by virtue of their employment with us.

True to our commitment to our customers and communities, GOALS not only services our colleagues but also our tenants by pulling together the range of employability opportunities Grampian currently offers.

At Grampian, we believe this commitment to learning helps us remain true to our purpose, our business and people plan and validates the generous investment we offer all our people. Perhaps more importantly we’re upholding what CIPD call ‘good work’ – that good employment is fundamental to individual wellbeing, supports a strong, fair society, and creates motivated workers, productive organisations and a strong economy.

This article was originaly posted on the Scottish Housing News website on 11 September 2023.

We are advising tenants that as far we know, we have no RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) in our properties.  However, as a responsible landlord we prioritise the health and safety of our tenants and we will be undertaking an independent review of the structural integrity of homes built between 1950 and 1990.

If our structural survey experts identify homes that might potentially be at risk and need further more intrusive property surveys then we will notify tenants affected directly.

The dramatic closure of more than 100 schools in England has thrust RAAC to the top of the political agenda both north and south of the border.

RAAC is different from normal dense concrete as it is lightweight “bubbly” in appearance and relatively weak.  RAAC was introduced and widely used in the UK from the 1950s to the mid-1980s,  generally for wall panels or roof planks.

The issues surrounding risks of corrosion and failure of RAAC have been known for decades and good maintenance was the key to ensuring it did not crumble.

Should you have any concerns please do not hesitate to contact us on 01224 202900 or email info@grampianhousing.co.uk

Grampian Housing Association delivers 25 new affordable homes to meet growing demand

Tenants are enjoying settling into their new energy efficient homes which have been developed by Grampian Housing Association in partnership with Moray Council and Barratt & David Wilson Homes North Scotland. 

The first phase of 25 properties comprise of one detached house, 13 terraced houses and 11 wheelchair accessible bungalows to meet the diverse needs of the growing population of Elgin.  The homes are a mix of two, three and four bedroom properties and one five bedroom property. 

The total scheme cost of £4.5 million will attract £2.39 million in grant from the Scottish Government with the balance funded by the Association.

280723 Elgin New Properties 1

Tenants said:

“I’m very happy with my bungalow which is going to make a massive difference to me, giving me the space I need to live my life to the full.  It feels like my home already.”

“I’m delighted with my house.  It’s top spec and I’m over the moon.

Speaking about the handover of the new homes Craig Stirrat, chief executive of the Grampian Housing Group said:

“We aim to not just build great homes but also aim to ensure that our current and future tenants enjoy desirable, high quality places to live where everyone has equal opportunity to thrive and grow.

“We are extremely delighted to have worked with Barratt to deliver these impressive new affordable homes in this tenure neutral community of Findrassie.

“The homes represent Grampian’s ongoing commitment to the communities of Moray with one third of its 3,600 strong property portfolio located throughout the area.” 

Scott Pettitt, technical director, Barratt & David Wilson Homes North Scotland, said:

“It is great to see this next phase of Barratt’s supply of affordable homes reach completion and be handed over to Grampian Housing Association. These new homes are high quality and have a strong environmental focus, which reflects more accurately how we live today and how we will live in the future.

“The sustainability design, construction and placemaking we have built into the development are key to realising the Findrassie masterplan vision.  We are incredibly proud of what we have delivered for our client, Grampian Housing Association and for the Elgin Community.”

Martin Rait, site manager Barratt won Pride in the Job Quality award for this development.

280723 Elgin New Properties 2

Findrassie lies to the north of Elgin and is a new community surrounded by excellent facilities and a high-quality environment.  The Findrassie landscape-led masterplan was the subject of a design forum review facilitated by Architecture and Design Scotland (A&DS). It reflects traditional built form and open space of Elgin.  It has also been categorised as ‘well-considered’ by A&DS with the partnership working between Moray Council and Pitgaveny, the landowner and cited as ‘national best practice’.

Fiona Geddes, housing strategy and development manager, Moray Council said:
“Both Grampian Housing Association and Barratt are valued partners in the delivery of new build affordable housing. 

“The completion of this development is welcomed as it provides an increase in supply of housing suitable for older people and people with disabilities who require ground floor accommodation.  Larger family sized homes intended to alleviate overcrowding and homelessness have also been built. 

“We wish households moving in happiness in their new homes and hope they will become part of a vibrant new community.”

Grampian has a long-standing mission to keep on building new affordable homes across the North East of Scotland for social rent in high quality places to address the housing supply crisis.

CStirratAs the sector counts down to Scottish Housing Day and the new Housing Bill around the corner, Grampian Housing Association Group CEO Craig Stirrat says a requirement for housing qualifications must at least be in the conversation.

Scottish Housing Day will take place on Wednesday 13 September 2023. The day is intended to raise awareness of the challenges and successes in the housing sector and this year, for Scottish Housing Day, we are celebrating housing as a career. To support this, the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland has established a cross-sector Housing Education Group, chaired by Amanda Britain, to promote the benefits of housing qualifications.

This cannot come at a more appropriate time as a crisis of confidence is looming in the social rented sector, much due to regular adverse media coverage (mainly in England) about service failures by social landlords, perpetuating the perception that social housing is not a desirable housing option for many home seekers.

Consequently, there is increased attention and scrutiny of what goes on, as a great deal is expected of the social rented sector - with the expectation that the sector delivers the highest standard of services and housing standards in the most equitable way - whilst keeping rents as affordable as possible.

The goal to provide the highest standard of affordable homes is being delivered by many (often hard-pressed) capable and committed housing practitioners - but many without the requirement to attain professional status or appropriate qualifications despite the requirement of Regulatory Standard 6 requiring the governing body and senior officers of a social landlord to have the skills and knowledge they need to be effective. This requirement is left to each individual registered landlord to assess what these requirements may be.

Conversely, it has been recognised by the Scottish Government that in the private sector, to register as a letting agent, you have to make sure that everyone in your business has the correct training and have a relevant qualification covering essential aspects of letting agency work. To register as a social landlord there is not the same requirement.

As a lifelong Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and as a member of the cross-sector CIH Scotland Housing Education Group, I have to ask then why is this not a requirement of a social landlord or at least a regulatory guidance?

Like many, I believe, attaining professional standards in social housing helps to

  • Protect the public
  • Maintain public confidence in the profession
  • Declare and uphold professional standards
  • Set out the threshold standards necessary to protect the public
  • Set clear expectations of practitioners working in Registered Social Landlords’ knowledge and abilities when they start practicing
  • Ensure that practitioners continue to meet the standards of proficiency that apply to the Chartered Institute of Housing scope of work and code of practice
  • Assist practitioners and tenants around decisions of appropriate service support for specific circumstances
  • Support and inspire professional learning, CPD and career development.
  • Raise the profile of the sector and the range of career opportunities across the sector
  • Expand on the knowledge and skill set of colleagues by providing opportunities to diversify

Whilst many colleagues throughout the United Kingdom consider that what is happening in England is a knee-jerk reaction to the housing scandals and not necessarily the panacea for all ills (clearly it is not and I agree it is not), it has been recognised in England that professional standards and qualifications are part of the solution (certainly the values, code of practice and leadership skills that are afforded by membership of the CIH play a big part too).

I understand consultation on the application of the law on the required housing qualifications in England is expected by the end of this year and we expect to see the requirements come into place near the end of 2024.

I certainly would welcome colleagues’ views on this, as here in Scotland we enter a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the final stages of the new Housing Bill. Currently, Scottish Government officials are neither convinced nor dismissive of the concept but suggest that capacity constraints limited their ability to consider this in the remainder of this Parliamentary term.

I, therefore, consider that ahead of the English consultation outcome - even if it is just to accept the principle of the requirement for professional standards and the status of housing practitioners - consideration should be given to establishing the membership of a Scottish Government working group with a broad term of reference to address this issue from a Scottish perspective.

 

This article was first published on the Scottish Housing News website on 25 August 2023.

DSC 6179 websiteThe North East’s largest Registered Social Landlord, Grampian Housing Association, has announced the appointment of three new directors as it sets out on delivering a new business plan.

Alexander Carle becomes director of asset management while Carol Reid becomes director of customer services and Linda Clarke director of finance.  They join Craig Stirrat, group CEO and Malcolm McNeil, depute CEO in a strengthened Executive Team.


All postholders have considerable experience with the Association as well as from the wider public, private and charitable sectors. 

Alexander Carle, who has been with the Association since 2014 said:- “I have the opportunity to work with exceptional colleagues who share a vision to provide the best quality, safe and most affordable homes for our customers.

“I am extremely passionate about ensuring Grampian delivers on its vision particularly as we manage the immediate concerns relating to the current cost of living crisis.

“We also have to look to the future and tackle major challenges as the world struggles to find climate change solutions.  I truly feel the solutions are already available and with practical Government support, we can positively influence industry, contractors and the private sector so that the transition to better performing homes and meeting decarbonization targets can provide local employment and affordable well maintained homes for our customers.”

Carol Reid’s housing career began in 1992 and she has held various roles in Grampian Housing Association since 2001. 

Speaking about the post of director of customer services Carol Reid said: “I am delighted to be appointed into this new role and I am looking forward to working with the teams to embed The Grampian Deal, our new tenant experience initiative, into our processes.  This will ensure that our commitment to offer a high quality and responsive service to our customers is delivered.

“We know that the last few years have been challenging for many of our tenants with some having to make impossible choices between heating their homes or feeding their families and I am committed to our social policy objectives of supporting our tenants throughout these challenging times.”

Linda Clarke a chartered certified accountant who has been working for the Association since 2012 in various senior finance roles, said  “I am delighted to be appointed Director of Finance and I am looking forward to working with colleagues and stakeholders by contributing to the overall strategic direction and vision of the Grampian Group.  As we work through a challenging period with the current economic climate and cost of living crisis, Grampian’s financial strength and resilience will take us forward for the future to help create a sustainable and supportive environment for all to thrive and continue to provide affordable housing and services that support our communities.”

Craig Stirrat, chief executive officer said: “I am delighted to announce the appointment of a new executive team to lead on the delivery of a  new and ambitious business plan.

“We live in unprecedented times and the changes and challenges affecting the social rented sector have never been so intense. It is therefore necessary that a growing housing association like Grampian has the strategic leadership capacity to ensure the Association can achieve the best outcomes it can for its tenants and customers.

“Collectively, the new executive team has almost 150 years’ experience in the social rented sector with success in delivering great services and great homes.  The new team looks forward to celebrating Grampian’s 50 year anniversary in delivering quality, affordable homes and serving communities in 2025.”

Grampian serves over 3,700 social rent and mid market rent households, along with over 1,000 factored owners and almost 500 sharing owners throughout Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray.  It has a substantial development programme of new build homes and is committed to adding 600 properties to its portfolio by 2024 to play its part in addressing significant unmet housing need in the area.

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