Guest Blog – Cloud – it isn’t how big it is, it’s what you do with it that counts

Our lives today are dominated by technology, from smartphones, to social networks, to the IoT, all of which we are now using daily in our places of work – and housing providers are no exception to this trend. As a result, hardly a day goes by without a mention of the need to transform digitally and integrate these technologies. This drive towards digital transformation has been a key factor in the increase in cloud adoption as housing providers look to be more efficient and enable a better experience for both workers, and service users.

However, while initially, cloud computing seemed a simple solution for organisations, it has gradually become more of ‘a complex beast’ that is proving hard to tame. This complexity is only going to increase, with Gartner predicting that more than $1.3tn in IT spending will be directly or indirectly affected by the shift to cloud by 2022. So, despite widespread adoption of cloud, housing providers must ensure investments in cloud are optimised by ensuring they are closely managing their IT infrastructure.

Cloud for clouds sake

The benefit of cloud is that it allows housing providers the ability to innovate more quickly, while also providing a more effective work platform that ultimately saves money. Cloud offers an infrastructure that empowers organisations to have greater agility through the speed at which IT resources can be provisioned. However, it can be a tricky path due to the number of processes that must be followed for successful cloud adoption.

Thomas Trappler, director of software licensing at the University of California, LA, points out that licensing fees are one area that can become increasingly complicated if organisations are unaware of the compliance requirements of cloud. Licensing conditions change depending whether software is on premise or in cloud, and organisations are often aren’t aware of the rules. This means housing providers may find themselves non-compliant without realising there is an issue – highlighting that simply adopting cloud without a plan or understanding of its impact, becomes an exercise in having cloud for clouds sake.

To combat this issue, when taking on the cloud housing providers need to firstly build a robust roadmap that covers every component from implementation to use to ongoing management.  This means ensuring that the IT department retains real-time visibility into cloud services running across the organisation. Secondly, this process cannot end after adoption, providers must continue managing and monitoring their cloud environment post-adoption to avoid exceeding consumption estimates and so spending more on unbudgeted cloud resource.

COMPAREX UK’s managed cloud services have been helping housing providers by pinpointing exactly where help is needed when it comes to cloud – from choosing the most appropriate vendor to ensuring the right cloud licenses are in place. You can find out more here.

Guest Blog – Growing older is a gift

Yvonne Castle, new NHC Board member and Chief Executive of Johnnie Johnson Housing

When we talk about our pending crisis of an increasing population in the UK due to ageing we think about: pressure on the NHS; woeful Residential Care (at Southern Cross, winterbourne view and more recently Allied Healthcare), the scale of dementia issues, unmet need and declining real terms funding, the impact of the national living wage, we think about our families and we think about us!

It’s true – where would we want to live when we’re in our 80’s?  What will we be doing?  Will we be well?  Or will we be deteriorating? How will technology help?


Why don’t we look positively at ageing?  That’s where we need to start.  We need a culture that embraces ageing and the opportunity that it provides.

Apparently, we need less sleep as we get older and so that’s more time to enjoy life! We see the world through ‘rose coloured glasses’ as brains are wired to remember the good times. As we age, we become more optimistic – we ‘zone in’ on happy faces and we can build more social connections.

There is lots of support out there – ‘social prescribing’, men in sheds, relaxation classes to manage stress, apps like ‘Headspace’ and ‘Calm’ can help us to self-manage focus and de-stress too! We are more self-aware and look to creating our legacy by helping others and passing on our wisdom and experience, if you’ve grandchildren – you can enjoy them as if they were your own, but without the frustration… and you have more free time!

So, this is a different way of looking at it for ourselves, for our families, and most importantly for those people that rely on us day-in-day-out to keep them housed, to keep them safe and healthy.

There is some fantastic work out there that we all can do, get involved in, to aspire to, to build and to provide. Here’s a few small examples:

  • New Independent Living Homes and new Care Homes are modern, bright, airy. They encourage small huddles so that people can engage in conversation and activities as they choose. They have playgrounds – both for adults and for children. Local amenities help encourage activity and contact with communities. And communities come in to keep you in touch.
  • Modern, digital telecare equipment means you’re free to go wherever you choose, in the knowledge that help is just a call away and GPS means that a support team knows exactly where you are, it’s also becoming more aspirational and less medical.
  • Telehealth sensors and monitors tell you how you’re doing on an hourly and daily basis helping you to make some choices about your life habits – being proactive so you can avoid that trip to hospital.
  • It is really easy for remote family members to keep in touch and get reassurance that all is ok with you.
  • “Invisible Adaptations” can be fitted when you’re young and used as required – you wouldn’t know that these could help you in and outside of your home – no longer do they scream out “I’m vulnerable and need help”!
  • In an era of digital when we need help, we only need to make one call; our records are shared, and you don’t have to tell your story twice – everyone knows what you need – QUICKLY!
  • Alexa’s a great friend – she’ll tell you about the weather, set you reminders, play your favourite music, order your shopping, book all the appointments you need and help you to learn a new language.

So, what are we waiting for? Growing older is a gift!

As a business we need to make sure that we treat everyone as an individual, with different needs at different times.  No one person responds the same. So, let’s get this culture right in our organisations.  Let’s manage the risks of all the negatives and let’s turn ageing into a positive experience. We’re building new homes, we’re providing services, we’re creating communities – so let’s just check.  Will it work for YOU in the future?”

NHC Social Housing Green Paper Consultation Response

The Green Paper, ‘a new deal for social housing’ sets out some significant opportunities and challenges which go to the heart of the purpose of social housing.

During the open consultation period the NHC travelled to all three regions in the North to speak to its members in detail about the proposals and what this means for the future of the social housing sector and what this means for Northern providers.

The consultation is now closed and the NHC response is here. This is very much an ongoing piece of work. The Government will respond to the consultation responses in the new year and we will continue the dialogue with our members as the outcome of this national debate on social housing continues.

Where is the investment in Northern housing?

Monday’s Budget brought the expectation of a nationwide boost to house-building.  With an announcement of an extra £500m funding to pay for the support structure that allows the building of new homes, it was a welcome announcement to deliver a boost to supply.

Just a few days later it is alarming news that Northern authorities will only be able to access a maximum of 20% of this new funding.  80% of all funding across all Government schemes for house building will be going to areas of “high affordability.”   This will exclude funding support for most of the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber.

Jo Boaden, Chief Executive of the NHC said “It seems that funding to meet house-building ambitions is a ‘geographic’ issue, not a nationwide issue, with the vast proportion of the funding going to the South”.

Homes England’s 5 year strategic plan launched today announces that it will “play a major role in making the housing market work for everyone.”  The geographical targeting of funding to the South across 5 housing programmes draws stark attention to the North / South divide.

There are areas of the North facing severe constraints with additional targeted investment needed to support major development programmes.   The national focus on a certain definition of affordability prevents different housing markets from tackling unique challenges.

National policies must be flexible to target specific local issues – market access in unaffordable markets and housing quality and renewal in more affordable ones – this will ensure that funding is directed where it is most needed, improving value for money and making more of a dent in the housing crisis.

The housing deficit isn’t just in new supply; it is also to be seen in the quality and age of the existing housing stock, with large quantities of pre-war terraced housing.   Investment to bring brownfield land to market is perhaps the single most important immediate measure that could be taken to accelerate the public sector delivery of new homes in the North.

Jo Boaden said “It is in areas where private sector investment has been weakest where there has been far less public infrastructure investment.  Regional inequality in public infrastructure investment could mean that it becomes more challenging to attract other investment in housing.

“Government must ensure the investment plan can meet the scale of investment needs in all parts of the country, not just in areas of highest affordability pressure.”

Guest Blog – Flood Action Campaign 2018/19

Please help the Environment Agency by supporting their Flood Action Campaign which will launch between now and the end of the year in their next ‘torrential rain window’.  The aim of the campaign is to target and educate 18-30 year olds about flooding and what they can do to minimise damage and any related emotional fall out and ultimately get them to sign up to flood alerts.

The key ask:

To support this year’s flood action campaign we are asking you to record a video and share it on your social media channels, telling us #justonething that you would save in a flood. A childhood toy? A favourite lipstick? A VR headset? Designer shoes? What would you save and why?

Flood Action Campaign – background

The Environment Agency runs an annual campaign to encourage people to find out if they are at risk of flooding, and to know what to do to protect themselves and their property in a flood.

The campaign is aimed at young people aged 18 to 34.

The campaign runs for a week during the winter – when rain or flooding is on the news agenda- as this is when people are most likely to take notice of the information and take flooding seriously. We don’t know much in advance when this week will be, so the campaign is ready to go from 1st October, but can be deployed during any suitable wet week.

Some key facts:

  • People aged 18-34 are the least likely to know if the area where they live is at risk of flooding.
  • They are least likely to know how to protect their property, or where to go for information.
  • They are most likely to take life endangering risks during flooding – and most at risk of dying during a flood.
  • The mental health impacts of flooding can last for two years or more after flooding has happened. Depression, anxiety and PTSD can affect up to a third of people who have been flooded.
  • BUT – taking steps to prepare for flooding, and knowing what to do in a flood can significantly reduce the damages to your home and possessions, and reduce the likelihood of suffering from these mental health impacts in the future.


Flooding can ruin all your stuff.

Flood water is contaminated with sewage, chemicals and other toxic substances – so if your things have been touched by flood water, they have to be thrown away.

Seeing all your things chucked in a skip is devastating and traumatic. According to research, people who have been flooded can still be suffering from the mental health impacts – such as depression, anxiety and PTSD – two years after the event.

To encourage people aged 18-34 to take steps to prepare for flooding, we are asking people to record a video and share it on their social media channels, telling us #justonething that you would save in a flood. A childhood toy? A favourite lipstick? A VR headset? Designer shoes? What would you save and why?

When should I record my video?

Do it as soon as you can and hang on to it. The Flood Action Campaign could run any time from mid-October 2018. So be ready to post it when the campaign goes live.

Does it have to be a video?

No, not if that’s not your thing. You could do a flat lay or selfie picture on Instagram with the one item you would save in a flood, under the hashtag #JustOneThing and #PrepareActSurvive.  Use a caption to ask your friends/followers what they would save in a flood and encourage them to post their own pictures. Or do an Instagram/snapchat story – just a short interaction on what you’d save in a flood with a swipe up link to information on how to prepare for and protect yourself in a flood.

When should I share it on social media?

The campaign will run when we have some wet weather, and rain or flooding is on the news agenda. This could be anytime from October – but we’ll be letting people know when to post their stuff.

What links and hashtags should I use?

#JustOneThing and #PrepareActSurvive and make sure to link through to this page: this is so important in helping people to know what to do in a flood, and keeping them safe.

Why should I bother?

By helping people to know what to do in a flood, you could ultimately save their life.  You could prevent them from having their precious things ruined by flood waters and you could reduce the likelihood of them suffering from depression, anxiety and PTSD.

You get the opportunity to talk about the things important to you, while being part of a wider campaign bringing together social media influencers, government, national media and influential organisations such as the Red Cross, Met Office and Fire and Rescue services – potentially reaching all their social media followers too.

#JustOneThing could make a big difference to young people’s lives. We’d really love you to be part of it.

Contact information:

If you have any questions at all, please contact 07771 387707 or 07818 511399

COMPAREX Guest Blog – Building modern workplaces for modern housing providers.  

The way we work has changed drastically in recent years. All organisations, regardless of sector, are now dependent on technology to some degree – unsurprising, given how much digital technologies have impacted our lives both in and out of work. Housing providers in particular are among those beginning to employ digital transformation strategies, looking to both increase their organisation’s agility and also meet the evolving needs of an increasingly mobile workforce.

One survey from IWG found 70 per cent of employees work at least one day a week from a remote location; there is also increasing demand from workers for more access to mobile devices (including personal devices), and to platforms that promote greater collaboration. This provides an interesting conundrum for housing providers – while it is positive that employees want to connect with each other, how do you give them the tools they need to be productive whilst also remaining secure?

Creating a collaborative environment

Transforming the workplace to somewhere more digitally engaging is not just a nice to have, but it is a must have; utilising current technology is a factor when it comes to employee retention and attraction, as well as critical to employee productivity. As research from Citrix shows, 80 per cent of workers polled acknowledged the positive effect access to technology can have on helping them to work more efficiently.

With technology continuing to develop, application-driven experiences are now a daily part of people’s lives. Workers today are so used to the likes of Facebook and Google, which have created online environments full of applications, they want their workplaces to mirror this style. This has led to housing providers attempting to replicate this approach through purpose-built workplace applications that provide a secure and unified platform.

Workspace applications are designed to be completely user-friendly whilst also minimising the management burden on stretched IT teams. There are many benefits to application-based working in the housing sector, especially where the application can be contextualised to each user. Being able to instantly access web apps, files, and services from an all-in-one interface provides employees with the familiarity they crave and helps them remain productive. Additionally, it gives housing providers peace of mind by centralising access and control, whilst also ensuring security.

If you would like to discuss your modern workplace requirements further please contact for further information.

Mental Health & Housing Summary

With NHS Mental Health Trusts facing unprecedented levels of pressure it’s unsurprising that many in the field are looking for new ways to respond to the challenges they face.  In this environment, it is becoming increasingly clear that housing is a key issue for their service users and that by integrating housing services and expertise into the care pathways, recovery outcomes could be improved.  To recognise this vision, the NHC and HACT brought professionals from both the housing and health sector together to help foster new partnerships.  Held in Leeds on the 17 October, the Mental Health and Housing Conference offered attendees the chance to hear from senior leaders in the NHS, explore new evidence, and attend workshops that explore the practical opportunities for working more closely between housing and health.

As part of the morning plenaries, attendees heard from Dr Paul Gilluley, Chief Medical Officer at NHS East London Foundation Trust (NELFT). As part of his presentation, Paul discussed the important role of community forensic services, the mental health services that support service users leaving secure units and moving back into the community.  Models differ throughout the country, but with a committed partnership between Look Ahead – an organisation providing support and accommodation to vulnerable people with a range of needs – NELFT, and the local authority, positive outcomes were being reported from Tabard Court.  Tabard Court is a specialist supported housing unit providing engagement, support, and enablement as part of a wider borough forensic pathway.  Staff are trained in relational security and specialist forensic issues and there is joint working with forensic mental health services.  The feedback has been welcoming, with Clinicians praising Tabard Court for it’s “intense support in a less restrictive environment than that offered by more traditional forms of care”.

Looking at mental health from a different angle, Peter Molyneux – Chair of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – presented on the importance of workplace mental health. Workplace mental health is a key area in improving the attitudes of employers, the experience of employees, and the mental health of the overall population.  A recent Business in the Community report, “Seizing Momentum”, had indicated that all important indicators were heading in the right direction; 60% of employees feel their line manager is genuinely concerned for their wellbeing and 64% of managers put the interests of their organisation above staff wellbeing at some point.  Having said this, a lack of high-quality mental health training for line managers continues to be a pivotal issue.  Thriving at Work, the Government commissioned independent review of mental health and employers recommended that organisations be equipped with the awareness and tools to not only address but prevent mental ill health caused or worsened by work.  In concluding, Peter encouraged attendees to create environments that help everyone to perform well and promote bottom-up responses that give people the power to try different solutions as well as evaluate them.

Finally, Mark Trewin, Service Manager for Mental Health at Bradford Metropolitan District Council and NHS England’s Social Care and Social Work Advisor, presented on ‘building housing expertise within the NHS’.  As part of this, Mark underlined the importance of local authorities and social work.  Housing can for example reduce hospital admissions and help people live independently, it can support people out of acute care and act as an alternative to admission. Mark signposted attendees to the Local Government Association report ‘Being Mindful of Mental Health’ which outlines the role of local government in mental health and wellbeing. Similarly useful was HACT’s report ‘Housing and Health – Housing on the Pathway to Recovery’ which promoted an integrated “whole systems approach” to housing and Mental Health.   There were many ways to achieve this, whether by promoting joint health, social care, and housing budgets, or by developing training and support systems with shared policies and staff.



As business leaders we have a responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of ourselves and our colleagues is ever present in our plans.  With this in mind, the NHC and Thinking Success UK have designed two courses to support you to make mental health something continually considered while reducing the stigma of mental illness, enabling you to confidently and effectively give support those who need it.

Managing the Mental Wellbeing of Your Team will enable delegates to have an awareness of Mental health and understand the importance of looking after the mental health of themselves and their team members at work.  The course will also give insight into mental illness, the impact within business and how to successfully identify  signs of mental illness within individuals.

Mental Health within your Customers is aimed at anyone that deals with the public within their role, whether face to face or over the telephone.  The course will give delegates an awareness of mental health and mental illness and how this can drive behaviour within their customers and help them understand how to spot the signs of mental illness and how to manage the situations effectively to ensure wellbeing of customers while ensuring  business processes and completed correctly and they themselves stay confident and safe.

NHC Chief Exec Jo Boaden awarded Woman of the Year

NHC Chief Executive Jo Boaden wins Woman of the Year at the Women in Housing Awards.

The Women in Housing Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding women working in housing. Organised by Inside Housing and the Chartered Institute of Housing, this year saw the introduction of a new Woman of the Year category to recognise a truly inspirational ambassador for women in housing. Jo Boaden was surprised and delighted to win Woman of the Year (under 10,000 homes).

Jo has been an inspiration to women within the organisation and the wider housing sector. She has demonstrated incredible achievement and has encouraged a culture of progression through leadership training, coaching and mentoring schemes. She is a fantastic advocate for women working to develop their careers in housing.

Recently Jo joined the Board as Chair for Your Homes Newcastle and in the 2018 New Year’s Honours list, Jo was awarded a CBE in recognition of services to housing providers in the North.

Jo said:

“I was surprised but extremely proud to receive this inspirational award, I am hugely supported by a fantastic team around me who work tirelessly to provide our members with an excellent service.”

Geraldine Howley, CEX, Incommunities said:

“Jo Boaden is the perfect role model for women seeking a career in the higher levels of leadership. She has led the transformation of the Consortium into a modern member-led organisation and set an excellent example of inclusive and inspiring leadership.

Tom Miskell, NHC Chair said:

“Jo is extremely hard working and her enthusiasm shines through for all to see. She is a skilled political operator and uses this to maximum effect to champion housing in the North.”

Jo is clearly passionate about making a difference; her well-deserved CBE recognised her hard work and achievements and winning Woman of the Year has been another highlight of a busy year for Jo.

New report finds 1 million home owners in the North are living in poor quality housing

A new study highlights there are 1 million non-decent owner-occupied homes in the North – and a further 345,000 private rented sector properties that are unfit and fail to meet the decent homes standard.
Worryingly, of those 1 million homes, over half are occupied by at least one person over 60 or with a long-term illness or disability.

The report: The Hidden costs of Poor Quality Housing in the North, was commissioned by the NHC and written by the Smith Institute, an independent public policy think tank. It highlights the scale of the problem and the increased health impacts of those living in homes that are not fit for purpose.

Despite an older housing stock, the North has made good progress in reducing the number of non-decent homes, with huge improvement made to the social housing stock over the past twenty years.
However, lack of investment for private housing, particularly for older people, is starting to reverse the trend so the level of unfit homes is increasing.

It is well known that poor condition housing harms people’s health and well-being. It also carries considerable costs for the NHS and social care system, as well as negative economic, welfare and environmental impacts.
Owner occupiers are often seen as asset rich and having the means to repair, improve or adapt their homes. However, this study shows that too many areas of the North have low value, poor quality houses with little or no equity – a situation that has not changed since the financial crisis 10 years ago.

The report suggests that the challenges could be addressed by increased support for home improvement under a new Decent Private Homes programme and new devolution housing deals. Stock condition surveys could evaluate the potential costs and savings. This then could be part funded by recycling identified savings into local or city region funding pots for home improvements, or for older people to be given the choice to move to a property that better suits their needs. New devolution deals could accelerate this work.

Jo Boaden, Chief Executive, NHC said:

“We are acutely aware that new homes are urgently needed across the North and there has been an understandable focus on finding ways to achieve this. However, new supply in the North accounts for less than 1% of the North’s housing stock and so we cannot forget about the critical importance of maintaining, improving or adapting existing homes.”

Paul Hackett, Director, the Smith institute said:

“The number of retired homeowners living in non-decent properties is alarming. All the focus has been on increasing housing supply, and not enough attention has been given to the quality of existing homes. Urgent action is needed across the North to tackle the problem of disrepair. Perhaps it is time for a Decent Homes programme for the North, focused on helping low income older homeowners?”

In the coming months, the NHC will be working with members and stakeholders to open up the debate to help find creative solutions to these problems. Further work will be carried out to highlight the clear links between poor quality housing and the impact it has on older people’s health and ability to stay in their homes for longer.

The study was sponsored by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Karbon Homes.

Read a copy of the report here.