Our previous annual report was published in the first few months of the pandemic which continued this year, often to devastating effect. On behalf of Sapphire, we send our condolences to all those who lost someone during the pandemic and our best wishes to all those who have been significantly affected by Covid 19. Thanks to the skill and dedication of members of the scientific and medical communities and their development of vaccines, we can look forward to the relaxation of the Covid measures and a return to a ‘new normal.’ We hope that as we move out of the pandemic, it provides an opportunity to improve the quality of life for residents and the wider community.
Despite the pandemic bringing extraordinary changes to all our lives once again this year, Sapphire has continued to work hard, putting our values into action and prioritising the safety of residents and colleagues. This has included additional cleaning and security at our supported housing schemes, health and safety works, provision of PPE and IT equipment for flexible working, and taxi service where appropriate to keep staff safe. Our supported housing colleagues were classed as essential workers and continued to work hard to support residents and provide services in a socially distanced way throughout the year. We also maintained well-being through regular calls to check on general needs’ residents, newsletters and check-in sessions for staff. In response, our well-being survey of residents showed 98% satisfaction with Sapphire as a landlord from those who responded to the survey and our recent staff survey showed 100% satisfaction with Sapphire as an employer.
The lockdowns and measures to curb the spread of the virus alongside additional expenditure to ensure our schemes were secure and safe did lead to a decline in our expected income and resulted in a deficit for the year ending 2020/21. Progress was made, however, on several of our strategic priorities, including successfully re-tendering the support contract for our Bethany House scheme in Islington. It was also a real boost to have purchased a new scheme of affordable housing flats in Camden including our first shared ownership units working in partnership with L & Q. The year also saw us entering an agreement with London Borough of Hounslow to develop former garage sites, and acquiring a site in Brent to develop new “move on” housing for single people.
During the year we were pleased to retain our customer services accreditation and Investors in people gold standard. We also agreed to adopt the National Housing Federation’s new Code of Governance, confirming our commitment to strong governance.
We were pleased to recruit Clive Stuart and Reginald Parkinson to the Board replacing David Mitchell and Graham Couper, who we send our thanks to for their contribution over many years. Like many Boards Sapphire also moved to board and committee meetings via Zoom, working closely with the executive team to oversee our response to the pandemic. This change has been managed successfully, and going forwards the board has agreed that the adoption of a hybrid system of both virtual and in-person meetings provides the best of both worlds.
As the crisis continues to evolve, ensuring the safety of our residents and colleagues whilst meeting the challenges presented by the pandemic will remain our priority. On behalf of the Board at Sapphire I would like to send our best wishes to all those significantly affected by covid 19, and our deepest condolences to anyone who lost someone during the pandemic. I would also like to give our sincere thanks to all our residents, staff and our partners for their loyalty, hard work and continuing commitment to Sapphire alongside special thanks to Heather and her Executive team for their tireless dedication, and to my fellow Board members for their flexibility and support throughout the year.
I look forward to the following year with great optimism as we move forward on our development projects and remain a quality-focused , values driven organisation supported by a highly committed and dedicated team of people I am proud to be a part of.
Sapphire’s risk management policy requires the Board to be responsible for ensuring that risk management disciplines and processes are of a high order. The Association has a strategic risk map drawn up by the Executive Management Team (EMT) who assess the current risks facing the Organisation and with reference to the Sector Risk profile issued by the Regulator for Social Housing. The risk map is reviewed quarterly by the Finance Audit and Risk (FAR) Committee. 2020/21 was a challenging year and the key risks facing Sapphire during the year were
To support its risk management and assurance work, Sapphire has had a programme of internal audits which have been carried out by Mazars LLP. In its annual review for 2020/21, Mazars have said that “Sapphire Independent Housing (‘Sapphire’) has in place an appropriate framework for identifying, evaluating and managing the significant risks faced by the organisation. In the year, we raised no critical or highly important recommendation.
In December 2020, Sapphire were assessed for the re-accreditation of the Customer Service Excellence award, originally awarded in 2017. Sapphire were successful in securing the accreditation with no partial compliances and several areas of good practices.
This year the re-accreditation process was very different due to the Covid restrictions on face-to-face meetings, which had previously been the basis for meeting with residents and staff. Instead, assessments were completed remotely, using Zoom, Microsoft teams and telephone calls.
The Assessor commenced with a meeting with the Heather Thomas Chief Executive, Jesse Fajemisin Director of Operations and various Head Office Staff with the purpose of talking through how Sapphire had responded and adapted its practices in light of the pandemic and since the last assessment. The Assessor then met with Dr Jan Stiles, Chair of Sapphire Board to discuss the role of our Board members in maintaining excellent customer service across Sapphire.
The Assessor also met with residents from Conway House, Bethany House, Townsend House, and the General Needs properties to receive their feedback on their customer experience when reporting a repair.
Staff from across the organisation were also involved and asked to talk through their insight into how their roles fit in with customers’ experience.
Some of the areas of good practice were:
Interviews with the Chair of the Board and the CEO demonstrated the corporate commitment to put the residents at the heart of the service. This commitment was also made clear through the interviews with staff.
The residents interviewed appreciated the work done by staff on site and were appreciative of the benefits in living in the accommodation.
Sapphire has a robust complaints process and examples of these sent as evidence demonstrated that it works well in practice. It was interesting to note the low number of complaints considering all of the changes that have had to be made since March. This is clearly down to the good engagement policies and the excellent rapport there is between staff and residents.
Residents have been fully consulted regarding the changes required by Government Covid-19 guidelines and regulations. Those interviewed appreciated the way Sapphire staff had explained everything to them and they all understood the need for the various restrictions placed on them.
Sapphire has worked with local charities and other agencies to ensure the wellbeing of their residents throughout the lockdowns and Covid-19 restrictions.
Bob Mandy Customer Service Excellence Assessor
We were pleased to have been successful in the tender for the supported housing contract at Bethany House for April 2021 onwards. We will build on our existing work with an increased offer of support around education, training and employment, while ensuring that we are adding social value through the vital work that we do. We continue to place a significant emphasis on co-producing the service with residents, and are excited about being able to do this throughout the lifetime of the new contract.
In December 2020, we updated our policy and published a self-assessment against the Housing Ombudsman’s new complaint handling code. The policy makes it clear that any expression of dissatisfaction is a complaint, and that complaints can be made by a group of residents and/or representative. Please check our website to read the latest policy and further information about how complaints can be made.
Whilst the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues has been the uppermost priority over the last twelve months, we have also continued to invest in learning and development of our teams in line with our commitment to Investors in People and Customer Service Excellence.
As part of the Government’s apprenticeship funding, we were able to secure Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) accredited Level 3 and Level 5 management training for a number of our senior colleagues, as well as providing intensive “Moving into Management” training for colleagues new to management during their acting-up roles in addition to coaching and on-the-job learning and development.
We continued in our goal to “grow our own talent” and expanded our graduate Trainee Project Worker Programme to include Bethany House in addition to Conway House.
We were pleased to be able to offer placement to a young person as part of the Government’s Kickstart programme to help 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit back into the workplace.
In recognition of our commitment to service improvement, and as a result of resident feedback, a number of operational areas were identified where enhanced knowledge and expertise would be beneficial and we rolled out a cross-company training programme for all operational colleagues. This programme included gaining a better understanding of the Ombudsman complaint handling process, tackling anti-social behaviour, first time fix and disrepair and tenancy sustainment.
Every year at Sapphire, we celebrate our colleagues across the organisation in all departments. Previously we asked employees to nominate outstanding colleagues quarterly for the Staff Quarter Award with the Employee of the Year Award then chosen by colleagues from these nominations. This year we asked for nominations for the award for outstanding performance over the previous twelve months and the winner was presented at the Christmas Party which we hosted virtually this year for the first time.
During such a challenging year, it was lovely to receive so many nominations for colleagues who had gone above and beyond enabling Sapphire to continue to provide an outstanding service to our clients.
Our winner was George Tranda (Maintenance Officer) and our other nominees who were also recognised for outstanding performance were; Janice Esten (Housing Operations Manager), Sharon McKenzie (Senior Project Worker), Sidi Hadebe (Housing Operations Manager), Nadia Mebtouche (Executive Team Assistant).
''May I express my massive thanks to the colleagues who nominated me for this prestigious award and for their very kind words. Also thanks to colleagues who voted for me. I was extremely surprised to receive the award. So much so that I was lost for words. I was particularly surprised to win given the quality of the other nominees.
I started with Sapphire some five years ago on a short-term temporary contract. I think it was for three months, after which I took up the offer of a move into a permanent role. I stayed with Sapphire because I love the “family” atmosphere. What I mean by “family” is the teamwork that is such a feature of working at Sapphire. That is to say the teamwork at the individual schemes, or in the maintenance team or the wider family of the larger whole of Sapphire team, especially when we come together at events such as Staff Conference Days and at the Christmas Dinner.
What do I like about my work? Well, I guess I not only like fixing things that are broken or not working but I also feel that my work is appreciated by our residents as well by colleagues: It is a special thing when a resident, who sometimes may not be going through the best of times, thanks you for fixing something in their home or when a colleague thanks you for helping support a resident.
There was a very generous voucher that came with the award. I have chosen a hotel gift-card in the hope that we can get away in the near future. My plan is to spend the voucher for a hotel stay in Paris later this year when I have to ask my other half a very pertinent and honourable question.
The other piece of personal news that I would like to share with you is that the time is coming when my time with you all will be drawing to a close, the time is approaching to hang up the old tool bag and to move on to other things, to move on to an active retirement.
I will look back fondly at my time with Sapphire. It has been a pleasure and delight to work with you all.
My thanks again for the award and my love to you all.''
As advances in technology mean we become increasingly dependant on our mobile devices and the capabilities they can offer such as the ability to work remotely and be able to collaborate with our teams, it was only a matter of time before the decision to upgrade our IT equipment was taken, but this was accelerated by the pandemic and the need to quickly adapt to remote working.
Sapphire’s IT Steering Committee agreed to provide every staff member with a laptop in March and the IT department worked tirelessly to source the best fit for our team whilst ensuring crucial elements were incorporated such as encryption, allowing us to feel confident that our data is secure.
The new laptops allow colleagues to work from anywhere as the demand for hybrid working increases, Sapphire are confident that we are prepared for the new way of working.
The pandemic allowed us to really test features such as Zoom and Teams and we are thrilled with how we managed to stay connected with colleagues whilst carrying out our day to day tasks.
We were delighted to be able to adapt this year’s Staff Conference so that this annual event could continue, albeit in a somewhat different form, but still one where colleagues could come together, socialise and participate, despite the challenges of remote working and social distancing.
The theme of this year’s conference was taking time to consider the future Sapphire and what this might look like, which included revisiting Sapphire’s mission and values and discussion on whether these were still representative of Sapphire today and for the future.
The afternoon was set aside for colleagues to focus on their own wellbeing in an activity of their choice, brought together in a series of photos.
We conducted a number of wellbeing surveys through the year to ensure we were remained informed on how colleagues were feeling and how we could better support them.
Sapphire have been actively pursuing development opportunities over the last 12 months and we have completed the purchase of 15 new flats at Park Place, just off Kilburn High Road in our Camden core area, all 15 flats are affordable housing with 8 being for Affordable Rent, 3 for Intermediate Rent and 4 for Shared ownership. The flats are a mixture of 1, 2 & 3 bed homes, and we are working closely with Camden to identify residents for the homes.
Throughout this period we have also been working on developing new homes in Hounslow on Council owned sites we agreed terms with the Council to purchase 26 small sites from them to develop for affordable rent. Planning permission has been received on 4 sites now and we have now submitted the majority of Planning Applications, of which will all be submitted by the end of September. We anticipate all schemes will be consented by March 2022 and will start building the sites out in May 2022, completing the programme by November 2023, the site will provide a total of 140 new homes to be let at London Affordable Rent.
Sapphire are working in partnership with LB Hounslow to provide affordable housing as part of the Council 5,000 homes pledge which seeks to secure an additional 5,000 new and affordable homes by 2022. We are their preferred partner to provide affordable homes on a number of Council sites in Hounslow (we submitted a tender for a number of sites). We have now reached a point where all the planning applications will be submitted by the end of September and we have had planning consent granted on 4 sites. These homes will be allocated to those in housing need who need it the most.
The London Borough of Hounslow has identified several council owned sites that have the potential to be redeveloped to provide new affordable homes for rent. To meet the council’s 5000 pledge target, the London Borough of Hounslow approved the transfer of a number of garage sites’ to Sapphire Independent Housing. This transfer forms part of the small sites programme which aims to work in partnerships with Housing Associations to develop new social housing in perpetuity.
These new homes will be built to meet the London Borough of Hounslow’s zero emissions targets and will help to reduce fuel poverty.
With an ambitious target to develop 600 new homes by 2023, the Build London Partnership is making strong progress, with a current GLA investment of £5m across 79 homes with a pipeline of 659 and 45 partners to date.
We were delighted when L&Q approached Sapphire about working in partnership with the Build London Partnership and we are thrilled to have completed on our first new scheme; a mixed tenure development of 15 flats made up of London Affordable Rent Units; Intermediate Rent Units and Shared Ownership units in Kilburn (LB Camden).
Providing high quality homes and services to our residents remains a priority and our new scheme is no exception. We are especially pleased to have had L&Q’s support in acquiring our first Shared Ownership units.
Sapphire were also delighted to announce that we’ve been awarded “Investment Partner Status“ under the GLA’s Investment Partnership Qualification. This will enable Sapphire to develop a programme of new homes through the Mayor’s Homes for Londoners Programme.
As a proud member of the National Housing Federation, Sapphire are lucky to have access to unique benefits and services that enable our organisation to thrive and ensure we keep ahead of the curve. As a member we are regularly kept up to speed with the latest housing news and policy developments, can access support tailored to our organisation all of which allow us to protect our organisation.
Sapphire fully support the NHF’s commitment, in ensuring clients remain in their home. ‘’Many people who have lost work and struggled to pay their rent during the pandemic are fearful of losing their homes when the ban on bailiffs comes to an end. The consequences of this crisis are far reaching and those worst affected could face financial hardship for years to come. That is why housing associations have come together to make a permanent commitment to residents, that no one will be evicted from their home as a result of financial hardship as long as residents are engaging with their housing association on a plan to manage their rent if they fall into arrears.’’
Together with Tenants is a sector-wide initiative focused on strengthening the relationship between residents and housing association landlords. We are proud to be an early adopter and over the last 12 months we have been working closely with our residents to test out the charter whilst adapting it to our own local settings. Together with tenants embodies all the great work happening across the sector to create positive relationships with residents but it also challenges the sector to go further, presenting an opportunity for housing associations to take the lead in accountability and resident oversight.
Homes At The Heart is a national campaign led by the National Housing Federation which Sapphire are proud to be a part of. The campaign focusses on asking the Government to create a consensus that social housing must be at the heart of our country’s recovery plan following the coronavirus pandemic in the UK. Our commitment to this initiative is showcased through the safe, secure and affordable housing Sapphire provide, enabling our residents to thrive and build their lives in a way that sustains their health and wellbeing.
A global celebration. A call to action. A day of recognition
The 08th of March is International Women’s Day, an annual celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. At Sapphire Independent Housing we annually celebrate women’s achievements and we raise awareness of gender parity and women’s equality. This year’s theme was #ChoosetoChallenge. Will you choose to challenge and call out inequality? Will you choose to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world?
This year we still wanted to celebrate, raise awareness and recognise the day, and our team at Bethany House worked hard to plan and host a covid safe event for their residents. The event was hosted in the large communal hall and the attendees were invited in two at a time to collect a gift bag of makeup and listen to a speech from our Chief Executive, Heather Thomas, on the digital screen. The gift bag was made up from the wonderful donation of Revolution make up from Toiletries Amnesty.
While we unable to come together in celebration, the residents who attended said the event ‘was lovely’, and they #choosetochallenge.
You can find out more about International Women’s Day on their website www.internationalwomensday.com
Did you know?
International Women’s Day IWD) has been observed since the early 1900's.
Did you know?
The internationalwomensday.com platform was launched with the specific purpose of re-energizing the day - a focus which continues to this day - celebrating and making visible the achievements of women while continuing the call for accelerating gender parity.
Did you know?
2011 saw the 100 year centenary of International Women's Day - with the first IWD event held exactly 100 years ago in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
This section sets out how Sapphire performed in 2020/21 in key areas.
As a new trainee, I feel very welcomed, supported and encouraged to develop
I feel the company goes out of its way to make staff feel appreciated (Xmas hampers).
Taken from the annual staff satisfaction survey.
100% of our staff are satisfied with their employment.
92.5% of our customers are satisfied (2020/21 wellbeing and satisfaction survey)
Staff have attended Housing Ombudsman complaint handling training to us in resolving complaints at an earlier stage.
We asked our residents if their relationships had been affected by the pandemic
We wanted to know ho well they felt we kept them informed during the first eight months of the pandemic.
We wanted to know if our residents felt maintenance work carried out in the first eight months had been carried out safely.
We wanted to find out how many of our residents had access to a digital device to stay connected.
We look at data in relation to how we let our homes so that we understand who our residents are and how we might be able to tailor our services to them. This graph shows the number of lettings in 2020/21 broken down by age.
We look at data in relation to how we let our homes so that we understand who our residents are and how we might tailor our services for them. This graph shows the number of lettings in 2020/21 broken down by ethnicity.
|2020/21 arrears performance (overall target 3.5%)||2020/2021|
Our arrears increased as a direct result of the pandemic. We reached out to residents to understand their support needs and did not evict anyone during the Government’s eviction ban.
Our void loss increased as a direct result of the pandemic. There was a lack of referrals into our supported housing schemes for large periods, and people were more reluctant to move during the pandemic.
|Internal Contractors||Total||Completed on time||Target completed on time|
We met our repairs target for routine repairs, though a handful of other repairs were not completed on time.
Research tells us the average impact value of supporting a homeless vulnerable person into settled accommodation has a social impact value of £8,019. In 2019/20, we achieved £425.007 in social value in this area, and are pleased to announce that we increased this by 5.6% in 2020/21, to £449,064.
The financial year resulted in a deficit of £222,245, which was driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Substantially increased voids, as a result of lack of referrals due to the pandemic, decreased the rental income. The reduced bank interest received, which stemmed from lower Bank of England rates, also had an adverse impact on our income. Increased Health & Safety costs to address COVID-19 concerns for residents and staff, and significant investment in our IT systems contributed to the overall deficit. In the last month of the financial year, we completed on a new mixed tenure scheme, resulting in a change in the mix of our asset base.
|Income from housing||2,717,040||3,029,323|
|Housing Support Grant||926,791||928,115|
|Gain on disposal of fixed assets||-||14,224,446|
|Surplus on ordinary activities for the year||(222,245)||14,150,615|
Liabilities (current and long term)
Social housing and other grants
We received valued support in 2020-21 from the London Boroughs of Camden, Islington, Brent, City of Westminster and Hertfordshire County Council. We are also grateful to the following organisations for making significant contributions throughout the year:
Additional thanks to the following organisations for their continued support, via donations, to our supported hostels in 2020-21:
Executive Management Team
Remuneration and Nomination Committee
Finance, Audit and Risk Committee
Our homes are located in the London Boroughs of Camden, Islington, Brent and in Hertsmere, and new homes coming soon in the London Borough of Hounslow.
Further details can be found at each location on the map below.
Head Office, 1 Holmes Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3AA
Hepburn Court, Gowar Field, Brookside, South Mimms, Hertfordshire, EN6 3QE
St Eugene Court, 82 Salusbury Road, London, NW6 6PA.
135 Aycliffe Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 4HA.
13 Lloyd Square, Islington, London, WC1X 9AR.
Caulfield Court, Baynes Street, London, NW1 0TZ.
Dunne Mews, 57 Leighton Road, London, NW5 2QH.
54/56 Highgate Road and 9 College Yard, London, NW5 1NU
129 Queens Crescent, London, NW5 4HE
Mutrix Road, London, NW6 4BF
18-22 Quex Road, Kilburn, London, NW6 4PL
12 Kingsgate Road, Kilburn, London, NW6 4TB
1 Espalier Gardens, London NW6 2DQ
London Borough of Hounslow.
Ongoing development taking place in Hounslow.
Ongoing development taking place in Hounslow.
Ongoing development taking place in Hounslow.
Ongoing development taking place in Hounslow.