Welcome to our 2019/20 annual report

It has been another busy but rewarding year for team Sapphire. In May 2019 we became 50! We celebrated this milestone with events throughout the year.

Of course, the landscape has changed significantly since 1969; with a challenging and more complex operating environment yet the need for safe, secure, supported and affordable housing remains. And of course, we are publishing this annual report amid unprecedented times due to the Coronavirus/COVID19 pandemic, which took effect in the last quarter of 2019/20. The pre-pandemic times seem like a different world! However, it is important we recognise the efforts over the last year that have taken us to this point.

Investing for the future

The sale of our St Louise hostel in central London was the most significant event during the year. The decision to dispose of the hostel was always a difficult one for us. Having made the decision to do so in 2018, we embarked on an 18 month project to support residents to find alternative accommodation and decommission the scheme. We are thankful for the support of residents, the St Louise project team, the local advice agencies and Westminster City Council for their help. The disposal of St Louise enables us to achieve our aim to provide new modern affordable homes, and during the year we were delighted to have been selected as preferred bidder for several small sites in the London Borough of Hounslow, and to take forward proposals to build a new scheme in the London Borough of Brent.

Our work during the year was not just focused on the future but also on existing services. We continued to prioritise and invest in fire safety works across our general needs properties and supported housing schemes, including new fire doors, compartmentation works and new alarms. We restructured our operations teams to give more resource to asset management and compliance and also to resident engagement (as an early adopter of the NHF Together with Tenants initiative).

Dr Jan Stiles and Heather Thomas

Sapphire Day took place in October 2019. This is our annual day of ‘giving back to the community’ and this time we attended a day centre for seniors in Borehamwood where we provided a day filled with songs, quizzes, drama and poetry. It was a wonderful event. The day summed up what Sapphire is about “improving lives and valuing people”.

We were pleased to conclude the year by retaining our Customer Service Excellence (CSE) accreditation and Investors in People (IIP) gold standard.

Thanks to the continued commitment of our staff and Board, the support of our partners and stakeholders and residents during the year; Sapphire remains, resilient, adaptable and ready to face the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Chair: Dr Jan Stiles
Chief Executive: Heather Thomas

A message from the Board

This has been another year of solid performance for Sapphire, and as a board we are proud to see the organisation planning for a new future following the sale of St Louise and the potential opportunities for growth this offers. We know there are challenges ahead, and COVID-19 and the increasing importance of the sustainability agenda notwithstanding, I am confident that we are in a good position now to face these head on.

As a Board we rely heavily on the knowledge and expertise of our members to help to support the Executive Team as they continue to drive Sapphire forward. We were therefore delighted to welcome three new members onto the board this year: Mithun Kathirgamanathan is Head of Corporate Finance at Populo Living and brings with him strong financial and investment experience; Catherine Ryder as Director of Policy and Research at the National Housing Federation brings direct housing expertise with a particular focus on climate, sustainability and future homes standards; and Mark Sweeney, who brings a wealth of experience in governance, strategy, transformation and IT in the social housing sector from his roles at Altair, Tribal, William Sutton and ICL Fujitsu.

We have also established three new committees during the year to help us to further scrutinise new development opportunities and to ensure our finance, risk and development strategies are fully aligned with the business needs.

These committees are chaired by some of our experienced Board members, report regularly to the Board, and have already proven invaluable in helping, amongst other things, to evaluate new scheme investment potential and ensure our continued ongoing compliance with the regulator. The new schemes now being progressed as a result will add both value and further potential to our portfolio.

Mark Sweeney, Catherine Ryder and Mithun Kathirgamunathan

I am extremely proud of what Sapphire has achieved this year and the high quality and dedication of the amazing people who together make Sapphire what it is today. The passion and loyalty demonstrated day to day by both the Executive Team and all the staff working across the organisation is a testament to the high standards and quality of service we represent. I am delighted on behalf of the Board, to be able to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their commitment, loyalty and determination to continuously care for and support our residents even through the most challenging circumstances, to improve lives and value people.

As we continue with our programme of change and investment over the forthcoming months, ensuring excellence in customer service remains at the heart of everything we do, I remain both confident and excited by what the future holds for Sapphire both as an organisation and as a quality provider within the social housing sector.

Dr Jan Stiles
Chair, Sapphire Board

The Closure of St Louise

Sapphire is committed to providing high quality housing and services and, in the case of St Louise, this would have required a substantial long-term investment. The general layout of the building due to its age did not meet modern day standards and after careful consideration, the Board took the decision to close St Louise in August 2018.

It was important that the 101 residents of St Louise were supported every step of the way in securing their move on accommodation and our residents were at the centre of the entire process. We hosted two housing fairs in February and March which housing providers attended to offer support and move on advice as well as drop in sessions and one to one meetings arranged with interpreters provided if needed. We provided a move-on grant of £250 to help with their moving costs and £1,000 towards a rent deposit.

Sapphire continued to maintain the building to the expected standards and provided our usual high housing management service until the building closed to the residents on 16th September 2019.

The closure of St Louise was handled in a very supportive and sensitive manner. Residents were fully consulted and informed throughout the process. This involved engaging with other agencies to ensure that all residents received the appropriate information and advice to find alternative accommodation.

By providing residents with a £250 grant for moving costs and the offer of £1,000 towards the deposit for their new accommodation, you far exceeded your statutory obligations.

Derek Trawberr Customer Service Excellence Assessor

Health and Safety of our Residents

Sapphire continued to prioritise the health and safety of our residents and their homes in 2019/20. 

We carried out a fire door survey as part of our aim to improve fire safety across all of our homes and have been renewing and repairing fire doors throughout.

We have also been focussed on empowering residents to take ownership in the management of the health and safety of their homes. This has included supporting residents to join staff on routine health and safety inspections and various tasks around schemes. We received particular praise from the London Borough of Camden for our work in providing training for Conway House residents to become fire marshals and assist in identifying fire risks or as appropriate in the event of an evacuation. We were delighted to share our work and learnings with other providers at Camden’s request, particularly as this fits in with our aim to help build transparency within our sector.

To improve transparency with our residents, our 2020/21 rent increase letters were open about our intention to use the increased rental income to help us continue to prioritise health and safety for 2020/21 and beyond. Residents can therefore expect to have their fire detection and alarm systems reviewed and upgraded where required in 2020/21.

Number of doors identified for repair or replacement

Bethany House


Conway House


Townsend House


Hepburn Court


Eugene Court


Forde House


Caulfield Court


Hackett House


Dunne Mews


Highgate Road & College Yard


Tara Lodge


Customer Service Excellence Accreditation

In January 2020, Sapphire were assessed for re-accreditation of the Customer Service Excellence (CSE) standard which we were originally awarded in 2017.

The process began at Head Office where the CSE assessor met with Sapphire’s Chief Executive, Director of Operations and Head Ofice based staff to find out how each of their roles fits in with the customer experience. The afternoon was spent at Conway House meeting with residents and staff from Conway House, Bethany House and Townsend House to go through the Customer Journey maps which is a visual map of a customer’s journey within the service. Three maps were reviewed: First day in service; complaints; and reporting a repair. The map is a step by step journey which residents go through when receiving one of these services. The maps are completed in collaboration with residents prior to the assessment and is a tool that helps improve the customer journey.

The second day was spent reviewing documents collated by Sapphire to demonstrate our commitment to Customer Service Excellence. This included residents' newsletters, information provided to St Louise residents when announcing the closure and the move on advice that was available during the St Louise decant process. At the end of this process we were informed of the outcome of the assessment confirming that Sapphire had no partial compliances and had successfully been re-accredited with the CSE standard. Sapphire were delighted with this result as we pride ourselves on providing a resident focussed service.

Following the assessment, Sapphire Independent Housing Ltd were found to have a deep understanding of, and commitment to, Customer Service Excellence. The commitment was displayed from senior management levels through to operations and frontline staff.

Significant resources are committed to training and developing staff. There are several examples of staff progressing to other roles within the organisation from trainee project worker positions. This has the benefit of ensuring that staff at all levels understand the values of the organisation and the needs of residents.

The creation of PIEs (psychologically informed environments) is an excellent initiative, supporting residents who have suffered neglect or abuse, and are suffering from the ongoing impact of traumatic experiences.

Derek Trawberr Customer Service Excellence Assessor

NHF Together with Tenants programme

Sapphire has signed up to be an early adopter of the National Housing Federation Together with Tenants programme. The aim of the programme is to strengthen the relationship between housing associations and their tenants and residents, and at Sapphire we are looking at how our residents can be involved and engage with the organisation.

Sapphire will provide valuable input regarding our residents engagement strategy and resident involvement in preparation for the National Housing Federations implementation of a Together with Tenants plan and charter throughout the sector.

As part of the process, we will be reviewing our resident charter and resident involvement strategy, and initially we are asking resident volunteers to help us with the review of our resident charter.

Resident Involvement

There are many ways for our residents to get involved and we value the feedback and support residents give us when they take part in resident involvement activities. At Conway House we upskilled residents to be Resident Fire Marshalls meaning they can identify health and safety issues that require rectifying whilst supporting us with regular health and safety checks.

Other ways to get involved are:

  • Repairs and Maintenance Panel (RAMP)
  • Resident Health and Safety Inspectors
  • Resident Newsletter- Having your say
  • Resident Reading Group
  • Focus Groups
  • Scheme House Meetings

The appointment and training of volunteer Resident Fire Marshalls at Conway House is recognised as good practice within the sector and will be the benchmark for the recruitment of volunteers at other schemes.

Derek Trawberr Customer Service Excellence Assessor

Our People

We recognise that our staff are our most important asset and critical to Sapphire’s success. We are navigating through challenging and uncertain times, and the health and wellbeing of our staff are more important than ever.

Keeping our Staff and Residents Safe

We have adapted the way we work to keep our staff and residents safe, and most of our staff have been able to work from home to some extent. For when an on-site presence has been necessary, we have facilitated alternative ways of travelling to work to avoid using public transport and ensured the necessary personal protection equipment has been available to everyone who needs it.

We have increased cleaning throughout our buildings and encouraged staff and residents to observe hand hygiene and social distancing guidelines.

Our wellbeing representatives have reached out to colleagues to support their mental health and reduce feelings of isolation and anxiety and our managers have worked hard to address any concerns staff may have.

We have also carefully risk assessed the possibility of virus transmission and put in place measures to reduce these risks to make our workplaces COVID-secure and help staff feel safe.

A pulse survey carried out to guide how we might continue to support colleagues throughout this crisis, told us that 84% of staff felt they were being kept informed of how the company was responding to the Coronavirus threat, 65% feel confident that the company will continue to take the right steps and 67% felt supported by their line manager.

One of many Microsoft Teams video calls

Investors in People Gold Accreditation 

We believe that the success of your organisation begins and ends with people and we were therefore delighted to be successful in achieving We Invest in People, Gold accreditation following our assessment in March 2020. This is a great achievement for us as only 17% of Investors in People organisations achieve gold. Gold accreditation means that we have the policies in place but more than that, it means everyone – from Chief Executive to trainee takes ownership for making them come to life.

“The investment you make in people is extremely impressive and fully aligns with your aims.”

“Support for clients remains at a high level and this is a reflection of the commitment and professionalism demonstrated throughout the organisation.”

“You are clearly a values-led organisation and the way in which the core values and supporting behaviours have been integrated into policies and practices is striking. Your people certainly live the values in all aspects of their work.”

Derek Milner Investors in People Assessor

Staff Forum

Our Staff Forum acts as a two-way channel for staff to voice concerns or make suggestions directly to the Executive Management Team, and for discussion and information sharing on best practice and success stories. Sapphire has a real ethos of transparency and accountability across all levels of the organisation, as demonstrated with the sharing of performance data and business development updates as permanent forum agenda items.

I act as the Staff Forum Representative for Conway House and was voted Chair in October 2019. We have used this forum to bring about policy reviews, development of resident engagement and inclusion activities and there have been many instances of shared knowledge and resources. Recently it has been a particularly valuable space to discuss the safety of staff and residents and collaboratively brainstorm best practice in social distancing and PPE provision, share the challenges of working in a hostel during lockdown and explore ways Managers might support staff.

Sarah Wynbourne – Chair of Staff Forum

Employee of the Year

Sarah Wynbourne

I was surprised but honoured to be voted as Employee of the Year 2019. I work with so many wonderful colleagues that it really is a team effort! I love being able to support residents to realise their strengths and potential and have learnt a lot from many interesting chats along the way. I also appreciate the flexibility and openness of Managers to allow different ways of working and encouraging my development. I hope that I have been able to bring the value of my past experiences into my work at Conway House and will continue to support the staff team and residents as best I can through the challenges of 2020. Thank you again to Sapphire for the award.

Sarah Wynbourne – Employment, Training and Education

Co-ordinator, Conway House

Sapphire Day

Sapphire Day occurs annually and is the day Sapphire staff and residents come together to give back to the local community. Each year we find a new location and community service that would benefit from our time, creativity and desire to make a difference.

A Day of Entertainment

This year we chose to go to a day centre for senior citizens with the offer of a day of entertainment and interaction with the service users.

Senior citizens of Fountain Court in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, enjoyed a full entertainment programme of singing, acting and poetry reading from our staff and resident volunteers. They took part in a quiz and three rounds of bingo, with lots of prizes to be won and the room was full of joy and laughter.

It was a fantastic day, staff and residents left Fountain Court with a feeling of great satisfaction and our appreciation and thanks go to everyone who helped to make the day such a success.

What a success! I can’t believe what a wonderful turnout we had, how much everyone was engaging and how great your colleagues and residents were. We all loved it and we’ve had some great feedback today.

Ria – Manager of Borehamwood Seniors

50th Anniversary Celebrations

Sapphire’s Choir
Sapphire’s Choir.

In May 2019 Sapphire Independent Housing reached the golden milestone and staff, residents and partners celebrated in style. Sapphire Independent Housing was officially founded in 1969 under the name of Irish Centre Hostels, and over the years we have grown, rebranded and flourished to provide high quality housing and support.

Conway House kicked off the celebrations for residents with a DJ session and the first day of celebrations set the scene for the year ahead.

The celebrations held throughout the year were chosen by our residents for our residents, and our residents were encouraged to take an active role in the planning and organising of these events. Residents and staff got creative with Sapphire’s logo colours by designing pink and blue bunting and adding photos of sites, staff and residents, spanning the last 50 years. Residents at Conway House and Bethany House entered cake decorating competitions using only pink blue and white icing and staff and partners came together to form the judging panel.

Celebrations continued over the festive period, with pink and blue Christmas decorations, festive quizzes and gifts for all in the shape of a Sapphire mug filled with a lanyard, hot chocolate and mini marshmallows.

Sapphire was presented with a gift from one of our residents to mark the milestone;. Shannan Morgan created a beautiful painting of Townsend House which is showcased in the lounge.

In the words of Sapphire’s Chief Executive, Heather Thomas, ‘Thank you to all residents, staff, colleagues and partners who have helped shape the organisation Sapphire is today.

Listen to ...


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This section sets out how Sapphire performed in 2019/20 in key areas. We are pleased to have met several targets in what has been a vital and challenging year for Sapphire given the re-housing of St. Louise residents and the challenges presented.

Staff Satisfaction

Having Sapphire as my first experience of working for a housing association, I have been given a great example of how well an organisation can look after its staff members.

My team always strive to meet the needs of both in-house and external customer needs.

Taken from the annual staff satisfaction survey.

Employee Satisfaction

93% of our staff are satisfied with their employment.
96% would recommend Sapphire as a good employer.
97% are proud to be part of Sapphire.

Customer Satisfaction

89% of our customers are satisfied.


93.94% of our complaints were responded to on time.

Lettings 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 be able to tailor our services to them. This graph shows the number of lettings in 2019/20 broken down by age.

Lettings by Ethnicity

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 2019/20 broken down by ethnicity.


2019/20 arrears performance (overall target 1.5%) 2018/2019 2019/2020
Overall 0.4% 0.7%
General Needs 1.2% 1.8%
Supported Housing 0.2% 0.3%

Void Loss 2019/20

We try to let our homes as quickly as possible to reduce homelessness, and so that our rental income can be used to sustain our services. This a summary of our 2019/20 void loss percentage throughout the year, including a breakdown of voids at St. Louise, where voids increased until it was sold.

Repairs Completed

Priority Code

External Contractors

Internal Contractors Total Percentage On Time Target Percentage On Time
Emergency Repairs 135 2 137 99% 100%
Urgent Repairs 38 547 585 100% 100%
Routine Repairs 240 555 795 96% 97.5%

Social Impact Value

Research tells us the average impact value of supporting a homeless vulnerable person into settled accommodation has a social impact value of £8,019. Sapphire has moved on 53 people into general needs or private sector accommodation, with a social impact value of £425,007.

Financial Results 2019/20

We have had a profitable year, generating an overall surplus of £14.2m. As a result, we surpassed our budgeted surplus of £14.0m. This favourable position was due mainly to rental income being above the approved budget. The significant change between the financial results from last year, principally arose from the sale of our St Louise hostel.

Statement of Comprehensive Income



Income £ £

Income from housing



Housing Support Grant










Housing services



Support services









Gain on disposal of fixed assets 14,224,446 -
Operating surplus 14,126,449 211,188
Interest received 70,693 25,000
Interest payable (46,527) (38,105)
Surplus on ordinary activities for the year 14,150,615 198,083

Statement of Financial Position



£ £

Fixed assets



Current assets



Liabilities (current and long term)






Share capital

7 7

Social housing and other grants

8,500,709 9,619,559

Free reserve

25,355,450 11,204,835



Thanks to our Supporters and Partners

We received valued support in 2019-2020 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:

  • Abbey Community Centre
  • Action 4 London
  • Age UK, Camden
  • Apothecary Centre
  • Bates Wells Braithwaite
  • Bridging the Gap
  • Café Art
  • Camden Adult Learning Community
  • Camden Roundhouse
  • Camden Safer Streets
  • Cardinal Hume Centre
  • Chartered Institute of Housing
  • Clearing House
  • Crisis Skylight
  • Feast
  • Food Donations Connection
  • G320
  • Gratitude
  • Groundswell
  • Herts Young Homeless

  • Homeless Link
  • Kew Gardens
  • The Marylebone Project
  • The Mary Ward Centre
  • The Maya Centre
  • National Housing Federation
  • The Passage
  • The Prince’s Trust
  • Recovery College, St Mungo’s
  • Redloft
  • Sapphere Community Group
  • Shapes in Motion
  • SHP Aftercare
  • Sock Drop
  • Solace Women’s Aid
  • South East Consortium
  • SPBM
  • Street League
  • The Community Shop
  • The House of St Barnabas
  • Training Link Ltd

  • Trussell Trust
  • Westminster Kingsway College
  • Working Chance
  • Working Men’s College
  • Women@thewell
  • Wrap Up London
  • Youth Connexions
  • Z2K

Additional thanks to the following organisations for their continued support, via donations, to our supported hostels in 2019-2020:

  • Aldi Kilburn
  • City Harvest
  • Greggs Bakery- Kilburn
  • Gails Bakery- Kilburn
  • Pret A Manger- Kilburn
  • Sainsbury’s Local- Kilburn
  • Tesco Express- Islington, Kilburn
  • KFC- Hertsmere

Sapphire Board

  • Janine Stiles – Chair
  • Graham Coupar
  • Alan Johnson
  • Mithun Kathirgamanathan (Co-opted 16th July 2019)
  • David Mitchell
  • Catherine Ryder (Co-opted 16th July 2019)
  • Alan Strickland
  • Terry Sullivan
  • Mark Sweeny (Co-opted 16th July 2019)
  • Maggie Van Reenen - Chair

Executive Management Team

  • Heather Thomas – Chief Executive
  • Harry Draycott – Finance Director (Retired February 2020)
  • Jesse Fajemisin – Operations Director
  • Beverly Finn – Human Resources and Governance Manager
  • Claudette Marcano – Finance Director (Appointed February 2020)
  • Karl Philips – Development Director

Remuneration and Nomination Committee

  • Graham Coupar – Chair
  • Jan Stiles
  • Catherine Ryder

Finance, Audit and Risk Committee

  • Maggie Van Reenen - Chair
  • David Mitchell
  • Alasdair Macarthur (Independent Commitee Member)


  • Heather Thomas

Development Committee

  • Alan Johnson - Chair
  • Maggie Van Reenen
  • Alan Strickland
  • Mithun Kathirgamanathan


Our homes are located in the London Boroughs of Camden, Islington, Brent and in Hertsmere.

Further details can be found at each location on the map below.

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Head Office

Head Office, 1 Holmes Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3AA

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Hepburn Court

Hepburn Court, Gowar Field, Brookside, South Mimms, Hertfordshire, EN6 3QE

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St Eugene Court

St Eugene Court, 82 Salusbury Road, London, NW6 6PA.

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Townsend House

135 Aycliffe Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 4HA.

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Bethany House

13 Lloyd Square, Islington, London, WC1X 9AR.

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Caulfield Court

Caulfield Court, Baynes Street, London, NW1 0TZ.

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Dunne Mews

Dunne Mews, 57 Leighton Road, London, NW5 2QH.

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Highgate Road and College Yard

54/56 Highgate Road and 9 College Yard, London, NW5 1NU

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Forde House

129 Queens Crescent, London, NW5 4HE

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Tara Lodge

Mutrix Road, London, NW6 4BF

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Conway House

18-22 Quex Road, Kilburn, London, NW6 4PL

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Hackett House

12 Kingsgate Road, Kilburn, London, NW6 4TB