We believe having a home to call your own is fundamental to being able to access the right opportunities in life.
That is why our mission is to provide good quality, affordable homes and neighbourhoods to people failed by the market.
We’re all driven by a shared purpose at Clarion. We want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to build a better future and we’re relentless in pursuing it.
In my first update to you as Group Chief Executive last year, I talked with pride about our achievements and the importance of having a strong financial foundation. The world has changed since then, but I am pleased to report that our commitment to long-term financial planning has left us in a strong position to do what matters most, to support our staff and residents through this pandemic and beyond.
However long the public health crisis lasts, Clarion will stand by our staff, provide extra support to our residents in greatest need and continue to build desperately needed affordable housing. This commitment is underpinned by an excellent group performance in 2019/20, which is of course the focus of this report....
Our results, against a backdrop of Brexit, political uncertainty and latterly Covid-19, clearly demonstrate our progress, our resilience and our capacity to deliver upon our ambitions. We have increased our turnover by 3% and our operating surplus for the year by 4%. As a charity, all of these gains are retained by the business to invest in improving services and delivering more new homes. An example of this is our investment of £631 million in new build homes during in the year - this is four times our surplus for the year and only achievable through retaining the confidence of our banks and investors who continue to help fund our growth.
As the largest social landlord in the country, we have more than 350,000 people who count on us to provide a high quality service. I am pleased to say that our performance was vindicated by residents and the regulator alike over the last 12 months. Customer satisfaction was above our target of 80% and our regulatory G1, V1 rating was reaffirmed, the highest level that can be awarded. I would like extend my gratitude to every single one of my colleagues; it is thanks to your determination, skill and commitment that we have reached these goals.
I am unapologetic about my ambition for our organisation. I know my colleagues share my determination to do even more to provide and maintain housing for those failed by the market.
This year we completed 2,101 new homes, of which 86% were for affordable tenures. This represents an increase of 69% over the last 12 months and shows how quickly we are scaling up as a developer, whilst remaining focused on building homes that meet the needs of people on low and middle incomes. The pandemic will have an impact on the construction sector, but the majority of our sites are up and running and our team will continue to deliver sustainable growth in the number of new homes.
Our organisation has more than 100 years of history and our charitable mission is as integral to us today as it was to our founder, William Sutton. As a social landlord we provide housing that simply wouldn’t be affordable at market prices. Every week we save our residents in excess of £8 million by charging subsidised and affordable rents. Over the course of a year, this adds up to an economic contribution of £430 million.
Clarion Futures has continued to make interventions that transform lives, supporting nearly 4,000 people into work, helping thousands to access advice on how to manage their finances and expanding our youth engagement projects all over the country.
While many of Clarion Futures’ programmes have an immediate and life changing impact, we are equally committed to the long-term improvement of our communities. All Clarion residents deserve to live in sustainable homes and in order to make sure that is the case we need a vision fit for the next generation. Our Clarion 2040 programme will drive our asset strategy for the next twenty years, as we upgrade and invest in homes at scale.
We are all living through uncertain times, but our role in society has never been more important. Clarion will lead the call for affordable housing and we will lead by example. Building new homes, supporting those in greatest need and investing in communities across the country.
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I would like to begin by thanking the Group Board for their hard work and dedication over the last 12 months and to express my gratitude and appreciation for their support during my first year as Chair. Most importantly, their collective knowledge and experience has been a great benefit to the whole organisation as we work together to protect residents and staff during these unprecedented times.
The board has a new look to it this year, as we said goodbye to some longstanding colleagues and welcomed four new members to our ranks. I am grateful for all the work of Brian Stewart, Tania Brisby and particularly to Neil Goulden, my predecessor as Chair. They have made an important contribution to ... Clarion’s history for which we will always be thankful.
I am delighted we have been joined around the board table by: Amanda Metcalfe, Gavin Barwell, Graham Farrant and Tom Smyth. They bring a broad range of professional experience to Clarion, united by a shared passion of putting our social purpose at the heart of everything we do.
We could not have predicted the devastating impact that Covid-19 has had on our society. The response to this crisis by our staff at all levels of the organisation, from the Group Executive Team through to our frontline workers has been extraordinary. I am particularly proud of our operatives and caretakers who continued to work in their local communities supporting residents, even when the virus was at its peak in late March.
The reason we have been able to react so quickly to support our residents is due to the successful long-term stewardship of the organisation. We report on a growing surplus and strong liquidity position for the last financial year, essential for investing in maintaining and building new homes, but also providing the headroom that has allowed us to adapt services, ways of working and to protect our staff.
As this public health crisis ebbs, we know the housing crisis will not go away. In fact, we have to be prepared for it to intensify. As a result, our work will become ever more important. Last year we completed over 2,000 new homes, the majority of which were for affordable tenures. This is a huge achievement, which underlines our position as one of the largest developers of affordable housing in the country.
Clarion Futures also continued its inspiring work, helping nearly 4,000 people into work and making thousands of other interventions to help residents learn new skills and access much needed financial advice. The economic downturn that will follow the virus will put even more demand on these services, I know that our team are well placed to rise to the challenge.
It seems likely to be a turbulent 12 months ahead for the country, but I could not be more confident that Clarion will be playing its part in supporting residents, protecting staff and continuing to provide quality housing for people inadequately served by the market.
Clarion Housing Group provides good quality, affordable homes and neighbourhoods to people failed by the market.
Be the housing and service provider of choice
Clarion homes are good quality, safe, sustainable, and affordable places to live.
Clarion always delivers a good quality customer experience.
Clarion provides support and creates opportunities which help customers to achieve their aspirations.
Build a successful, respected, and influential national business
Clarion has a clear, consistent, and ethical brand which is understood by all our audiences.
Influence the political and external environment to best enable the delivery of Clarion’s mission.
Customers, employees, and stakeholders are well informed about Clarion and trust us to deliver on our promises.
Build new homes and successful communities
Substantially increase the delivery of sustainable low carbon homes.
Increase Clarion’s new build pipeline while delivering 2/3 of new homes as affordable.
Provide good quality, distinctive places which enhance wellbeing and enable communities to flourish.
Be a great place to work
People are productive and fulfilled in what they do
People are passionate about our purpose
People feel they belong and can be themselves at Clarion.
Maintain our financial resilience
Long term sustainable plans are underpinned by clear and deliverable short-medium term objectives.
Maintain financial capacity to deal with downturns and maximise opportunities as they arise.
Manage resources to achieve the maximum financial, social, and strategic value for the business and our customers.
Exploit new technology and innovation
Embrace available technology to improve the customer experience.
Create the space for people to innovate and experiment.
Ensure Clarion’s decision making process is rapid, decisive, and data driven.
Customer satisfaction exceeds 80% in all areas
Consistently building 4,000 new homes per annum
Employee Engagement Score exceeds 80%
Delivery in line with our 5 year budget
Clarion homes and places meet standards in line with Clarion 2040 targets
Mo left war-torn Somalia in 1999 and arrived in London, before moving to Newcastle. When his mother died, he was left without any family support and felt very alone. He signed up to a Clarion property in 2018 and thanks to the strong sense of community in the area, instantly felt welcome. His neighbours smiled and greeted him in the street and he had regular contact with the local neighbourhood team, always happy to update them on how he was settling in.
Mo said: “Before moving here, I had never really felt at home in England. When I moved into my Clarion property, the first thing I noticed was how warm and friendly my new neighbours were, and the staff too. They really made an effort to welcome me and it was a relief after having faced quite a lot of hostility in my life. I have a health condition which means sometimes I feel very unwell and Joan, the cleaner for the building, always checks in on me and even does my shopping for me when I’m not able to. Even though I don’t have family living close by, I know that I can count on Joan."
Collaborating with partners often means we can do more within our communities. Graham was referred to Clarion Futures when he was homeless and unemployed having been released from prison. He had no phone, email address or fixed abode which presented barriers to his job search and he was lacking self-confidence, unsure how to move forward.
We worked with Graham to provide employment support, creating an action plan to help him find work and assisting with job applications. A local charity gave him a phone and clothing, and a shelter provided Graham with temporary accommodation so that he had an address to include on job applications. We organised support for Graham to improve his mental health and wellbeing and explored options to find him a home.
Graham is now a Clarion resident and has a job he loves as a recycling operative.
Graham said: “When I was referred to Clarion Futures, I was homeless and unemployed. Thanks to the support I received, I have now got a career and a roof over my head. I’m proud to say I’m a Clarion resident – to think a housing association helped me with finding employment, as well as giving me confidence is just amazing.”
Arron and Lauren
Having started a family, Arron and Lauren had outgrown their previous property and wanted a place to call their own for their daughter to grow up in. Living in the area for many years, it was important to them to be able to stay near their family and friends. However as young professionals, they had a difficult time finding something larger that suited them financially. Our low cost home ownership team found them a new Clarion home that suited their needs, available for part rent, part ownership with the ability to ‘staircase’ to full home ownership as and when it suited them financially.
Lauren said: ‘’Financially, our only other alternative would have been to rent a larger property locally, so this was a no brainer for us. When we first started looking at home ownership, we weren’t sure it was going to be possible for what we required, at least not yet, so it’s a great feeling to be able to get a foot on the property ladder. We love it, our daughter loves it, we have more space - it feels like a family home, and it’s ours.’
Providing opportunities for our younger residents to have a voice and deliver social action projects in their community is one of the priorities for Clarion Futures. Before joining our National Ambassador programme, Aaliyah had left school and was looking for a way to use her skills and attributes to make a difference in her local community and achieve her dream of joining the police force.
Taking part in the programme has given Aaliyah the chance to voice her opinions, develop her skills and work with others to run events for local children and young people, including an upcoming series of drama classes which will enable her to share her passion and talent. She has now taken on a leadership role in her job at a local supermarket training others, and is keen to use her people skills and experience to do more for her community.
Aaliyah said: “Being a national ambassador has helped me to feel like I have a voice and to see that by working with others, I can make a difference. I’ve always wanted to be a police officer and at the moment I’m waiting to hear whether my application has been successful. I’m excited to see what’s next for me.”
Many of us take being online for granted, but not everyone has the confidence and skills to make the most of it. John, 78, had virtually no experience of using a computer when he signed up for an 8-week basic digital skills course run by our Money & Digital team. He wanted to be able to browse the Internet, use email and create Word documents.
Having completed the course, John is now able to get online confidently and safely and do all these things, as well as using his new-found digital skills to manage his Clarion rent account online and communicate with us to report repairs and share his views.
John said: “Nowadays everything is online, so without basic digital skills I was feeling like I’d been left behind. Thanks to the support I received, I’m now able to keep in touch with people using email, create documents for my social club using Word and manage my money using Excel spreadsheets. It’s made such a difference and I’d like to say a big thank you.”
Help with budgeting and money management is just one of the ways we can help make a real, long-lasting difference to our residents’ lives. Nicole lives on her own in a one-bedroom flat and works on a zero-hours contract which means her hours and wages vary significantly. When we first spoke to Nicole, she reported that she was struggling to pay her bills, but after several conversations it became clear that there was more we could do to help her find her feet.
We worked closely with Nicole to complete tasks on the action plan we created with her to maximise income and reduce expenditure. With our support, Nicole submitted a claim for Universal Credit, applied for council tax support and secured a discretionary housing payment which cleared more than £1,200 of her rent arrears.
Nicole said: “I was struggling to keep my head above water and didn’t know where to turn for help. Luckily, I was referred to Clarion Futures and they’ve been amazing, helping me get my head around budgeting and make my money go further.”