This is the first Corporate Plan for The Calico Group since its creation in November 2013. The document marks the latest phase in Calico’s development as a growing and successful organisation and outlines our vision and aspirations for the future. Our new company structure positions the Group with governance arrangements that reflect the diverse nature of the organisation and will facilitate excellent service delivery and appropriate managed growth within both a charitable and commercial environment whilst ensuring robust protections are in place for the HCA regulated Calico Homes part of the Group. The Plan sets out how we intend to drive further the success of the Calico Group and details challenging targets that will measure our success.
Our Corporate Plan 2014-2017 sets out our objectives over forthcoming years and highlights how we intend to achieve our targets in the current operating context and fiscal environment. Over the last twelve months Calico has continued its performance of recent years by growing and prospering through increased turnover from new business, continued strong operational services and maintenance of a robust financial position.
Furthermore, the development of Calico as a ‘Group’ of companies working towards a shared vision has continued. However, the current economic climate and the associated changes in the public policy environment means that we face a period of uncertainty in many areas of the business, together with some real, longer term, risks. Indeed, the on-going impact of welfare reform arguably brings the biggest threat to Calico since it commenced in 2000.
The Plan sets out how we intend to further drive the Calico Group of companies forward and details challenging targets that will measure our success. The key elements of the Plan are highlighted in this Executive Summary.
Why was the Group set up?
(i) To continue to meet our strategic aims
To achieve our objectives within our current operating environment means that we need to continue to pursue our successful Growth Strategy, diversify our activities, generate profits and maximise efficiencies if we are to continue to evolve and be successful as a social business. This approach brings inherent risk and the new Group structure will minimise such risks, particularly with regard to the housing association and its stock.
(ii) Diversification and the growing financial challenge
The current economic environment and associated government public expenditure reduction programme has resulted in an extremely difficult trading environment for Calico. We have embarked upon a path of seeking to generate additional income from commercial activity via Ring Stones and this will be important in helping us to deal positively with these issues (for example, the profits could be used to assist in the funding of new housing development). However, we need to accept that commercialism and income generation is increasingly becoming a requisite part of many housing associations activity.
As such, it is likely that in the near future we may need to increase our scope of commercial activity and undertake work that brings additional income to Calico. It is important that we have a company and governance structure that is positioned to manage the inevitable risks associated with this expansion.
(iii) Governing increasing complexity from growth and diversification and managing the risk to the ‘core business’ of Calico Homes
Without a change to our Group structure we risked the Calico Homes Board devoting increasing amounts of its time and resources to managing the activities and risks associated with the other companies in the Group and less time on the core activities of housing. By making Calico Homes a subsidiary and freeing it from the governance issues associated with the management of a large (and growing) diverse Group of companies we are able to ensure the Calico Homes Board is able to:
- Retain its current skills base which is appropriate to the management of a housing association
- Have the capacity and organisational focus to concentrate on delivering its sole objectives
- Strengthen the protection around the social housing assets, ie stop them being used to support/guarantee non social housing activities.
(iv) Protection of the social housing assets
Our proposed new structure achieves the aim of strengthening the ring fencing around the social housing assets and reduced non social housing activities in the core housing business.
Of the Calico companies, only Calico Homes Limited as a social housing provider is regulated by the Government body the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). The latest review undertaken by the Regulator was in early 2014 and we continue to maintain a positive assessment for our governance and the highest possible rating for financial viability.
The current regulatory regime means that scrutiny by tenants and Boards and ensuring services meet the needs of local people is crucial. We have a strong track record in this area through our local offers and our resident led scrutiny panel (RAISE) that reviews our services to ensure they are responsive to the needs of customers and perform to our published standards.
The delivery of value for money, both financial and social, remains key to our successful navigation through the financial challenges we face for both existing and new areas of activity. Value for money continues to be a key requirement in relation to strategic and operational decisions.
The annual assessment (January 2014) of Calico Homes financial viability by the HCA is once again at the highest graded assessment possible. This provides us with the requisite regulatory confidence in the financial viability of this core business activity to effectively manage the significant challenges posed by the current economic climate, the Government’s deficit reduction programme and their welfare reform policy agenda.
The financial positions of Calico Enterprise, Acorn Recovery Projects and SafeNet are also healthy, although inherent risks exist as a result of reliance upon contractual income from commissioners of services and this is likely to remain the position for the foreseeable future. Ring Stones Maintenance and Construction is also financially sound and generating a surplus which is used, in part, to fund activities of other companies in the Group.
Whitworth Care Trust is not financially viable in its current form and size in the medium to long term although it does have sufficient reserves to continue operating for the coming year. This position is being addressed through a planned expansion of the service on a new site in the locality.
In addition, the ability of Calico Homes to fund future development will also be a key focus of our work as we look to the future and beyond our existing funding arrangements, against a policy backdrop of real uncertainty with regard to the level of Government subsidy for new social housing post 2015.
Delivering the Strategy – Meeting Key Challenges
Our four strategic project groups are a key focus of delivering our strategy. They are:
- Realising People’s Potential
- Passionate About Customers
- Value for Money
- Services for all (including Equality and Diversity).
These groups focus upon key activities to ensure that our services are efficient, relevant in today’s operating environment and meet the needs of our current and future customers (and staff) by taking a long-term view of how we do things and how we manage our assets.
Further improving our operational services remains a priority. Our targets aspire to excellence and to ensuring that we continually improve performance for key services. Our performance is historically strong and for 2013/14 it has been largely sustained although improvements in some areas, particularly in rent loss through dwellings being vacant are required for 2014/15.
Formal commissioner led assessments have taken place across Lancashire floating support, older people’s service and Elizabeth St Project which validated self assessments at level A. No external assessment took place at Bury. Further self assessments will be carried out during 2014/15 to ensure maintenance of level A.
Our Plan identifies having motivated, well managed and developed staff as a central tenet for a successful organisation. The work of the Realising People’s Potential Strategic Group is focused upon developing our talent further and we are implementing our Leadership Development programme as part of our People Strategy. We continue to progress in this area and in February 2014 were named 9th in the Sunday Times ‘Top 100 Best Companies to Work for’ – the sixth year in succession that we have been placed in the Top 100. For the third year running we also received a top rating of three stars in the Best Companies accreditation process – “an extraordinary employer”.
Additionally in 2013 we were reassessed as meeting the ‘Investors in People’ Gold Standard. We met all 196 evidence requirements with the assessor concluding that ‘the Calico journey represents a first class example of an organisation transforming its performance through investment in people’. We also met the requirements of the ‘Investors in People’ Health and Wellbeing Good Practice Award.
These awards are not only recognition from our staff that they are well managed, motivated and developed but have also enhanced our reputation; these factors reaffirm our view that the organisation is culturally positioned to continue to deliver success and attract the best staff to further the attainment of our objectives.
Our 2012/14 Growth Strategy was extremely successful and resulted in turnover which had more than doubled since 2006 and an increase in employment number from just over 300 in 2012 to over 500 in 2014. Our latest strategy was adopted in April 2014.
The key strands of our growth activity are:
- Stock growth through development and acquisitions
- Helping people to live independently
- Worklessness service
- Provision of health and care services
- Services to victims of domestic violence and abuse
- Green services
- Financial inclusion services
- Construction services.
The key growth activity for Calico Homes is through new build (including mixed tenure developments) and acquisition of properties within East Lancashire and surrounding areas for social housing and student accommodation purposes. For Calico Enterprise the key focus is on the retention of existing ‘flagship’ contracts – Floating Support and Help Direct – plus the addition of new related contracts, as well as diversification of our worklessness and training and apprenticeship services. SafeNet’s growth focus will be upon successfully establishing the new Lancaster refuge and consolidating its funding position over the longer term as well as expanding the ‘safe house’ initiative. More generally, work on care service options has developed significantly through Whitworth Care Trust and will be a priority in 2014/15 and beyond.
A significant element of our growth aspirations is through Ring Stones Maintenance and Construction LLP that launched in September 2012. The company has made an excellent start, was profitable in its first trading year, has a healthy order book, won its first tender and already employed in excess of thirty local people.
Acorn’s main challenge over the next two years lies with the retention of most of its current Drug Alcohol Action Team related contracts. There are a number of opportunities that arise from increasing the supply of ‘recovery housing’, tender opportunities for community provision and linking in to the ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ agenda.
Group Structure and Governance
We have restructured the Calico Group such that the parent company is now a non asset owning non HCA registered body. With the exception of Whitworth Care Trust, which is a subsidiary of Calico Homes, the other companies are all subsidiaries of the new parent. This structure retains the focus on delivery of objectives at a subsidiary level, increases the legal protection of the social housing assets and enables a stronger governance structure to be in place.
Cohesive, experienced and skilled Boards are critical to our future success. Board development plans framed from a robust selection and appraisal process are in place to ensure we have high quality governance and this will be more important than ever as the effectiveness of Boards takes on greater significance through the localism agenda and co-regulation emphasis from the regulatory body. Additionally, the cohesiveness of all subsidiary Boards and their effectiveness in working together to achieve the Calico vision is critical and is therefore an important feature of the development plans.
Our operating environment for the lifetime of this plan will require organisations such as ours to be strategically agile to respond to the continued public expenditure pressures, associated threats brought about by the current state of the UK economy and the implementation of the Government’s policy agenda. Particular threats and opportunities are:
- Welfare reform, in particular Housing Benefit eligibility
- The levels of public subsidy being available to fund new social housing construction
- The HCA approach to regulation that places more emphasis upon local decisions and housing association board effectiveness
- The amount of funding available for Supporting People work
- The overall ‘spending’ power of all of our key customers and particularly challenging times for charities and organisations seeking non-core funding to provide services
- Unemployment figures being at very high levels – particularly youth unemployment – meaning that opportunities may emerge for new initiatives and contracts
- Local Authority service provision – meaning that on our estates key services are being reduced, potentially resulting in ourselves having to consider additional services
- Growth and diversification opportunities have emerged, such as supported housing and extra care.
Cost effective, responsive and innovative organisations such as Calico are likely to prosper at the expense of inefficient organisations in times of reduced public spending. Such a financial environment may actually offer more opportunities and delivery of this plan positions us positively in this respect and means we can approach the forthcoming period with confidence.
Our Corporate Plan sets out our future direction and defines how we intend to meet our challenging targets. Achieving these targets will continue to ensure that we are well managed, financially viable and delivering excellent customer services that our current and future tenants and service users want, meeting their individual requirements and providing high levels of satisfaction.
The significance of the Group structure and the ability of Calico companies to provide a comprehensive offer around a range of valuable and diverse services means that we are well placed to prosper in the markets within which we operate.
1. Note on terminology
The Calico Group (or “the Group”) is the parent company of Calico Homes Limited, Calico Enterprise Limited, SafeNet, Acorn Recovery Projects and Ring Stones Maintenance and Construction LLP.
Calico Homes Limited is a housing association whose principal activity is owning and managing approximately 4,600 properties. In April 2013 it became a registered charity.
Calico Enterprise Limited is a registered charity that undertakes a range of activities including housing related support, provision of worklessness initiatives and information and advice services.
SafeNet is a registered charity that empowers women and children to live free from domestic violence and abuse.
Acorn Recovery Projects is a registered charity that provides a range of innovative drug and alcohol rehabilitation services across the North West.
Ring Stones Maintenance and Construction LLP undertakes maintenance and house building contracts on a commercial basis.