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Tenant & Resident Support

Gloucester City Homes Support their Tenants with their own Handyman Service

Handylink social enterprise established to provide low cost but reliable quality sustainable service

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Gloucester City Homes (GCH) was set up as an arm’s length management organisation in 2005 to improve services and deliver a major investment programme to meet the Government’s decent homes standard. Having secured external investment of £38 million and delivering overall spending of £51 million, all of their homes met the Governments decent home standard in March 2012. Since then they have maintained this standard and have invested a further £15 million. As at March 2014, there have been over 16,000 major improvements to tenants’ homes. The Council intends to transfer the remainder of its homes to GCH ownership by March 2015 which will enable them to maintain the on-going investment necessary as registered social landlord utilising independent funding, and commencing a regeneration programme through building new homes. GCH has a vision to support tenants and residents and the wider community through work experience, volunteering and training into employment, thereby enhancing their life chances. GCH has a track record in supporting training and employment initiatives which provides tenants and residents and the wider community with opportunities to develop new skills. GCH has a strategic ambition to create a range of social enterprise opportunities, which in turn will enhance the core business and provide a social return on investment. During January 2014, GCH launched the Handylink service, their first social enterprise business stream offering a range of gardening and handyperson services throughout Gloucestershire. Handylink has operated as a pilot service from January 2014 to enable GCH to test the market place and demand for the services and to enable them to evaluate the outcomes and opportunities for wider social enterprise growth



The key business objectives were to: • Establish a the Social Enterprise Handylink brand for existing customers and the commercial market • Develop a volunteering and trainee framework and evaluate outcomes. • Develop the commercial business stream – raising awareness and promoting both internally and externally • Develop qualitative back office support systems to effectively support the service • Measure and achieve high levels of customer satisfaction feedback • Evaluate the 12 month pilot to ascertain the viability of the service and opportunities for expansion



GCH-logo 2014-2015The Business Plan identified that Handylink would provide gardening and handyperson services incorporating the following services: • Gardening – regular visits or one off garden maintenance • Handyperson services – a range of basis household maintenance and repairs • Painting and decorating – basic support provided • Supported Housing – the provision of painting and decorating for local schemes and projects • Flat pack furniture – support new tenants with erecting basic furniture The social enterprise Handylink was launched January 2014, once all of the working practices, policies and procedures to test cash receipting systems and management reporting information were in place and tested. A significant amount of training was required by the Handylink team to ensure that they had the required skills to undertake the range of jobs required, in addition to customer care training. The Handylink team comprises of a Project Co-ordinator who has overall day to day responsibility for delivering the service, and 2 operatives who are deployed from the Estate Services (ES) Team to undertake the gardening and handyperson service. Additional support is provided by the Estate Services Workers (ESW) team supervisor who has been undertaking customer quotations and providing on the job training for the operatives. A significant amount of time and resources were deployed to establish a clear brand for Handylink which identifies the service as part of GCH, mirroring the corporate colour schemes and themes. Corporate vans were branded with Handylink livery and team members were provided with distinctive uniforms The marketing campaign incorporated the production of letter, leaflets and postcards, advertising on the back of local buses, interviews on local radio and advertisements on Heart FM. Every opportunity to promote the new service at local events and raising the awareness with partnership agencies through presentations were maximised. In the first 3 quarters of the year Handylink has received 409 customer enquiries that resulted in 244 jobs being completed. The jobs completed by the team, were varied as the analysis below shows: Jobs % of works Gardening 47 General DIY 12 Fencing 6.5 Decorating 5.7 External Clearance 4.9 Internal & External furniture removal 6.9 Plumbing 2 Building Works 1.6 Other 13.4 One the main objectives was to ensure that the Handylink service was available for all residents of Gloucester not just for their own tenants currently 62% of the works completed were for GCH tenants and 32% were for over homeowners and 6% of the works were for commercial businesses The pilot whilst very successful and well received from the customers however there has been challenges; these include understanding the new business requirements and approaches to the market place, ensuring that all the working procedures and back office support was tested and embedded this took longer than originally planned. Customer Feedback A short customer feedback survey was undertaken during June 2014, to test out the service standards. 55 customers responded and their feedback is summarised as follows: • 100% had an appointment for the Handylink service • 100% confirmed the tradesman completed all the work required • 100% stated the tradesman was courteous and polite • 100% stated the tradesmen left the home/garden clean and tidy • 98% were happy with the quality of the work • 98% confirmed they would use the service again • 98% said that the overall service was excellent The service has been well received as the comments from customers below demonstrate. Thank you so much for a fantastic job, its difficult finding someone to take the rubbish away when you are old” “Can’t fault them, absolutely marvellous, can’t wait to use them again” “Very excellent as we are disabled and find it hard to complete the garden” “Really happy with the service, may not use throughout the winter but will be back to use in the summer” “Just to say the guys did a great job on Thursday afternoon – very efficiently and cheerfully. Please pass on thanks from Annie and myself (directors of the operation as it were)”. “They couldn’t have been more helpful or polite, nothing was too much trouble. I really couldn’t sing their praises enough; I’m sure I will be using this service again.”

Business Results


Economic • 3 employed and 2 work experience placements. • The service provides a low cost affordable home maintenance service to the local community including small businesses. • Handylink Service will become self- sustainable from year two. • 244 Jobs completed. Social • Training has been provided to Handylink operatives on basic DIY including decorating. • Handylink is offering services for all residents of Gloucester. • Handylink provides a range of services to support older residents remain independent in their own homes. • Supports individuals to stay in their own homes • Social return on Investment (see resources)



With any new business there have been areas which have gone well and areas where improvement is required. The table below have been part of our business review and will be used to grow the business in the future. What has gone well? • Branding and reputation • Reoccurring work/repeat business • Demand for work • Speed of booking quotations has improved to become a strength • We are now perceived as local competition • Reputation, and best practice – other organisations are contacting us to understand how we have established our service • Supporting hospital discharges • Partnership leads and referrals • The speed of which Handylink was established • Supply chains established e.g. building and timber merchants • Strong marketing approach – buses, radio, events, leaflets • Team approach and leadership • Customer feedback • All Pay system is working well and provides good management information • Cash collection process is working effectively • Better internal working between Handylink and the Finance team • Social media Where can we improve? • Development in the use of mobile working and technologies to improve efficiency • Fortnightly team meetings • Process improvements • Additional training for operatives to improve their skills • Social media • Online satisfaction survey • Develop and grow capacity – extend to the ESW team • Seasonal packages • Review the hourly rate based on revised costs • Build more capacity

Next Steps


Handylink over a short period of time has established itself as a reputable, high quality provider of gardening and DIY services. However, Handylink have limited capacity within a small team to respond to opportunities as they arise and to increase the service offer. The wider ESW team provides a greater resource to support and compliment the Handylink offer, by developing the skills within the ESW team, recruiting to address major skills gaps and enhancing customer skills and commercial awareness, this could provide the flexibility to expand the Handylink service offer. There are a number of business growth opportunities which will be considered going forward. • The provision and installation of minor aids and adaption’s • The provision of services to private land- lords in maintaining their homes • Partnership working with other housing providers either through a joint venture approach or through procurement pathways in the delivery of minor repair packages • Support new build development/construction in providing training opportunities and apprentices who initially gain work experience in Handylink and move into construction • Provision of general environmental services for example fencing works • Decorating services to sheltered scheme tenants and residents • Consultancy support to Housing providers who are interested in establishing their own or similar service




Housing Association http://www.gloscityhomes.co.uk/Home.aspx
Social Enterprise http://www.gloscityhomes.co.uk/GCHPlus/Handylink.aspx
Contact Details

Lisa Howarth Head of Housing Gloucester City Homes 01452833150 lisa.howarth'gloscityhomes.co.uk

Contact SE Housing Hub about this Case Study

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