Our Chair reflects on her first year at the Trust

At a recent online staff event, we put some questions to the Chair of our Board, Jane McCall. Here she reflects on her first twelve, unusual, months at Peaks & Plains and looks to a promising future.
I’ve really enjoyed my first year; there is an energy about the place and a clear vision.

You’ve been the Chair of the Board at the Trust for 12 months now. How has your first year been?

I’ve really enjoyed my first year; there is an energy about the place and a clear vision. Even through this very challenging year, there has been a determination to learn and improve.

You have quite a track record in housing. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Yes, I’ve spent my whole working career in housing. From university I got a job at Servite Houses as a Development Administrator. Since then I have worked for a number of housing associations, including (what later became) Places for People, Regenda and Trafford Housing Trust.

You sit on a few other Boards. How does the Trust compare to those other organisations?

That’s right. I sit on the Board of the Information Commissioner Office, which is the regulator for information rights and data, and I chair an NHS Hospital and Community Trust at Tameside and Glossop. I believe that Peaks & Plains compares really well.

We have a strong Board and a solid purpose – of helping to improve lives. I’ve always found that the strongest organisations tend to unite around a shared purpose. That’s what really jumped out at me when I started to look at this role.

We have got some fantastic staff too. Certainly, the people that I have come in to contact with have been really impressive I have nothing but admiration for the work that you all do.

Our processes and assurances are also really strong – from that perspective I think we compare very favourably.

How do would you describe the Trust to those who don’t know us?

I’ve been following the work of the Trust for many years and I’ve always considered it to be an organisation that ‘punches above its weight’.
We are relatively small, as housing associations go, but we’ve always made an impact across the North West and our strengths and financial viability tell me that we have loads of potential, which we are now just beginning to deliver on.

It’s been a difficult and strange Covid year. Can you give us a taste of what it’s been like for you, in your first year at the Trust?

Well it’s been largely spent in my living room – like many others! But that’s not been everyone’s experience so I’d like to say a huge thank you to all staff who have been working hard to keep essential services going for our customers.

Making connections with individuals and the wider organisation has been more challenging throughout Covid, but we’ve all got used to online meetings and occasionally I even go a whole day without being reminded I’m on mute!

How has it been getting to know your Board and to manage them virtually?

I'm really fortunate that the Board and the Executive Team have been fantastically welcoming over the last twelve months; really open and approachable. Crucially, we all share the same aims and that makes it very easy to work together as a team.

I’m delighted to say that a huge amount of hard work, and a will to work together, has meant that we’ve made real progress.

What do you think are our biggest challenges in the next 12 months (not including Covid)?

We all know that we have been downgraded to a G3 by the regulator and that we are doing absolutely all the right things to improve that. I think we just need to continue to deliver on that.

The plans in the pipeline will allow us to continue to improve and will give the regulator the reassurance it needs. But most importantly our customers and their homes will benefit.

A second priority for me would be to get to know our customers better. I know that there is a huge cross-Trust project on the go at the moment to gather as much information about our customers as possible.

Once we have better data we’ll be able to use it to shape the services that we offer. What could be more important?

What are your hopes for the future?

To get out of the house! But seriously, I’m really keen to meet staff face to face, to see more of our homes and meet customers, and to be part of the Trust’s return to a standard for which it is better known.

We’re in a strong position to do that. We are looking to refinance once we can improve our governance grading and we’re all eager to continue to deliver on the promises that we’ve made to customers in our Strategic Plan.

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