By the time this edition of Army&You lands on your doormat, the new allocations and repairs/maintenance contract for Service Family Accommodation (SFA) will be up and running. So what differences are you likely to see? AFF Housing Specialist, Cat Calder, reports…

Firstly, under the National Accommodation Management Services (NAMS) contract, run by Pinnacle, you have a single point of contact – the National Service Centre. Plus, local housing officers now supervise move-ins/outs and the management of patches. The four Regional Accommodation Maintenance Services (RAMS) contracts maintain homes and community spaces. If you’re in the south east or south west, you’re covered by VIVO, and the north and central regions are serviced by Amey.

Some of the key changes are:

Estate agent-style information on all properties. Floorplans, internal and external photographs of individual homes will be available. Properties will need to be vacant to capture this information but, over time, this will be available for all SFA.

You can contact the service centre via a new HomeHub website or phone. The hub is expected to go live shortly after the new contract begins.

A greater focus on ensuring properties are properly prepared. The responsibility rests with RAMS contractors, with independent checks by Pinnacle housing officers two days before you move-in.

Four-hour appointment windows, plus evening and weekend appointments. On the day before, this is narrowed down to one hour and you’ll be given the engineer’s contact number. You can also track your engineer in real time.

A new target to fix at least 85 per cent of issues on the first visit. This encourages suppliers to improve fault diagnosis, keep more spares in their vehicles and ensure the right engineer is allocated.

Suppliers are paid on a price-per-home basis rather than price-per-visit. This is a proven approach in the wider housing sector and incentivises contractors to undertake simple preventative maintenance as well as asking, on each visit, if there are any other things they can fix while they are there.

Improved process for managing Additional Needs and Disability Adaptations (ANDAs). A target of up to 15 working days to find the right home for you, either one that already meets your requirements or that can be adapted as determined by the recommendations of your Occupational Therapist report. Look out for full details on the new ANDA process in the next edition of Army&You.

More robust targets and incentives. If suppliers fall below minimum standards there are financial consequences, but there are also financial incentives for them to exceed the minimum standard. This is a very different approach from the previous contract, where customer satisfaction had no impact on what Amey were paid. Suppliers will be allowed six months to embed the service before the targets start to bite.

Suppliers will fund compensation when at fault, not DIO. For example, when missing an appointment or failing to get a home ready for move-in.

Your concerns

During AFF’s Facebook Live about the new contracts in January, several of you asked about the continuation of existing works, quality assurance on first-time fixes, and if décor requests approved by Amey would be honoured. “All of the plans for upgrades and approvals have been passed to the current contract and upheld,” explains Air Commodore James Savage, Head of DIO Regional Delivery Accommodation.

“Repeats of the same failure won’t count as a first-time fix. I speak from my own experience of a repeat heating failure where the engineers only ever treated the symptom not the underlying cause,” he adds.

James is keen to drive a culture change in the delivery of housing services, focusing on your needs rather than process and policy. He says: “Our language has traditionally focused on properties and occupants rather than homes, community spaces and families. This can lead to a lack of empathy, a failure to put families at the heart of what we do and the dreaded phrase ‘it’s fit for purpose’.

“I’ve agreed with Pinnacle, Amey and VIVO that we must all make clear to our teams that our job is to provide homes for families, not properties for occupants, to a standard that befits the many sacrifices you make on behalf of the nation.”

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