As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent Government-ordered lockdown of the UK from 23 March 2020, the unprecedented last few months have been the most challenging in our 50-plus year history.  I am extremely proud to lead an organisation with a strong social purpose of providing sheltered housing to those who need it most, today more than ever.

Over the last year, before lockdown, when I visit each complex, St. Anne’s and St. Margaret’s, I am struck by the dedication and hard work of our people and the commitment with which they carry out their work. This has been illustrated even more clearly by recent events.

I am incredibly proud of the way the CWL Housing – Pam and her team, have quickly adapted to new ways of working. They deserve our particular appreciation and I am deeply grateful for the way they have gone the extra mile in the most difficult of circumstances.

The commitment and care shown to residents by staff in our homes is as humbling as it is inspiring. The communities we serve have also come together to help each other in the most extraordinary ways. The inevitable, temporary changes to our services were accepted with patience and resilience. However, the guidelines we have issued from time-to-time throughout this pandemic, following changing government guidelines has inevitably been a source of some frustration. That said it is imperative to point out that these guidelines are there to protect residents and staff, as well as carers, family and friends.

The overall financial outturn for the year was satisfactory but it was somewhat less than hoped for. During the latter part of the financial year the economy and markets reacted negatively to the Covid-19 pandemic. This brought about a significant decline in our investments. Since then, thankfully, our investments have recovered, so we are currently not making a loss. Nevertheless, we continue expect significant volatility over the next 12 months and this will influence how we manage our cash surplus. In addition, for the first time in almost a decade we hit our maximum number of voids (5% – the national average), as a result of Codid-19 and resourcing issues.

We continue to invest heavily in the refurbishment and maintenance of our resident’s home. This year we committed some £94,000.00 and, as ever, we are continuing to look for ways to further enhance the quality of resident’s lives. At all times we are looking to achieve ‘value for money’ but not at the expense of quality. This means that we are constantly reviewing and scrutinising our cost base

As you are aware, we are committed to creating a new complex, with some 20 to 30 homes; within the South Essex area, over the next few years. As a result, we have had discussion and agreement with a bank offering to facilitate a mortgage. In addition, we have had discussions with another housing association in order to facilitate access of a grant through Homes England; and are liaising with other external people and organisations. Nevertheless, we are not anticipating any immediate announcements and indeed expect that we are in for a long haul; possible two or more years.

As our country rebuilds its economy over the next few years at the very least and emerges from this extraordinary period, there may be a number of unique and unexpected challenges ahead.

We are mindful as we continue to be prudent in all our deliberations; the organisation continues to be financially robust; and we are blessed with a committed and exemplary team.  That gives me and the board renewed confidence for the future.