Novus Blog

A Novus Contract Liason Officer talking to a woman in the doorway


Kevin Rhone our Head of Social Value and Customer Service, discusses CSR partnerships between contractors and registered providers. Now more than ever, contractors want to be bolder in their CSR efforts and the days of these initiatives being a tick-box exercise are over. Contractors recognise the commercial benefits and housing providers have an opportunity to make better use of this. Could landlords and their suppliers be bolder in creating initiatives together? The answer is: absolutely. If you are still of the mindset that contractors view CSR with cynicism, then you need to look at efforts by the sector outside of contractual obligations. The construction industry recognises that CSR’s benefits extend beyond just improving communities. For instance, CSR is a fantastic way of bringing staff together and building a positive workforce culture. As a result, it can help retain talent and inspire workforces. We have seen CSR projects really drive home these positives in our own teams. Our charity initiative last year saw us invest £100,000 across five transformational projects around the UK – each nominated by local communities. The campaign, called the Novus Big Five, galvanised our workforce as well as engaging local people. It united our colleagues up and down the country under a common goal while also supporting our values as a family-owned business.  It’s also highlighted the benefits of working with communities themselves to generate ideas for CSR. The initiatives over the year included a range of projects from a refurbishment of a rehabilitation centre for military veterans struggling with addiction to a new ward at a hospital in Brighton for parents who had lost their child during labour, which gives them the space they need to grieve. The range of worthy projects nominated far exceeded the ideas we would have had alone. The learning is that landlords and housing associations should create open forums where contractors on the ground and communities feel empowered to generate their own ideas for CSR. Our workforces are often social landlords’ eyes and ears on the ground in their estates and people living there have an unmatched understanding of the area itself. Together they have a unique insight into where money could be best spent to solve issues. In addition, getting early buy-in from the community and contractor workforces themselves can lead to a valuable initial groundswell of support for projects, including additional fundraising. As partners, we should set ambitious targets too and put as much pressure on ourselves to generate bigger results. However, it isn’t necessarily about investing more time and money, it’s about making sure that, whatever we’re doing, that it can create a lasting difference. By thinking about CSR from the bottom up and asking communities and contractor teams on the ground where they see the biggest issues in communities can help social landlords to make much bigger impacts in their communities.
Elderly woman walking through care home corridor with walking aid


With over 421,000 people in the UK staying in residential care, it’s important that there are residential properties that meet the necessary standards. The challenges of meeting these standards are all too real for many care homes but through our extensive experience and proven techniques we are able to work with them and achieve compliance. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England. They carry out inspections to make sure the services provided are safe, effective and compassionate. Therefore, the premises where residents live and receive care must be clean, secure and well-looked after.   The CQC’s latest ratings show that there is still room for improvement within our care home system in the UK. Just under a third (31%) of care homes inspected have been rated as ‘requiring improvement’ or ‘inadequate’. With reports indicating that 190,000 new care home places will be needed by 2020, it’s important that property owners are aware of how to effectively specify and manage any renovations that are required, the key considerations when carrying out the work and how to appoint the right contractor. What considerations do care home owners need to have? With over 850,000 people in the UK[1] living with dementia, and there being no signs of it decreasing, there is a higher demand for care homes that support dementia sufferers. Dementia is now one of the main causes of disability in later life and having this condition can be extremely confusing and frightening, as well as being challenging for family members. Care home residents require functional spaces that create a sense of calm, reducing any unnecessary agitation. Just navigating round a room can be difficult and disorientating for someone living with the condition. Where can improvements be made in care homes? With every care home renovation project the two main things we consider are the residents’ safety and their well-being. With dementia patients, a key consideration is improving how easily residents can navigate through their home. Safety Dementia can have a negative effect on someone’s safety. They can be confused about using appliances, changes in their routine, experience physical difficulties and memory issues, such as remembering to turn things off. When renovating a care home, it’s important to consider all aspects of safety. We replace doors, add handrails and carry out electrical rewiring, especially to make sure the fire separation between floors and walls and corridors is in place and fire alarms work. We work hard to create an accessible and user-friendly environment, replacing electrical sliding doors and motion sensors throughout the care home. Navigation People living with dementia, can experience a severe decline in navigational skills. Labelling and clear signage can help avoid residents feeling lost. Simply worded signs or pictures can be placed on or around the doors of essential rooms, such as the bathroom, living area and bedroom.   The use of different colours per corridor can be used to help dementia sufferers recognise which floor they are on. The use of colour and contrast can be really helpful and using block colours, however, avoiding heavily patterned wallpaper. We can work with our suppliers to select dementia friendly colour schemes, with colours discussed and sometimes chosen by the residents. Well-being Residents can spend a lot of time indoors due to mobility issues, so care homes should feel open with lots of natural light. We remodel communal areas and move rooms around to ensure the spaces created, suits the needs of its residents. We can even create beautiful orangeries so that residents can enjoy watching the wildlife in the gardens. As part of renovation works, we can also landscape open spaces and gardens and repair walkways to ensure they are safe for all residents. Our social value has also led us to projects that have required us to refurb worn and tired benches so that residents can still enjoy an outdoor seating area. Health and safety is a big priority throughout the delivery of a care home project. Workers at Novus are all DBS cleared and trained in customer care, equality, diversity and dementia. It’s a sensitive environment to work in.   Ensuring our care home renovations create minimal disruption When renovating a care home, it is of upmost importance to keep resident disruption to a minimum. Residents with dementia may have additional support requirements, including the need to maintain their own routine and we work sensitively around this, maintaining occupation of their rooms if at all possible, whilst maintaining a safe environment. At the start of a project, we ensure all residents and Scheme Managers are fully informed about the work that will be carried out. A Resident Liaison Officer (RLO) supports the work on site and ensures effective communication between the site team, residents and the care home staff, throughout the project. We begin each major renovation project by launching a welcome meeting, where the project team gets introduced to all the residents. In the introduction they will provide an explanation of the planned work, and answer any queries residents may have. Following this, the RLO will post letters that informs residents of any project updates, which can also be posted on communal boards. Weekly meetings can be organised to discuss the status of the work and health and safety updates to ensure residents are fully informed throughout.  Corridor monitors can be put in place to manage and monitor the movement of residents. These monitors are a great way to prevent residents from coming into contact with live working areas, especially for those residents who suffer with dementia who may get confused easily. We always want to walk away from our renovation projects, knowing we have made a positive impact on the residents’ lives. To avoid disruption, such as the removal of scaffolding, one example from previous projects included the RLO arranging to take the residents out to a local fish shop. To find out more about this, read our Riverside Housing case study. We also try to obtain valuable feedback from residents. At our Willowcroft refurbishment, we hosted a coffee morning and Bingo game in order to obtain feedback, whilst also offering the opportunity for residents to socialise. By obtaining this feedback it allows us to get to grips with the positive and maybe not so positive aspects of the project in order for us to leave with a confident, lasting impression. If you own a care home and are looking for a service that can provide highly effective refurbishments, transforming your facilities and improving the standards of living, find out more about how we can help here. [1]
Close up of the Queens head on a bank note


Neil Washington, Finance Director at contractor Novus Property Solutions, explains how clients and the industry should work harder to enforce better payment practices to strengthen the SME supply chain The obligation on firms to disclose their payment terms came into effect in 2017 but judging by the headlines so far in 2019, many industries are still struggling to meet best practice. The construction industry is not alone, yet the subject of late payments in the sector has very specific ramifications for its long-term health. You can see how the industry got itself into this state. Many of the largest listed contractors operate on extremely tight margins and must satisfy investors in the City. Paying subcontractors promptly can often fall down the list of priorities, either deliberately or not. At Novus we’ve strived to reduce our payment terms because of the issues late payment causes. We now take only 26 days to pay subcontractors on average and this puts us in the top five quickest among the industry’s largest 100 contractors ranked by Construction News, where the average time to pay is 43 days. We don’t have any different accounting methods or invoicing systems, it’s purely in our culture to pay our subcontractors on time. We’re a family-owned business and that plays a part in cultivating values like this. But the construction industry is a varied beast and each contractor has different internal pressures. In some cases, larger contractors will use cash which is due to be paid to their supply chain as working capital and without pressure from clients to change this, it could carry on for a long time. While late payments must now be recorded and published, more could be done to accelerate change. The issues it causes Main contractors and their supply chains have a symbiotic relationship. Paying on time and ensuring that subcontractors can maintain good cashflow means that they will be more likely to accept more work and do a good quality job. It’s also rare that a subcontractor will only be working for just one bad payer at any given time. This can so drastically affect their cashflow that they risk going bust. The industry faces a huge skills shortage and access to labour, particularly specialist skills, is increasingly difficult. Often these skills come from smaller businesses. A weakened supply chain drives up costs and results in longer project timeframes for clients. What can larger contractors and clients do? While most clients stipulate good payment terms when appointing a major contractor, very few follow this up during projects. We’d advocate a review of payment practice statistics as part of the bidding process and spot checks on payments during contract periods to ensure contractors are making good on their promises. It’s clear that public shaming may not be doing enough to push the industry and going against the curve like Novus has done can be difficult, particularly when your competitors aren’t doing much themselves. Direction from clients could initiate a huge change for the benefit of local businesses while reducing long-term construction costs.
Over head shot looking down at three office workers using a  calculator and writing on large paper


The construction industry is known for being one of the poorest industries for pay inequality and gender diversity.  Following the publishing of the 2018 gender pay gap report, find out more information on how we at Novus are making positive changes within the construction industry. Construction News has released the gender pay statistics for the top 100 contractors and, as with supply chain payment performance we have performed well for our industry. Overall, we have the 18th smallest gap (19.8%) and have made the 9th biggest improvement (-5.6%) compared to 2017 levels based on the median salary levels which are considered the most accurate indicator. In 2018, we have seen a positive shift towards better gender diversity and with that our mean and median hourly rate and bonus data have improved significantly. The gender balance of our shareholding, executive management and leadership continued to improve in 2018 and this benefitted the business in, ensuring that our approach, practices and decision making considers the broadest views and perspectives. Whilst we are proud of our achievements in 2018, we are determined to close the gender pay gap further by ensuring we have a positive, fair, open and transparent culture and will continue to offer: ·         Attractive and fulfilling roles ·         A flexible working environment ·         Great quality leadership and management ·         Accessible development and progression opportunities ·         Fair and consistent rewards and benefits “At Novus, we understand that we have an important part to play in presenting a more positive perception of our sector and although there is no quick-win solution, we recognise the benefits of continuing to develop our culture and our workplace for the benefit of our clients, our customers, the communities we work in and our colleagues” Alan Nixon, CEO. To discover more about gender pay gap, read our report here.
Sophie Seddon-Hall
Telephone: 07973 345873