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Welcome to the Index 2016, the summary findings from our fifth annual survey of Affinity Sutton residents across the country. Over the past five years we have seen significant increases in digital inclusion among residents and some very encouraging wellbeing results. We will use the findings from this year's survey to help us to build on these successes and better understand where we can make changes to support residents to maximise their life chances.
We know that we are in the middle of changing times - for the country, for our business and for our residents. Interviews this year took place in the immediate wake of the EU referendum result and following consultation with residents regarding Affinity Sutton's proposed merger with Circle. What the findings of the survey highlight particularly this year is that amid this change the topics that are important to residents are largely unaltered and the issues they face remain largely unchanged.
Where we are delivering the right services that resonate with residents' needs our messages are really getting through with an impressive 63% of residents having heard of our new secure digital portal MyAffinitySutton where they can easily check their account balance, pay rent and report a repair online. In contrast to this, only 9% said they had heard of our TwoWayStreet message setting out the rights and responsibilities of residents.
The learning from this is that we need to find ways to ensure that messages reminding residents of their responsibilities are read and understood as well as those that deliver an immediate benefit.
We are encouraged to see that 85% of residents feel in control of what happens in their life as we know that the wellbeing impact of this is significant (HACT social value of £12,470 p.a. per person) and this is consistent with last years' result of 84%.
What can also be seen from the results though is that welfare reforms are starting to impact quite severely on some groups and we are particularly concerned that 17% of our residents have gone without food to save money in the past year. This is not a satisfactory situation and we are investing heavily in our financial and employment support - something that the proposed merger with Circle will allow us to scale up significantly.
By working together with our residents and staff, I am confident that we can tackle these challenges and in our new merged structure with Circle we can continue to build on the successes of the past and deliver even better results for our residents.
85% of residents feel in control of what happens in their life
53% are aware of the money guidance on offer from Affinity Sutton (up from 43% last year)
36% of residents were not aware that their rent had decreased by 1% in April 2016
17% of residents went without food to save money in the last year
68% of residents think that it is important that Affinity Sutton builds new homes for sale and rent
30% say they are likely to buy their home under the extended Right to Buy
As well as managing rented homes, Affinity Sutton builds new properties for sale and rent to help address the severe housing shortage in this country. When asked, 62% of residents said they were aware that Affinity Sutton builds new homes for rent and sale. The Group aims to develop more affordable housing while continuing to invest in existing homes and communities.
Building new affordable homes is key to delivering our social aims and it is encouraging that residents also agree that it is important to do this.
of residents say it is important to them that Affinity Sutton builds more homes
Over previous years from 2013 to 2015, residents have increasingly agreed that more homes are needed in their area. This year however the overall proportion in agreement is slightly lower. This slight decrease, although not statistically significant on its own, breaks a three year trend of significant year-on-year increases.
It is possible that a reduced media focus on the housing crisis following high profile housing pledges in election manifestos may have contributed towards this. However it is worth noting that 30% of residents strongly agreed this year compared to 26% in 2015.
Whether the overall result marks a plateau or the start of a decline in concern about the housing shortage will start to become clearer over the next couple of years of this survey.
Last year found very little variance between operating regions in terms of how many residents believed that more homes were needed in their area. But this year the lower level of respondents in agreement overall is being driven by a significant decrease in the East region. The picture this year resembles much more closely what one might expect to see, with those living in areas where housing is under the most pressure feeling the greatest need for new homes.
Whether new homes should be built on land that has not been built on before (greenfield sites) has split opinion among residents in the past and this year is no different. Last year 43% agreed that homes should be built on greenfield sites and 44% disagreed; this year 42% agreed and 46% disagreed. Households with children living at home continue to be more supportive of building on greenfield sites, with 47% in agreement compared to 39% of those without children at home. Unlike last year where younger residents were more likely to agree that new homes should be built on greenfield sites, this year those aged 55+ are most likely to agree.
Over the past few years this survey has been focussed on resident behaviours and attitudes, and how they are experiencing the changing world around them. However, when residents were surveyed in 2013 a number of questions were asked about how they felt about Affinity Sutton. These included whether Affinity Sutton is open and transparent (56% agreed), whether it delivers value for money (60% agreed) and whether residents had trust and confidence in Affinity Sutton (63% agreed).
These questions have not been repeated year on year because without a service change or disruptive event these indicators are unlikely to change dramatically. This year however, Affinity Sutton is working towards a merger with Circle Housing, on which residents have been consulted. It is interesting to understand where resident confidence has shifted over the last three years and to help benchmark the new merged organisation. The question regarding trust and confidence in Affinity Sutton has therefore been repeated in the 2016 survey.
of residents agree that they have trust and confidence in Affinity Sutton compared to 63% when last asked in 2013
Trust and confidence in Affinity Sutton is more common among male residents than it is among female tenants but this has not always been true. In 2016 70% of men agreed with the statement, "I have trust and confidence in Affinity Sutton", compared to 65% of women whereas in 2013 gender had no impact on this result with both reporting the same level of trust. It is not immediately clear what might be driving this slight divergence but it is worth noting for future surveys since the gender profile of the merged organisation may be different and could impact on overall results.
When trust and confidence results are looked at by age, there is a similarity between this and the familiar bell shaped life satisfaction curve that sees a peak during youth and a decrease over time before recovering again as people become older.
It is important to Affinity Sutton that residents are able to make contact and access our services easily. To understand whether residents, or groups of residents, are finding it hard to access services a new question was asked in the 2016 survey: "How easy/difficult do you find it to access Affinity Sutton's services?" Overall, two thirds (64%) of residents say they find it easy to access these services with 11% saying they find it neither easy nor difficult. It is a concern however that a fifth (22%) say they find it difficult to access Affinity Sutton's services (3% did not know).
Understanding which groups may find services harder to access will be fundamental to Affinity Sutton being able to address this issue. There was no variation between regions or between those in work and those not working but male residents were slightly more likely to find services difficult to access (24% men and 20% of women responded this way). Perhaps most worryingly, 29% of residents with a long standing health problem or disability reported that they find services hard to access.
The chart shows how age impacts on residents' experience of accessing services with those aged 35-44 and 75+ finding it most difficult. Focus groups and further qualitative work with these particular groups may help to identify barriers to access, understand which particular services are difficult to access and enable Affinity Sutton to redesign services or offer additional support where required.
As more and more government services - including making benefit claims - move online, digital inclusion is seen as a core function for delivering the organisation's social value. Although there has been no change in how confident residents are regarding using online services, those in receipt of benefits are significantly more likely to say they are not confident (26%) than those who claim no benefits (18%). Affinity Sutton's Get Connected programme provides residents with the skills, motivation and opportunity to use the internet as an everyday tool to improve their lives - be it to save money, connect with friends and family, access benefits or help with learning and employment.
of Affinity Sutton residents have access to the internet
Affinity Sutton has been tracking whether residents have access to the internet since 2011 when just 57% of residents were online. The initial upward trend from then to 2013 appeared to plateau somewhat with no statistically significant change from 2013 to 2014 but as the chart on the right shows, this mirrored the national picture where connectivity held quite steady after year on year increases.
The results of this year's survey again show no statistically significant change from 2015 but whereas the stalling in progress from 2013 to 2014 echoed the national picture, the percentage of all British households online has continued to increase in 2016 so the gap between Affinity Sutton residents and the broader population has widened slightly. Further work to address the barriers to being online will be needed to ensure that residents do not get left behind - among those not online, a lack of ability (30%) or inclination (26%) were the main reasons given for not accessing the internet.
Whereas overall access to the internet has started to level off among Affinity Sutton residents, the proportion of those using mobile devices to access the internet continues to grow. The percentage of households accessing the internet via smartphone is a trend likely to continue as this is the most popular means for going online among younger residents who will make up an increasing proportion of the resident base over time. In 2016, 88% of 18-34 year-old residents said they can access the internet on their phone and 64% of residents with internet access already say this is how they usually go online.
Age continues to be the most significant driver of internet connectivity with young residents leading the way online as one of the most connected sub-group of residents. This is not to suggest that other age groups have remained static though; on the contrary, this year has seen a significant increase in those aged 65-74 being online with 58% having internet access this year compared to 49% in 2015. The greatest area of drop-off is among those aged 45-54 who reported in 2015 that 87% were online, now down to 79% in 2016. Some additional analysis may be required to understand if this change represents a statistical anomaly or if it needs to be addressed through targeting additional support to those in this age group.
Following last years' success story of residents in paid work increasing from 38% to 44%, the challenge over the past year has been to maintain this and to build on the work being carried out by our Ready2Work team. There has been no statistically significant change this year and the proportion of residents in full and part time work has remained unchanged.
Source: ONS http://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/measuringnationalwellbeing/2016#how-do-we-spend-our-time-and-are-we-satisfied-with-its-useWhile in the UK unemployment fell from 5.6% in May 2015 to 4.9% in May 2016, unemployment among Affinity Sutton residents has remained at 6%. Some of the rise in employment rates may be due to government attaching various conditions - such as minimum hours worked - to the payment of benefits but it is likely that the continuation of zero hour contracts and low-paid self-employment is also contributing to the decline in unemployment nationally. What remains difficult to understand or explain, is why the Affinity Sutton figure has remained static.
of residents are in paid work and this increases to 52% of working age residents
Male residents are more likely to be in full time paid work compared to their female counterparts who are split more evenly between full and part time work. Women are also more likely to be engaged in looking after the home and children as only 1% of male residents do this compared to 10% of women. The finding that a quarter of male residents are not in paid work due to disability or long term illness is certainly worth highlighting as support services need to meet the needs of this large group - either in assisting them to become work-ready or to ensure they receive the benefits they are entitled to.
|Working - Full time||35%||21%|
|Working - Part time||12%||19%|
|Full-time education at school, college or university||1%||1%|
|Disabled or long term illness||25%||16%|
|Looking after the home (includes caring for children)||1%||10%|
|Unemployed / looking for work||5%||7%|
Paid employment is not distributed evenly across Affinity Sutton operating regions with over half of residents in London working compared to just 31% in the North. Whilst some of this may be attributed to the age distribution among residents - 43% of residents in the North are over 55 compared to 27% in London - this does not explain the paid employment gap between the North and South and South West region where age demographics are similar. Further analysis of these results and others in the survey will be used to shape how and where resource for supporting tenants into work is delivered.
Affinity Sutton appreciates the positive impact of community and neighbourhood on personal wellbeing and supports residents to shape their estate or neighbourhood through local community projects. http://www.hact.org.uk/social-value-bankThe HACT Social Value Bank is a tool used to help measure the social impact of this work and attribute a monetary value to outcomes.
Although it remains unchanged from last year (the 1% increase this year is not statistically significant) it is encouraging that the majority of residents say they feel in control of what happens in their life. This measure has one of the highest HACT social values attached to it, equivalent to £12,470 p.a. per person.
of residents agree with the statement "I feel in control of what happens in my life"
Feeling in control is a key driver of resident wellbeing so it is important to identify those groups who do not feel in control and work with them to find ways for them to increase the influence they have over decisions that affect them.
39% of residents (n390 in survey sample) are disabled or have a long standing health problemOnly 77% of long-term ill or disabled residents agreed that they feel in control and although slightly higher than last year (75%) this remains a real concern. This year's respondents also showed variance by age with 90% of those just above retirement age feeling in control compared to just 78% of those just below retirement age. This may reflect welfare reforms impacting on working age households or that some may be caring for parents with children still living at home. More research is required to understand this and to identify a support offer.
Having a sense of belonging in one's neighbourhood has a wellbeing HACT value of £3,753 p.a. per person and 79% of Affinity Sutton residents agreed that they feel that they belong in their neighbourhood. This compares favourably with the national statistic Source: Community Life Survey 2015-2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/539105/2015_16_community_life_survey_data.csv/preview accessed 16/08/16 at 09:29where 71% said they feel that they strongly or quite strongly belong in their neighbourhood. Similarly encouragingly, although down slightly from last year, 84% of Affinity Sutton residents say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their neighbourhood.
Talking to neighbours is one of the measures of wellbeing that government use to understand social cohesion and how resilient people's local networks are. Source: Community Life Survey 2015-2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-life-survey-2015-to-2016-dataAccording to the government's Community Life Survey, of all regions, Northerners are most likely and Londoners are the least likely to speak to their neighbours regularly.
There is a clear trend by age band in the national statistics with older residents most likely to speak to their neighbours. While the age pattern finding is echoed in the Affinity Sutton results, the regional picture is slightly different with the lowest proportion of residents saying they talk to their neighbours being found in the East (66%) and the highest in the South and South West (82%).
Affinity Sutton offers a wide range of financial inclusion services from money management courses to access to banking and affordable loans. These aim to help residents maximise their income and manage their household finances without having to depend on expensive credit. Last year's survey highlighted the need to promote these services as 47% of residents in 2015 were worried about money issues but less than half of this group were aware of the support available. This year the Community Investment team have focussed on ensuring that residents are more informed of the financial inclusion offer.
of residents are aware that Affinity Sutton offers guidance to help them manage their money, up from 43% last year
Residents continue to worry about money with 46% reporting that they are either very worried or quite worried. There is no statistically significant difference between those who are working and those who are not but those with children living at home are far more likely to worry about money (54%), as are those with a long standing health issue or disability (52%). Only 39% of residents not in receipt of benefits say they worry about money compared to 49% of those receiving benefits. When looked at by age band it is clear that those of working age are much more worried about money issues than the over 65's. This is consistent with the working age focus of government welfare cuts.
Money Advice Service segmentation https://masassets.blob.core.windows.net/cms/files/000/000/373/original/Segmenting_Financial_Resilience_conference_slides.pdf According to the Money Advice Service (MAS), a key indicator of how households manage their money is their resilience to minor shocks. One of the questions asked in their segmentation of UK households is "How would you settle an unexpected bill of £300?".
Affinity Sutton added this question to this year's survey because it offers a useful indication of how residents might be able to cope if they needed to find £300 quickly and potentially offer alternatives to groups who may choose expensive credit or options that damage their credit rating such as using an unauthorised overdraft.
In response to this question residents chose a wide range of options to settle an unexpected bill but only 48% would be able to pay with their own money or savings.
The ways in which residents answered this question can be seen on the following page.
Having a final will and testament is an indicator of financial planning and potentially some gauge of household financial resilience. Source: unbiased.co.uk Write a Will Week data: 30-1 October 2015, among 2,006 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+ https://www.unbiased.co.uk/write-and-register-a-willWorryingly only 20% of Affinity Sutton residents say they have a Will compared to 42% of the general population. Perhaps understandably, having a Will is least common among the youngest group of residents (2% of 18-24 year olds) but certainly most alarmingly, given the guardianship element of a Will, only 14% of residents with children living at home have written a Will. Affinity Sutton does not currently promote the need to have a last will and testament but this result may prompt a campaign to encourage residents to do this.
The proportion of residents with money left at the end of the week/month has increased significantly since 2015, driven by a decrease in the proportion who say they only have enough for the essentials. In the current economic climate and the lack of movement on employment rates among Affinity Sutton residents it is fairly unlikely that this is a result of households having more money.
What it perhaps indicates is that households are budgeting differently and even redefining what is considered essential. The 35-54 age group remains significantly less likely to have money left at the end of the week/month (22%) than 18-34 (32%) and 55+ (37%).
This is likely to be partly driven by this group being more likely to have children in the home as 34% of those without children have money left at the end of the month compared to just 23% of those with children.
The chart on the following page shows the marked increase in residents with money left at the end of the month over last year.
Across most credit and spending related measures there has been no statistically significant change this year with 5% of Affinity Sutton residents using a quick cash loan or cash converters compared to 7% last year and 15% using a catalogue or weekly payment store compared to 16% in 2015. Encouragingly, the percentage of households saving money has increased significantly and the percentage who have gone without heating to save money has decreased significantly. It is worrying however that 17% of residents went without food at some point in the last year to save money, over a quarter (26%) of single people did and 2% of residents only avoided this by using a food bank.
Last year 71% of residents said they had heard about the government's plans to extend the Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants. The proportion reporting that they have heard of the policy this year has fallen to 61%. The Right to Buy extension was a key Conservative Party election pledge that featured in their manifesto and numerous pre-election speeches so there was a good deal of mainstream media coverage of the proposal last year. Therefore it is likely that the lack of media attention since the election - and the pre-occupation with 'Brexit' over the summer - has resulted in it being less front-of-mind for residents.
of residents had heard about the government's plans to extend the Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants
Alongside the apparent reduction in awareness of the Right to Buy extension there is no corresponding decrease in those saying they are very likely to exercise their Right to Buy this year (15% in 2015, 17% in 2016). There is however a significant increase in those saying they are very unlikely to purchase their home and fewer residents choosing the 'middle' options. This may indicate a firming of opinions over the year as residents have had longer to think about it or it may simply mean that more information is available regarding eligibility, property values and likely discounts.
Last year, residents were asked if they would use a secure web area to log-in and pay their rent, check for updates, log repairs and make enquiries if this option was made available. Over half of residents said they were likely or very likely to use this service in 2015. This year Affinity Sutton launched this web portal and called it MyAffinitySutton but understood that key to its uptake would be how well it was communicated to generate awareness. The greatest awareness of the service is among 18-34 year olds (77%) which is encouraging as it means the core message is landing well with the target group for this service.
This continues to support the Customer Strategy to provide services that are 'Digital by Choice' rather than 'Digital by Default' as not all customer groups are comfortable using online services; and even those who are happy transacting online may prefer other communication types depending on what they are doing.
of residents had heard of the new online portal MyAffinitySutton
Although the majority of Affinity Sutton residents now have access to the internet it is clear that for some transactions they retain a preference for telephone contact. If they need to make a complaint for example, residents say that telephone would be by far their preferred communication channel (80%), perhaps because it has an immediacy and personal touch that digital communication may lack.
Over the past three years there has been an increase in residents stating telephone as a preference in this scenario and this is partly driven by a decrease in the proportion wanting to make a complaint face to face.
According to the English Housing Survey, EHS, 2014 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/english-housing-survey-2014-energy-report18% of all households found it fairly or very difficult to meet heating and fuel costs in 2014 but among social renters this figure increased to 36%. Residents on low incomes and especially those with children disproportionately feel the impact of energy price increases and this year 22% of Affinity Sutton residents said they had gone without heating to save money in the past 2 years.
of residents in receipt of benefits went without heating to save money in the past 2 years
Previous 45% of Affinity Sutton residents used a prepayment meter for household energy compared to 14% and 16% nationally for gas and electricity respectively in 2015. Source: The Index 2015 p.37Affinity Sutton surveys found that residents are far more likely to use prepayment meters (the most expensive way to pay for energy) to pay for their household energy than is typical nationally. But many said it was their preference to do this as they could control how much was being spent. Based on these findings Affinity Sutton refocused work to influence the energy sector to reduce the cost of using prepayment meters rather than persuading residents away from using them. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5773de34e5274a0da3000113/final-report-energy-market-investigation.pdfAffinity Sutton therefore supports the CMAS report recommendation and https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/system/files/docs/2016/08/response_to_the_cmas_final_report.pdfOfgem's resulting proposal to cap energy prices for households using prepayment meters in April 2017, particularly since this year more than half (55%) of residents said they are worried about increasing energy bills.
Concern about rising energy costs is felt across all resident groups but those in receipt of benefits are significantly more likely to be worried than those not receiving any.
Market Research Society Company Partner, Qa Research Ltd was commissioned to undertake this year's resident survey with randomised customer contact details provided by Affinity Sutton. A similar methodology was used to previous years and telephone interviews were carried out with a representative sample of 1,000 residents. Quotas were used for age, gender and region and all calls were completed between 20 June and 11 July 2016.
The questionnaire design replicated the order that similar questions had appeared in previous years to ensure results were comparable and it was timed to be no more than 15 minutes long to prevent incomplete interviews. To ensure the survey was as inclusive as possible, calls were made at different times of day including evenings and weekends. Where Affinity Sutton resident data from 2012 and 2013 is cited the source is DJS Research Ltd, where figures for 2014-16 and 2011 are used the source is Qa Research Ltd.
Affinity Sutton would like to thank all residents who participated in this survey and made this report possible.
Published September 2016
Affinity Sutton Group Limited
Level 6, 6 More London Place
Tooley Street, London SE1 2DA