Shelter is a basic human need and I’m fortunate to be responsible for ensuring the provision of accommodation for tens of thousands of Service personnel and their families. I am Brigadier Martin Boswell and I’d like to explain why Service accommodation is important and why customer delivery is at the heart of everything my team does.
Many people outside of the Ministry Of Defence are not aware of the lengths to which the MOD goes to look after the welfare of its people, including a vital daily component for many - the provision of Service accommodation. Having been in the Army for over 30 years, I fully understand the importance of good quality accommodation to the Armed Forces and their families, and the role it plays in building a Service community which offers mutual support or Unit cohesiveness. This is a long standing part of Service life that reflects the unique lifestyles and working environments of soldiers, sailors and airmen.
Accommodation can be provided for a number of reasons, including during operational duty on land and at sea; however, I am responsible for overseeing the management of Service Family Accommodation (SFA) in the UK (some 45,000 households), as well as elements of Single Living Accommodation (SLA) and associated services, including the provision of furniture.
Focused on customer service improvement
My team (DIO Service Delivery Accommodation) has always been very customer focused. We are perhaps unique in the Defence Infrastructure Organisation in that whilst we are focused on supporting and engaging with our top level customers, such as the ‘Army’, we also directly support the end user - Service personnel and their families - on a daily basis. In dealing with the families we also often become alert to their welfare.
You’d be surprised at the breadth and depth of activities that my staff become involved in. For a start there are supporting services, such as dealing with utilities billing, managing charges for damages, handling complaints and compliance activities. There are also a number of other duties that my staff undertake such as managing neighbourhood issues and engaging with the local Chain of Command to discuss and resolve issues. It is the heartfelt intimate detail and the involvement of the whole Chain of Command, from customer to Secretary of State, that never ceases to amaze me.
It was clear, when I took over the assignment earlier this year, that great progress has been made in the provision of SFA and despite the many and diverse challenges we face, I have been very keen to build momentum. In the short term we have been concentrating on delivering a number of key improvements, following consultation with staff and stakeholders earlier this year. We are in the final stages of launching ‘Total Patch Management’, where our local housing staff will have time specifically set aside to manage their areas of responsibility more effectively for the benefit of families. We are also tackling the causes of mould, which is a major concern to some of our customers, by targeting investment in properties where this has been a consistent issue. This should make a real difference to the lives of many families.
A busy year ahead
As well as ongoing service delivery, we will need to manage a number of different but concurrent challenges in 2014.
We have been focusing our efforts on planning the demobilisation of our current maintenance contracts and ensuring we are business ready for the Next Generation Estates Contract National Housing Prime (NHP), which is due in 2014. These efforts will continue.
We will also have to prepare for other challenges on the horizon, such as the additional surge of Servicemen and women to the UK from Germany, and we must prepare ourselves for changes in the way that the DIO is managed.
But we must never forget what we are here for and that Service personnel and their families depend on the services that we provide. That’s why our vision is to have satisfied customers who know that we are committed to providing world class accommodation services. Whatever 2014 throws at us, we will need to keep this in the forefront of our minds at all times.