2022 has been a challenging year for our customers, communities, and ourselves, as we have all navigated the cost-of-living crisis. Team Orwell has worked hard through 2022 to find innovative ways to support customers who have been struggling. The work that our Tenancy Sustainment team, housing officers and care and support teams do to put customers at our heart has never been more important. This has showed that, as we enter our 60th year in 2023, Orwell has evolved into so much more than just a landlord; we are an organisation which cares about the people and communities in which we work and delivers on our mission of “Together we make a Difference.”
Despite the challenging environment, we remain strong and whilst costs have increased in the year, in particular in the care and support and repairs division, other areas of the business have performed well and have helped to keep costs under control and somewhat mitigate the impact of inflation and agency staff costs. We remain focused on improving value for money across the business and continuing to develop new services to help meet the ever-increasing demand for our affordable homes and our care and support services.
In 2022, we launched our Staying Close project in Ipswich in partnership with Suffolk County Council. This project enables children leaving care to be provided with their first home, supported by our service at Christchurch House. We have also taken on the lease of 130 extra care flats, 70 in Harwich and a further 60 in Walton-on-the-Naze. These projects saw us take on the care and support contract, as well as the employment of 70 new colleagues, working in partnership with the building owners, Funding Affordable Homes, and Essex County Council to put these schemes on a long-term sustainable footing. A further 36 new build homes were developed in the year for social and affordable rent and shared ownership, and we have a further 51 homes currently under construction that will hand over in 2023.
A huge thank you to all my colleagues in Team Orwell, our hardworking and supportive Board, and to all our engaged customers, whether on formal structures such as the Orwell Residents Group or Think Tanks or just those who regularly communicate with us. Your feedback, involvement and dedication help to ensure that we continue to improve our services.
We have a new Strategic Plan in place for 2023 outlining our ambitions for the next five years and so whilst external pressures will continue to be a challenge I feel positive about the future and our ability to continue to improve services for our customers, hear and listen to their voice and make positive steps towards our vision; that everyone should have a safe place to call home with the care and support they need to live their best life.
Wendy Evans-Hendrick, CEO