Update on our Building Safety Roundtables
Wednesday 28th of October 2020
Not many in social housing will forget where they were at the time of the Grenfell Tragedy in 2017. It was a tragedy of epic proportions that has come to symbolise a moment in time where people decided enough was enough. Change was needed. What followed was reflection, anger, frustration, sadness, pain and inevitably a rise in demands on those whom we trust to keep us, our families and our communities safe.
I’m not expecting people to forget, as I will not forget that early June morning in 2017, but we must work positively together to create a better future. If we are to honour those who have been harmed directly or indirectly through systemic failures of the past, we must take this chance to drive culture change now.
I accept that not everyone welcomes change, but I believe that the imminent arrival of the new Building Safety Regulator and its raft of specific expectations will drive the most significant and positive cultural change the sector has seen for a very long time. Residents - tenants, leaseholders and others - have rightly been placed front and centre as clear and obvious stakeholders in the new legislation.
We'll need to be patient as there's lots of technical detail still missing, and some working in the housing sector will need to up their game especially when it comes to engaging with local communities. But with the right support nothing is impossible.
The good news is that at Tpas England we know a little bit about engaging communities, and we know that our members will want to do the right thing; not just stick to the letter of the law.
Manna from Heaven
The one element we at Tpas are excited to usher in is the expectation on owners of buildings in scope to produce a block specific Resident Engagement Strategy. Now there is little more exciting for an engagement professional than one of these – but to have it enshrined in legislation with clear expectations laid out – well that is manna from heaven!
So what have we done? We have set ourselves the task of creating, along with our members, a framework of what good looks like in these new Resident Engagement Strategies.
As with all things Tpas England you can be assured that we won’t stop at the minimum expectations – we will go further to really push for what it could look like in a great organisation so that anyone using our framework will be over and above the Regulator’s expectations.
What have we done?
After inviting interest from our members in the summer and receiving over seventy responses, we held our first three roundtables to set the scene, explain some of the complexities and terminologies, but also to start asking what really matters to residents.
What we found out
Over forty-five members attended and although the content exceeded what we are sharing today, here are some of the key topics that created a stir in the three sessions:
Communication. This will be a huge challenge for the accountable persons (those who own buildings). There is plenty to do in some areas to create the transparent behaviours so that information is timely, delivered in formats and methodologies that suit the intended audience.
There was one wonderful suggestion which was for the accountable person to create a ‘Ladder of Accountability’ showing who does what, who is responsible and how to contact them. We thought this a great idea that will definitely feature in the end framework.
Resident Responsibilities. Being clear on what a resident is responsible for and ensuring they know what that means will not be easy. For instance the need to ensure that appliances are safe will be something that could have huge implications, especially for those not in a financial position to replace items. Landlords may need to think about their support packages or advice services.
Suggestions of landlords offering Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) to their residents was interesting and practical?, but the concern about what happens if an appliance fails is one that will not go away so solutions will need to be found.
Involving residents. There was a clear expectation that in creating and facilitating a resident engagement strategy, local residents should be a part of that from its start to its implementation and monitoring. Accountable people are going to have to factor in the right time and support to facilitate this in a meaningful way. So we are not necessarily expecting a Blue Peter ‘here’s one we prepared earlier’ style approach.
Skills. There was a clear recognition that for some staff this may present a big challenge, as in some cases very technical people will have to engage more than they currently do, or have done. This is not to say they can’t, but it will be interesting to see how the behaviours change and how those interactions are managed so that projects can progress meeting expectations whilst reducing delays as much as possible.
Well there is plenty to still do and we are just at the beginning of what we hope will be sector-inspiring and help forge new relationships built of mutuality and co-operation. The good news is that we have some Landlord members who are on this journey and have agreed to share some of their examples. So we will be reviewing those examples first before we continue engaging with our members on the next steps.
If you are interested in being part of the development of our framework please contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org stating ‘Resident Engagement Strategies in Building Safety’ in the subject line.