Important news: Engaging Communities Conference 2020

Tuesday 10th of March 2020

The Tpas Engaging Communities Conference is the largest gathering of engagement housing professionals in the country; we bring you the latest housing policy briefings, a diverse range of interactive sessions, workshops and case studies looking at everything engagement.

Important news - a message from Jenny:

I am writing to you to let you know that we have today taken the decision to postpone the Engaging Communities Conference scheduled for 21st/22nd April. It’s not a decision I have taken lightly and I would like to explain our reasons why.

We have been monitoring the Coronavirus advice and situation like everyone else. We are committed to first following government advice but also taking a pragmatic and thoughtful approach that respects and helps our members and clients.

The Engaging Communities Conference in itself is unlikely to come under the Government guidance for a “large gathering” but for us that’s not the point. We are already at 80 bookings for the event against our expectation of circa 100 people. Until Coronavirus, and particularly how cases are growing fast this past week, we had no reason to think it wouldn’t be another sold out success. But we have to be realistic on where we are now.

We are now hearing from clients in the housing sector that they are understandably starting to scale back on non-urgent external meetings. No one knows how the situation will worsen over the coming weeks but the sense from most reports is that there will be more cases, peaking around Easter time before we see a slowdown in the later spring/summer.

On Monday, health officials said people who showed "even minor" signs of respiratory tract infections or a fever would soon be told to self-isolate for seven days in an effort to tackle the outbreak. The change in advice could happen within the next 10 to 14 days, according to the UK's chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty.

And given the ongoing uncertainly about whether schools may need to close in the coming weeks it all makes for a challenging but still unknown picture.

All I ever want for a Tpas event, but particularly this one, is for attendees to have an excellent experience of high quality workshops and debates and a chance to network and share good practice with colleagues from right across England and beyond.

If lots of housing staff are being told not to attend then we could be looking at an event where many delegates cannot come along, as much as they would like to. A great event needs a certain number of people to give the energy and the buzz.

Our event also relies on speakers, facilitators and leaders from across the sector attending to share their knowledge for free. In the current circumstances that feel it’s an ask too far of our relationship with them. It also means that I cannot guarantee all workshop leaders and speakers will be able to attend as advertised and planned.

We also recognise that the priority for housing staff at the moment has to be their tenants and continuing to supply services to them as best you can through the next few weeks of uncertainty. If we at Tpas can help that by moving our event to a calmer time then we feel it’s right to do so.

Am I 100% sure I am making the right decision? To be honest I am not sure I am but this is unprecedented times and it feels right to be decisive now rather than both you and us incurring costs, organisation time or stress that we don’t have to do to ourselves.

We have now instead rescheduled the conference back to its original time of the year and will run it on 8/9th March 2021. We have rebooked the hotel for these dates and signed the contract. So please do get these dates in your diary! I promise it will be Engaging Communities bigger and better than ever.

Some of the workshops from the conference programme were to be around changing culture, accountability and co creation. We will instead run some webinars over April and May on these topics, or more, to ensure learning and sharing on these issues can continue in the meantime.

At the moment we are going ahead with our National Tenant Conference in July but will keep reviewing the situation as the next month develops. We will also be continuing with The Tpas Awards on 27th March unless government advice tells us otherwise.

Thank you for your understanding and so sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Kind regards,

Jenny Osbourne
Tpas Chief Executive