To Boldly Go
Monday 24th of October 2022
Tpas Policy and Insight Manager, Caritas Charles, reflects on the Scrutiny Conference, and going boldly where the housing sector has never gone before.
I’m writing this several days after an amazing Tpas Scrutiny Week with several online events and a magnificent Scrutiny Conference in Nottingham. We have so much to feel down about a the moment; be it a lack of leadership, conflict abroad or the rise in poverty that we find little to be positive about. But I finished the week with optimism and hope and a new found energy.
Why did I feel this way?
It's because of the reason I love the work I do, it’s about the people I meet, the ideas they have and the passion they display. Tenant scrutiny I believe is one of the biggest untapped resources in housing. To varying degrees, it plays a part in the work of every housing provider, but it needs to be more than that. It needs to be an integral part of the working structure of every Housing Association, Local Authority and ALMO in the country.
From April next year we are entering a new world in housing. A new regulatory regime that will see a long called for greater emphasis on the voice of tenants, and hopefully an increase in tenants being seen as the landlord’s partner in delivering effective services and not just a recipient of them.
During Scrutiny Week I found a multitude of examples where this happens already. Where tenant scrutineers are not only highlighting concerns but are actively working with landlords to resolve them. I heard how a scrutiny team was working with local community groups around issues of ASB. I was told how another group held regular catchup meetings with their Chief Executive and Board to discuss the progress of key recommendations. I also heard concerns and frustrations too. Some felt that they weren’t independent enough in how they operated, and others felt they weren’t getting the information they needed to properly scrutinise.
What linked all the people I met behind these examples was the sheer determination to succeed their enthusiasm to better the lives of all who lived in the landlords’ properties and their willingness to achieve this in partnership.
Scrutiny Week taught me that some amazing work is going on but if we are really going to face the challenges of the future, we must ask ourselves, if we aren’t already, some soul-searching questions:
- Do we have a culture that puts tenant engagement on a level with good governance and financial viability?
- Are all our tenants aware that they can raise concerns, suggest improvements, and influence the services they receive?
- Can tenants do the above using a multitude of methods and technology at times and locations to suit them?
- Are we ensuring all the information is available to tenants to ensure informed involvement?
- Are we collecting the right information identifying outcomes and ensuring ongoing monitoring of results?
If no is the answer to any of these then Tpas can help, but more importantly so can tenants.
I opened the Scrutiny Conference with a reference to Star Trek, and how it links to good scrutiny (trust me you needed to be there...) I talked about how, like Star Trek, we have the opportunity to create a positive housing universe that boldly goes where the housing sector has never been before. I encourage all of you to jump on board and explore this new frontier.