Update on the Social Housing White Paper and Together with Tenants

10 September 2020

Government ministers have announced in Parliament that the Social Housing White Paper will be published later this year. 

We do not yet know what will be in the white paper, but we aniticipate that many of the themes of the Social Housing Green Paper, published in August 2018, will be taken forward. 

One of the five principles set out in the green paper was 'improving and speeding up how complaints are resolved'. This is something we know the government is interested in and, in fact, has already taken some practical steps to address. 

It has already given the Housing Ombudsman Service strengthened powers and resources to speed up the resolution of complaints and investigate systemic issues. You can read more about this in a recent blog by the Housing Ombudsman, Richard Blakeway. 

We have recently learned that the government is also looking to carry out a focused survey to better understand how residents currently experience the complaints process. This will not look at individual landlords, but will be used to assess whether residents understand the whole system and find it easy to navigate. 

On this basis, we anticipate that the forthcoming white paper may include some more definitive ideas on how we can collectively ensure that residents understand their opportunities to complain and seek redress when things go wrong. 

When we are speaking to the government about the white paper, we are clear that our sector has made significant progress already in building a stronger relationship with residents since the publication of the green paper.

We have acknowledged though that there is more we can do to ensure the voice and experience of residents is listened to and valued. We have shown leadership on this through our Together with Tenants work and our draft Code of Governance

The Together with Tenants Charter is explicit about our commitment on complaints and redress. It states: 

"When things go wrong – tenants and residents will have simple and accessible routes for raising issues, making complaints and seeking redress. Tenants and residents will receive timely advice and support when things go wrong."

We paused our Together with Tenants work temporarily while we focused on the immediate challenges of the coronavirus crisis, but we are now actively working on our plans for rollout later this year. You'll hear more about this over the next couple of months, and we'll be sharing learning from the 130 early adopters who worked and their residents to test the plan. 

We know some of our members will have concerns about the direction of the white paper, but ministers, officials and the regulator have continually urged us not to wait to take action on the issues explored in the green paper. Our Together with Tenants work demonstrates that as a sector we have taken responsibility for progressing this important agenda, and we will be looking to make sure this is understood and reflected in the white paper.