Creating a Resident Scrutiny Panel at Radcliffe Housing Society

As early adopters of Together with Tenants, Radcliffe Housing Society have created a Resident Scrutiny Panel (RSP), as part of our commitment to strengthen our relationship with residents and deliver safe, decent and affordable homes.

What's the story?

Together with Tenants embodies all the great work happening across the sector to create positive relationships with residents. But it also challenges the sector to go further – presenting an opportunity for housing associations to take responsibility for accountability and resident oversight.

Through Together with Tenants, we’ve looked at how we can embed a culture across our organisation that values the voice and experience of residents and strengthens the relationship between residents and social landlords.

At the heart of this work is a set of commitments, the Together with Tenants Charter, which we signed up as early adopters, setting out what our residents can expect in terms of engagement and their influence. It also outlines the opportunity for residents to report on how well their landlord delivers on these commitments.

This was an important step to ensure we understood the measures outlined in the Social Housing White Paper, which aims to deliver improvement in transparency and accountability. The paper sets out a Charter for social housing residents, which echoes many of the commitments housing associations are making through Together with Tenants, particularly on tenant voice, relationships, accountability, quality, and complaints.

The next step for us was to identify the most effective way of improving resident engagement and encouraging residents to make their voices heard to drive change.

With increasing willingness from our residents who wanted the opportunity to engage and shape our services, we created a Resident Scrutiny Panel (RSP). The panel is led by a designated Chair who is a resident and includes a Terms of Reference and an agenda with a clear focus.

RSP members choose the service areas they want to review. The panel then talks to staff, other residents and service partners, and reviews all relevant information to make recommendations for improving our service.

Our approach was targeted at all residents in the community to get involved with RSP through the most convenient channel, this includes meeting face to face, online meetings, participation in surveys and undertaking mystery calls for us.

What was the impact?

Creating the RSP has been a catalyst for change at Radcliffe Housing Society in helping us to improve resident engagement by working together with residents to scrutinise our services and make sure they meet the standards we have set out.

There is a strong willingness from residents to support us as a housing association to improve. This has led us to foster a culture of trust and transparency, where we share our performance and housing updates on our website for tenants and residents to access.

The RSP have become an excellent forum for bringing together our diverse set of residents from across the community to review and challenge how we operate and engage with each other.

Our Operations Director remains a permanent fixture within the group, giving residents direct access to our Leadership Team. We also provide regular feedback to our board who have a duty to respond. We have also committed to a resident joining our board for further transparency by the end of 2022.

The RSP have been influential in implementing service delivery improvement measures at Radcliffe Housing Society. They have helped to develop a new Customer Engagement Strategy outlining our commitment for residents to get involved and influence our operational services to maintain continual service improvements in the areas that matter most.

The group also reviews our policies/procedures and service improvements, ensuring we take the view of residents into consideration with decision-making and streamline our internal processes. For example, RSP reviewed our Taking Allocations and Lettings policy and examined our approach to waiting list applicants and correct bandings, which gave us the chance to review any new nuances not considered.

Improving resident communication

For example, with a planned stock investment programme ongoing, we now advise our residents when they can expect their homes to receive major and quality upgrades. Managing expectations helps us to continue building trust with residents. Ultimately, residents now have the authority to hold us to account if something goes wrong, or not to plan.

Alongside the Together with Tenants Charter, we have signed up to Tenant Engagement Experts (TPAS), an initiative designed to help social landlords achieve the very best from effective tenant and community engagement.

Our residents can use this membership to receive training, amongst other prospects to learn more about effective governance and fully understand what they can expect from their social landlord in terms of good governance.

What barriers, challenges or points of learning did you identify?

Like most social landlords, the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to reflect on our resident engagement. Nobody could have foreseen the devastating impact across the country, with many residents facing increasing challenges around financial difficulties and mental health wellbeing. In response, we developed new approaches to reach and engage with residents and staff.

This included:

  • Welfare calls – we contacted all residents initially in line with the ‘coronavirus vaccine risk group rollout’ by age group. This helped us to understand what our residents needed from us, whether it was to improve our communications, update our data or provide enhanced support. Some of our most vulnerable residents were contacted with higher frequency.
  • Data – our data did not contain key nuances around our residents’ income and it was initially difficult for us to understand the impact of covid on residents. With a data-gathering exercise ongoing, we are now able to quickly determine those who require additional support or signposting requirements, including those eligible to access foodbank vouchers for example.
  • Restructure – with staff changes made in the early part of 2020-21, we took the opportunity to embed our ‘resident-led ethos’, guided by Together with Tenants, into new staff members. This has helped staff to build and strengthen relationships with many of our residents who were otherwise disengaged.

What can others learn from your experience?

Together with Tenants is all about rebalancing the relationship between people who live in housing association homes and their landlords. It’s important for housing associations to set clear commitments for residents on what they can expect from their social landlord and a clear process of what to do when they do not meet residents’ needs and expectations.

At a time when the social housing sector is coming under increasing public scrutiny, reviewing resident engagement and service delivery is crucial to address important questions and making sure the voice of residents is heard and they are involved in decision making processes on the issues that matter most.

Adopting Together with Tenants has been the catalyst behind strengthening relationships with residents and improving resident engagement at Radcliffe Housing Society.

Learn more about Together with Tenants

Who to speak to

Evelyn Williams, Policy Officer