Blog: Reviewing the Scottish Social Housing Charter
As the Scottish Government looks to review the Scottish Social Housing Charter, CIH Scotland’s policy and practice co-ordinator Susanne Webster blogs about the recent series of consultation events and considers what is likely to be included in the new Charter when it comes into force in April 2017.
As part of its process for reviewing the Scottish Social Housing Charter, the Scottish Government ran a series of twelve consultation events across Scotland throughout the summer to gather views and opinions on the development of an updated Charter.
The Charter was introduced by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 and sets out the outcomes and standards all social landlords should be achieving for their tenants and other customers through their housing activities. The Act committed the Scottish Government to review the Charter after five years, leading to the formal consultation process that it is currently undertaking in 2016.
The consultation events brought together a range of stakeholders and providers, including tenants, landlords, board members and councillors, all providing a local perspective on their vision for the new Charter. CIH Scotland was present at two of these events – the first in Stirling and the second in the East Lothian town of Musselburgh.
Following an introduction by the Scottish Government and the respective local authority hosts, delegates were asked to consider the following consultation questions: do you think the quality of landlord services has improved because of the Charter and does the way that the Charter is reported on help you judge whether landlords are meeting the outcomes and standards?
Delegate feedback on question one was particularly positive, with the majority reporting that the Charter has been instrumental in driving up standards, particularly around the issue of repairs, and improving partnership working between landlords and tenants. This sentiment was echoed by Anne Cook from the Scottish Government’s social housing services team who reported that since the Charter was introduced in 2010, 9 out of 10 tenants said that they are now satisfied with the service they receive from their landlord.
Others also pointed to the improved mechanisms for complaints, the value of measuring vs non-measuring, and the ability to easily make comparisons between landlords and draw upon examples of good practice.
However, when it came to question two, there was more of a mixed response, particularly around this issue of comparisons. Although most delegates were relatively happy with the reporting process, others felt that benchmarking against other landlords, particularly those whose size and geographic location were often somewhat different to their own, did not allow them to draw realistic comparisons, leading some to question the value of using this data to inform their own strategies.
Some suggestions from delegates to counter this issue included the potential introduction of peer reporting between similar landlords, or benchmarking against past performance rather than other housing providers, both interesting ideas for the Regulator to consider.
After lunch, the discussion moved on to the Charter outcomes, asking delegates to consider whether the current outcomes were clear, whether or not they need to be amended, and if anything else should be added.
Encouragingly for the Scottish Government, most delegates felt that the current outcomes were perfectly adequate and did not need to be radically altered, although it was acknowledged that some minor tweaks to the wording could be made to improve clarity, particularly around areas such as affordability and value for money.
In terms of additions to the Charter, there was widespread support for including a greater emphasis on EESSH (the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing, the digital agenda and communications, and health and social care integration, all suggestions that the Scottish Government was keen to take on board. But perhaps most crucially of all, delegates agreed that all of the current outcomes should remain in the revised Charter, showing that both landlords and tenants are keen to build on the good work that has already been achieved.
These events provided just a flavour of views but the overall feedback from both Stirling and Musselburgh is very encouraging and shows that the social housing sector has positively embraced the Charter and is using it to make a real difference to the lives of tenants and other customers. Any changes going forward are likely to only build on this success and will help to further drive up standards in the future.
The consultation is open until 24 August 2016, with the revised Charter due to come into force from 1 April 2017. Have your say by visiting the Scottish Government website.
CIH Scotland would also like to hear the thoughts of our members so if you would like to help shape our response to the consultation, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org