Archive for tag: customer participation
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[Submitted by someone who wishes to remain anonymous]
The Discussion Paper contains proposals that, if adopted, will improve the standard of social housing.
1. Achieving the outcomes in practice
The outcomes set out in the Charter must be evidence-based. Any independent assessor or regulator is then able to demand the evidence to show that any outcome has been achieved.
Where the social landlord or a tenant fails to comply with the outcomes in the Charter, the following must to be set out for each outcome:
1 Where there is a dispute between the tenant and landlord, the Charter must set out the process all parties must follow with the objective of providing evidence that the outcome(s) have been achieved.
2 If any party is unable to provide that evidence, the Charter must set out the sanctions that can be applied to ensure that the outcome is achieved.
2. Tenant Participation
The Scottish Government requires by law that there is public participation in the management of the National Health Service. Using this as a legal precedent there is a need for a single model to be established for democratic tenant participation in all areas of social housing management. This provision must also apply to all registered social landlords.
There is need to simplify the present confusing structure of regional and national organisations associated with social housing, whose remit is not clearly understood and are not seen to contribute to the provision of or improved social housing. The Charter should establish a single democratic model for tenant participation in the management process of each registered social landlord.
Reason: The present model for tenant participation is neither democratic nor transparent. Currently registered tenant organisations are open to residents who are not tenants but own property within the community. Communities Scotland recognise the “multi-tenure nature of communities” and “many tenant organisations are made up of a mix of tenants and residents”. It is also accepted that “Tenant organisations which also include owners can be registered with their landlord as an RTO under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, and as such have a statutory right to be consulted on Housing and related matters.”
At this point there is a distinction between what affects the community as a whole, such as “maintenance of open space areas, and strategies for dealing with anti-social behaviour across all tenures” and matters which are specific to tenants of registered social landlords.
In many respects these are matters that should come under the aegis of community councils, ward forums or similar community structures with the same or similar remit, rather than registered tenant organisations. If there is not a suitable existing community organisation, another option is to set up a registered community group.
Currently the various bodies that claim to represent social tenants are neither representative nor effective in communicating the views of the tenant to the social landlord. A particular example is the structure of “regional networks” where the representatives are elected by registered tenant organisations.
There are many areas in Scotland where no such organisations exist, so that it is not unreasonable to suggest that the majority of tenants are not represented at any level, particularly those in remote or rural areas. As a registered tenants organisation is open to all residents, the interest and remit of such an organisation is wider than that relating to specific tenancy issues, where only tenant and landlord should be involved.
It is reasonable to suggest that there is currently no effective channel for tenants to participate in the management of social housing at local, regional or national level. A distinction must be made between resident, where the issues affect the community, and tenant, where the issues are specifically tenancy related.
This is particularly pertinent where the social landlord is the local authority. Examples can be given where a local authority is using funds from the Housing Revenue Account to support housing forums which include non-tenants. Again the more appropriate channel for this activity should be either through other channels of local authority activity or through community councils.
A local authority may have a role as a social landlord and also have a role as a provider of social services and the distinction must be clear. Again it is worth noting that Communities Scotland accept that “Where an issue is solely tenancy related it would however be appropriate that only tenant members of the group are consulted and involved in the decision making process for that particular issue.”
This must be clearly understood by all local authorities. It is essential for the future of social housing in Scotland that effective tenant participation as well as consultation is encapsulated in the Charter.
One prospective outcome in the Discussion Paper suggests that rent levels are set in consultation with tenants. In many aspects of social housing management consultation should be a preliminary stage with any implementation of the proposals, which were the subject of a consultation, requiring participation by democratically elected representatives of all tenants of that social landlord at the time when any decision is made.
Without democratic tenant participation in the management of social housing the future of the Charter cannot be assured. Unlike the National Health Service there is the need for a single model of tenant participation to be set out in the Charter. At some point in the future this could form the basis for regional and national representation, replacing the current undemocratic organisations.
In the discussion paper the word tenant and resident are both used.
For example "Residents are content with how their landlord is dealing with anti-social behaviour problems on their estate". If their is multi-tenure on the estate this is not the responsibility of the landlord alone, only if the anti-social behaviour is caused by or related to a tenant of that landlord.
On page 19 of the Discussion Paper it is stated that the following pages provide examples of possible outcomes. As with any outcome it must be evidence based, which the wording must reflect. The above outcome is so loosely worded, that it does not constitute an outcome. For example, what evidence is required to show that residents are content, particularly if the problem is ongoing.
[submitted by P.C.]
You asked for comments. Our housing association has just passed to us an outline of what the charter will try to do to improve equality, amongst other things.
Some comments for you to peruse -
There may well be performance standards that housing officers have to adhere to, but I can assure you that there is not enough overseeing done of our housing officer by our housing association. Our housing officer is never seen in the building and is merely reactive, instead of being proactive. Many tenants do not pay any attention to her letters informing them of how and when they have breached their tenancy agreement and this is not followed up. Regular estate walkabouts should be brought in to force and there should be unannounced building inspections to keep an eye on things at regular intervals. If anything is seen, then the door should be knocked on and the individual dealt with on the spot, completely out of the blue. Letters are frequently not replied to, or you have to wait at least 3 weeks for a reply, from the housing officer.
The repairs centre is also slow to get back to a tenant who has reported a fault. I would expect to be contacted within 48 hours, but this is not the case, so sometimes up to 3 phone calls have to be made to get someone out to fix a repair. A landlord should also provide a handyman service to his tenants - some properties have very high ceilings, light flexes are too short and impossible to reach to change a light bulb, for example, or to change curtains, or put up a curtain rail. Tenants should not be expected to have family or neighbours to do these jobs for them. It should not depend on your old age or your disability to get this kind of service from a social landlord.
Homes should indeed be clean and tidy at the point of entry, but this is not happening either. The housing association I belong to gives tenants a decoration voucher and expects them to do the decoration and cleaning up for them!
The local Council is not allocating homes fairly in my opinion. There are far too many people living in properties that are far too big for them. Their families have moved on and those of us who really need a larger property simply cannot get it, not even after several years of being on the waiting list. Those with the bigger properties are often telling lies on the council tax registration form and the council does not check the information out. This is costing the council a great deal of unnecessary money in housing benefit payouts. These people just refuse to move on. They should be made to move on to a smaller property - with no cash incentive! The council believes too easily what it is told. Many people register as homeless and they are nothing of the sort! Many tenants pretend they are separated from partner or husband because they refuse to give up the tenancy of their own 2- or 3-bed flat and because they can squeeze out from the housing benefit office a lot more money, but it is all a pretence. Not enough investigation is being done by the council to ascertain the real truth. The only people who seem to be getting re-housed quickly are genuinely homeless people and lots of foreigners from eastern Europe who have never paid into the system. More fairness to our own people needed!
Landlords need to be much firmer regarding anti-social behaviour! It causes loss of income, deterioration of health and makes it very difficult for tenants to move house away from such a troublesome building, as I have experienced myself over the past 5 years. Because the housing association was so lax in dealing with anti-social behaviour, from 2 neighbours, these problems went on and on for over 5 years! No amount of complaining improved the situation and indeed there is still no monitoring that I can see of this neighbour still misbehaving, so the situation is still going on! Tenants are fed up with such poor service! What are tenancy agreements for? A waste of paper!
A probationary period of at least 1 full year should be brought in for new tenancies. The population in our town centres is far too mobile and it is difficult for the authorities to trace where these tenants have gone to to retrieve money owed to them. Tenants should be evicted more easily. There are far too many excuses found to give anti-social tenants a second or third chance, making other tenants' lives a misery for far too long. The police are not robust enough in their actions.
There needs to be much more customer participation in the monitoring, assessing and reporting on the quality of services received from the landlord, and on the quality of the service provided by the individual housing officer.
Tenants and landlord should agree the report to the Regulator, not tick boxes.
If tenants are not shown the report till it is completed, will Landlord alter the Report at the behest of Tenants or will Tenants have to put in a Report with their objections.
In many of the outcomes the word "content" should be replaced by 'satisfied'. Content is not strong enough.
Even though the Regulator is independent, "they must have teeth".
There was a serious problem in our area whch could not be resolved by staff from the Scottish Government Housing Division. Tenants must be able to directly approach the Regulator, not to have to go through lower staff, a 'middleman' or the Ombudsman or the Audit Commission before getting access to the Regulator. Tenants must be able to get action quickly, not months or years down the line.
Accountability is extremely important.
Landlords must have a dedicated TP Officer to work with and support tenants.
[Extract from the TIS report]
Customer Participation Outcome
'Delegates believe there are resource issues for involving tenants in self assessment which are beyond the normal issues of overcoming difficulties in engaging with tenants.
Delegates questioned how much tenant involvement is expected in local services – will it be all services or key services and who will decide this?
Delegates believe that the wording in the first paragraph needs to be improved as “other customers can participate…..their landlord provides” may not be accurate. If they are not a tenant of an RSL then that RSL is not “their landlord”.'
Tagged as: customer participation
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