Today the focus of National Customer Service Week is Leadership. Board member and tenant Victoria Dingle asks why housing associations don’t connect with the people they serve.
Together with Tenants is an initiative of the National Housing Federation (NHF) which will roll out across the whole of the affordable housing sector in 2020. Its aim is to increase and intensify the dialogue between tenants, residents and housing association landlords.
132 housing associations, of which Soha is one, are involved as “early adopters”. We are testing the robustness of the four key actions which arose from the NHF consultation with stakeholders. These are:
·A new requirement in the Federation’s Code of Governance for Boards to be accountable to their tenants and residents;
·A new Together with Tenants Charter;
·Tenant and resident oversight and reporting of progress against the Charter;
·Giving tenants and residents a stronger collective voice with the Regulator of Social Housing.
A steering group of staff from 15 landlords from across the country is complemented by 15 tenants from (mostly) different HAs.
Victoria writes: as a tenant of social housing, I want to see the Together with Tenants plan by the National Housing Federation fully actioned nationally. With measurable goals put firmly in place and reviewed regularly.
Why aren't all housing associations signing up to be early adopters? Surely tenants should already be at the heart of everything housing associations do and tenants’ views be part of discussions throughout the organisations? Sadly we know they’re not. More can be achieved when we work together.
I am involved in shaping my housing association and regularly have conversations about the services all residentsshould have. To tenants it’s not just a flat, house or bungalow - it’s our home. However, sadly it seems there are still huge differences between housing associations with some trying harder than others to achieve the aim of making sure housing associations are open and accountable to residents.”
I absolutely agree that housing association Boards need to be properly connected to the people they house. This was one of the reasons I applied and became a Board member at Soha. If you want to take action, you need to get involved and have your voice heard especially on decisions about the community you live in. However, this can only be done if housing associations acknowledge this and allow tenants to be involved in the first place.
The Together with Tenants commitments are exactly what is needed. However, they are only words until they are actioned. Tenants and residents need to see these put into housing association action plans and strategies so these words result in real changes in the way services are provided. How many associations have started to make changes following the Together with Tenants plan being launched? Or did it just get dismissed?
Personally, as a tenant I believe that Together With Tenants is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot more needs to be done. Currently, some housing associations have successful relationships between themselves and their tenants and residents, but this should be the norm not just for a select few.
It’s time to take action.