Publication - Advice and guidance

Guide to Successful Tenant Participation

Published: 22 Nov 2019
Part of:
Housing
ISBN:
9781839602788

This Guide will be useful to tenants, tenant groups, Local Authority and Housing Association staff who want to know more about TP and who would like to develop their involvement and scrutiny activities further. It is designed for all staff and will be of particular use to staff with strategic responsibility for TP and scrutiny front line staff who work with tenants.

131 page PDF

1.6 MB

131 page PDF

1.6 MB

Contents
Guide to Successful Tenant Participation
2.0 Tenant Involvement

131 page PDF

1.6 MB

2.0 Tenant Involvement

2.1 Landlords’ approach to Tenant Participation

While all landlords already have a TP Strategy in place, TP is most effective where landlords have a clear culture of tenant involvement within their organisation. Partnership working between landlords and tenants achieves value for money and results in significant improvements to the quality of service delivery. 

As TP continues to evolve within organisations, more staff are getting involved in consulting with and involving tenants in their areas of work. While some landlords employ dedicated TP staff to work with tenants and RTOs, good TP should be the responsibility of all staff within the organisation.

Successful TP also depends on landlords being open to partnership working and providing their tenants with the information, support and confidence they need to get involved. This includes sharing knowledge and decision making and working with staff, managers and Board/Elected members to ensure that the services provided are delivered efficiently and effectively and meet tenant needs. It also delivers benefits for staff, landlords and tenants creating a culture of trust, respect and partnership.

2.2 Tenant participation strategies and reviewing them

The term ‘Tenant Participation strategy’ comes from the Act. Under the Act, landlords must publish a TP strategy in consultation with their tenants and RTOs. The strategy should be reviewed and monitored regularly to ensure that it is working. 

A strategy is a flexible action plan that:

  • sets out the landlord’s commitment to involving tenants and tenant organisations in decisions about their homes;
  • says how this will be carried out;
  • details the resources available such as training and support;
  • sets out a range of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) targets.

Implementing an effective TP strategy or reviewing an existing strategy, requires landlords and tenants to work together to review current participation arrangements and progress against targets. Reviewing TP will help landlords and tenants to determine:

  • what progress has been made since the last review;
  • whether tenants and other customers find it easy to participate in and influence their landlords decisions at a level they feel comfortable with;
  • any barriers to TP;
  • what needs to be changed or developed;
  • training and support needs;
  • adjustments to the resources required.

When carrying out a review it is useful to undertake an audit of what is working well and what needs to be improved in conjunction with tenants and groups. There are checklists at Section 3 to help with this.

The review process should involve staff at all levels, elected members, Board members and of course tenants and tenant groups. It is recommended that strategies are subject to ongoing monitoring and are reviewed at least every three to five years unless anything significant prompts a review during this time. These timescales however should be agreed with tenants.

A comprehensive strategy includes:

  • an introduction/foreword;
  • the strategy’s background (including the legal framework);
  • aims and objectives;
  • how the strategy was developed and who was involved;
  • why the strategy is in place and the benefits of TP/scrutiny;
  • links to other strategies and services;
  • how tenants will be kept informed;
  • consultation;
  • giving tenants feedback;
  • working with RTOs;
  • resources;
  • training;
  • equal opportunities;
  • action plan;
  • how the strategy will be monitored and reviewed.

The following information should be included:

Introduction/foreword

To demonstrate the organisation’s commitment at the most senior level, this is best coming from either the convenor of housing, the chair of the management committee, chief executive or director of housing and ideally jointly with tenants involved.

The introduction should demonstrate from the outset that the landlord recognises that tenants are at the heart of its business and that TP is a continuous process which must be constantly reviewed and developed.

Background

This should set out the duties and responsibilities that the Act and the Charter places on landlords and the rights tenants have to be involved in housing and related matters. This should also highlight previous commitments and achievements in TP, and give details of current TP structures and activity.

Aims and objectives

This section should set out the aims of the organisation in reviewing the strategy. It should recognise the benefits and importance of involving tenants in decision making processes, and of committing to continuous improvement in TP, not simply meeting the minimum legal requirements.

How the strategy was reviewed and who was involved

This section should set out how the strategy was reviewed, how tenants and registered groups were involved, and how this helped to influence decisions and outcomes.

Why the strategy is in place and the benefits of Tenant Participation and Scrutiny

This section should cover the benefits of TP for tenants and staff. Where tenants have a meaningful role in decision making and understand the processes, trust and a good working relationships will be developed and maintained, and will result in better services which are focussed on tenant priorities not just about satisfaction. Ultimately, this will increase the levels of satisfaction with the services landlords provide.

How tenants will be kept informed

This section should set out the range of methods that will be used to keep tenants informed. This should be discussed and agreed with tenants. Tenants should have been asked how they want to be kept informed and what information they want. Tenants’ preferences, circumstances and priorities may change over time and how they want to be kept informed will depend on the particular issue. Many people now prefer to be kept informed online and if this is available then can be used as an additional way to keep people informed. When consulting with tenants, regularly review how they want to be kept informed by adopting information methods agreed with tenants this way they may be more likely to respond.

Consider using a mix of:

  • newsletters and information leaflets;
  • a tenants’ handbook;
  • open days and conferences;
  • road shows;
  • consultation registers/tenants panels;
  • website and IT developments;
  • focus groups;
  • text messages;
  • email bulletins; and

Consultation

This section should set out what issues landlords will consult tenants on and what methods will be used. Landlords should be able to demonstrate that they have asked their tenants what housing and related issues they want to be consulted on. Effective consultation is not just a one-off process, it should be regular and systematic and the methods used should be tailored to the particular issue. Effective consultation encompasses a wide range of different methods so tenants can become fully involved if and when they choose.

Consultation methods need to be reviewed regularly to make sure that they are working, meet the needs of all groups of people and reflect developments in communication methods. Different methods include:

  • focus and working groups;
  • postal, phone and door-to-door surveys;
  • house visits;
  • conferences;
  • road shows;
  • Facebook/Twitter;
  • tenants’ forums; and
  • consultation registers.

The Scottish Government’s ‘Community Engagement How To Guide’ features information on these practical techniques and others. You can find this guide on the Scottish Government’s website at http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/engage/HowToGuide

Many tenants don’t want to be involved in formal forums or meetings, so a useful way of getting people’s views is to set up a consultation register of interested tenants. Landlords could invite every tenant to be included on a register so they can be contacted when their specific area of interest arises. This allows people with a genuine interest in a topic to be involved and provides a database of interested people for landlords to use in the future.

Giving feedback

This is one of the most important areas in the participation process. Landlords must carefully consider how they will give feedback following all consultation processes, and the method of feedback should be agreed with tenants themselves.

This section should clearly set out how landlords will let tenants know how their opinions and ideas helped shape policy and service delivery, and where it hasn’t, explain the reasons for this. Tenants take the time to respond to a questionnaire or attend a meeting but are not always made aware of the outcome of their involvement. By keeping tenants informed of how their contribution has influenced an issue, they may be more willing to continue being involved or get involved in the future. Feedback can be given in a range of ways, for example:

  • individual letters;
  • newsletters and information leaflets;
  • including in policies or strategies information on changes made as a result of tenant views and involvement;
  • websites;
  • text messages; and
  • follow-up meetings or focus groups.

Working with RTOs

The Act gives tenant and resident organisations who register with their landlord a recognised role in the TP process. An RTO is an independent organisation set up to represent tenants’ interests on housing and related issues. Usually groups cover a mix of tenants and owners, reflecting the different tenures in the communities they live in. Tenant and resident organisations can register with more than one landlord if they represent tenants from different landlords who live in the area the group covers.

The Act requires that landlords must have a scheme in place for registering tenant groups and maintain a public register of RTOs that is available for inspection at local offices. Many landlords make this information available on their website. The register should contain:

  • the name of the organisation;
  • the area it covers;
  • a contact address; and
  • any other relevant information.

This section of the TP strategy should set out the ways in which landlords will work with and support new, developing and established tenant organisations and the staff and financial resources that will be provided for this (for example, training, administration support and making premises available to hold meetings).

It should also set out the arrangements for registering an organisation as an RTO and set out the procedure for an organisation appealing against not being registered by the landlord or being removed from the register. For more information see section 4.3.

RTOs are also required to promote equal opportunities for those in the local areas they represent and their commitment to do so should be included in their constitution, as is noted in the Act. RTOs should pro actively seek the participation of hard to reach groups in their own organisation. See section 2.8.

Resources 

The strategy should set out the resources to be given to TP.

This may include:

  • training and support for tenants, staff, elected members and committee members;
  • providing or hiring meeting rooms;
  • the cost of providing lunch, teas and coffee for meetings and events;
  • providing crèche facilities;
  • consultation costs;
  • travelling expenses;
  • going to conferences and seminars;
  • printing and posting newsletters and other information if necessary;
  • funding to help new, developing and established tenant organisations;
  • access to IT and support networks;
  • staff time;

For more information on resourcing TP see section 2.4.

Timescales for consultation 

It is essential to plan and include enough time to consult tenants and RTOs, so that they have sufficient time to debate and discuss issues with the tenants they represent, and have a real opportunity to influence the landlord’s service and performance. The time required will vary depending on the issue and tenants and RTOs should be involved in setting acceptable timescales. 

Tenants should also be involved in agreeing priorities for reviewing services and issues they will be consulted on. An effective way of doing this is to produce a yearly action plan or a participation calendar that clearly sets out priorities for the year ahead. These should reflect both the landlord’s and tenants’ priorities. 

Training 

This section should set out the landlord’s commitment to providing training and support to ensure that tenants, have the necessary skills to allow them to participate effectively. 

An effective way of building and maintaining positive relationships is to hold joint training sessions that bring together tenants, staff and elected members and committee members. This also gives everyone involved the opportunity to hear the views and perspectives of others. The Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) website details training and development available to community organisations the link is as follows: http://www.scdc.org.uk/

Equal opportunities

Under the Act, landlords must assess the needs of equalities groups living in the area and ensure TP is accessible to all.

The Charter has an outcome for equalities which reads “every tenant and other customer has their individual needs recognised, is treated fairly and with respect, and receives fair access to housing and housing services”. 

The strategy should set out how equal opportunities will be met to involve all. 

Action plan

As part of the strategy, there should be an annual action plan that sets out what policies and procedures will be reviewed or developed throughout the year. A consultation plan for these, and any scrutiny activities that will be carried out, should also be included as well as a timetable for carrying out reviews. 

How the strategy will be monitored and reviewed

This section should set out the arrangements to monitoring and reviewing the strategy on a continuous basis against the objectives or action plan set out in the strategy. Landlords should develop and agree these arrangements in consultation with tenants and tenant organisations. They should also develop ways to test how the strategy is working and involve tenants and tenant organisations in this. One way of showing that the strategy is working would be to include examples of how and on what issues tenants were involved in, and the outcome of that involvement. This may also encourage others to get involved, if they see tenants making a difference to policies and practices.

An annual review could include:

  • Charter performance;
  • progress with the annual action plan;
  • tenant and staff training (what training they have had and what they need);
  • reviewing minutes from tenants’ and residents’ meetings to monitor progress;
  • feedback and follow up on surveys; and
  • the number of events held and the numbers attending.

2.3 Monitoring and evaluating Tenant Participation 

Monitoring and evaluating TP activity on a regular basis is important to find out the effectiveness it is having and to identify which activities are working well and those which are not so effective. This will help to adapt participation structures to meet changing circumstances and priorities.

The Charter outcome on participation (see 1.5) describes what landlords should achieve by meeting their statutory duties on TP. It covers how social landlords gather and take account of the views and priorities of their tenants, other customers and bodies representing them such as RTOs, how they shape services to reflect these views; and how they become involved, including supporting them to scrutinise a landlord’s services. 

The SHR requires landlords to provide an Annual Return on the Charter (ARC) and the indicator for participation is the percentage of tenants satisfied with the opportunities given to them to participate in their landlord’s decision making processes. Whilst this provides a useful benchmark to assess performance against peers and to understand how performance has changed year on year, landlords and tenants together should be routinely monitoring and evaluating how well they are meeting this outcome as part of their regular performance management arrangements. These should examine what’s working, what isn’t and the impact their approach is having on meeting the participation outcome as part of their charter assessment. 

To assess how well participation is developing and the impact it is having on services and tenant satisfaction, it is important that landlords and tenants find ways of evaluating participation that are realistic, practical, focus on the Charter outcomes and focus on the things that matter most to those involved. 

Planning for monitoring and evaluation

When developing a monitoring and evaluation framework to meet the Charter outcomes and more broadly on participation and communication, tenants should be involved in how this will be done – it should be set out in the TP strategy. It is important to focus on issues that are important to the participants involved, and consider the time and resources that are required for this. The use of new technologies is increasingly being used to evaluate performance and can be a successful way to engage with a wide and diverse tenant population and should be considered as an effective way of reaching tenants and getting feedback. The use of online surveys and snap polls, that provide an immediate response, can also be an effective way to gather views on the impact of your participation policy and actions. 

What do you monitor and evaluate 

Evaluating the effectiveness of TP can be complex, as many of the outcomes cannot be measured simply in terms of numbers of people taking part or the amount of resources provided. Evaluation should include the views, opinions and perceptions of both tenants and staff to determine what outcomes have been achieved and whether this has resulted in an improvement in housing services and standards.

The aims and objectives of TP for your organisation should include:

  • overall how the Charter outcomes are being met;
  • an improvement in housing services and standards;
  • an increase in tenant involvement in decision making;
  • tenant satisfaction with housing services, standards and living conditions;
  • promoting TP among equalities groups;
  • improved communication and better working relationships between tenants, staff, elected members and committee members.

In evaluating TP, local performance indicators should be developed and examined under the following categories: inputs, outputs and outcomes.

Measure inputs by examining:

  • staff time;
  • budget to support TP;
  • office facilities available to tenant groups, for instance, photocopying, mail, and IT;
  • support to attend meetings, for instance, transport, crèches, and out of pocket expenses;
  • provision of information, including leaflets and newsletters;
  • training for staff, tenants and governing body;
  • type of training available to tenants, staff and governing body;
  • access to independent advice or dedicated in house support.

Measure outputs by examining:

  • areas that tenants have influenced, such as policies or service standards;
  • range of decisions in which tenants are involved;
  • variety of TP structures and mechanisms;
  • actual and committed expenditure on TP compared with budget provision;
  • representation of tenant group membership, for instance, area coverage, age, gender, ethnicity, and how this has changed over time;
  • number of registered and non-registered groups as a proportion of housing stock and how this has changed over time;
  • number of individuals participating as a proportion of housing stock; 
  • number, variety and frequency of different methods of communication and engagement;
  • number of tenants and staff receiving training;
  • percentage of tenants responding to consultations. 

Measure outcomes by examining:

  • the influence tenants have had in decision making;
  • increase in tenants’ ability to get involved;
  • improvements in housing services due to more effective contribution by tenants;
  • increases in representation of tenants in the local community;
  • views of tenants, staff and governing body members about the difference TP has made; and
  • success in reaching new people.

These measures should not be viewed in isolation but as part of a package for assessing the impact and effectiveness of TP. TP develops differently in different areas and depends on local circumstances, and practices will change over time. Before trying to measure the success of TP in your area be clear about what success would look like and base your evaluation on that model.

Improving organisational efficiency and Value for Money (VFM)

The Charter sets out outcomes and standards that landlords should be achieving in relation to VFM. Outcome 13 of the Charter on Value for Money states that social landlords manage all aspects of their businesses so that: 

“tenants, owners and other customers receive services that provide continually improving value for the rent and other charges they pay.”

This standard covers the efficient and effective management of services. It includes minimising the time houses are empty; managing arrears and all resources effectively; controlling costs; getting value out of contracts; giving better value for money by increasing the quality of services with minimum extra cost to tenants, owners and other customers; and involving tenants and other customers in monitoring and reviewing how landlords give VFM

This has placed increased emphasis on landlords demonstrating continuous improvement in the management of their business. In their Regulatory Framework the SHR sets out high-level VFM expectations, but it’s up to landlords, their tenants and other customers to determine what this means in practice.

Scrutiny and providing other opportunities for tenants to participate in decisions can ultimately lead to continuous improvement on services and help to achieve VFM

Typically, VFM activity includes:

  • doing the right things – improving current services and developing new ones based on an understanding of what tenants and other customers want, within locally agreed policies and service standards;
  • doing things right – delivering more cost-effective services by getting the processes and systems right; and
  • driving down costs – by making sure the approach to organisational structures, procurement and contract management is right.

Being efficient is only half the equation in VFM; there is little value in ‘doing things right’ if they happen to be the ‘wrong things’. The Charter provides an excellent starting point for understanding the ‘right things’, as it’s based on extensive consultation with tenants and other customers on what is important to them.

2.4 Resourcing Tenant Participation and Tenant Scrutiny

LA’s and HA’s are legally required to carry out an assessment of the resources required for TP and the tenant participation strategy should set out what resources will be made available for this. Resourcing TP and scrutiny is not just about money, it also includes staff support, meeting venues and IT access. This section outlines why resources are essential for successful TP and scrutiny, and provides a framework to help landlords and tenants carry out an assessment of how they resource participation.

Neither the legislation nor associated guidance specifically states what activities landlords should resource. This is because resource requirements will differ significantly from area to area. However, resources should be reviewed regularly.

Types of activity

Staff time

Staff help tenant groups to establish and, support existing groups as well as assisting tenants to broaden and develop their skills. This can be done in a number of ways

  • by employing specialist TP staff;
  • making TP part of every member of staff’s role;
  • engaging independent specialist organisations; 
  • seconding staff to work directly with tenant organisations or providing direct funding to enable groups and federations to employ support staff themselves.

Staff and tenant training

Providing training programmes to increase knowledge and understanding of TP and scrutiny enables all staff and tenants to develop the skills required to progress TP and scrutiny practice. Training can be provided either internally or externally. More on staff and tenant training can be found at 2.5.

Direct grants

This includes start up grants to help new groups establish and annual grants to cover running costs and group activities. These would cover, for example, stationery, mailings, venue hire, telephone costs, office costs and attendance at conferences/meetings. Funding should be based on the group’s planned activities and reflect their level of input along with what they are achieving. There should not be any financial barriers to enable tenants to participate in training, meetings etc. and funding should be available to cover reasonable travel expenses, child care and other care costs where appropriate. Expenses should be refunded promptly and where possible paid on the day of attendance at the relevant event/meeting. 

How much should landlords spend?

The research findings in resourcing TP across the UK have been mixed. Some studies have indicated the level of resources has a significant impact on the success of TP, while others have not found this to be the case. What is clear is that it is crucial that landlords discuss and agree with tenants the level of resources required for effective TP and that tenants are involved in agreeing the priorities for the TP budget. Resources also need to be regularly reviewed to ensure they are set at the right amount to achieve what has been planned. 

Grants to tenant groups

The majority of landlords fund tenant groups by providing them with a start up grant to get established, purchase essential equipment and raise awareness of their group. Groups are then usually given an administration grant, which is paid annually to cover the running costs of the group. 

Another approach is for groups to plan their activities for the coming year and present a business plan to their landlord detailing their aims, planned activities and resource requirements. This gives tenants’ groups more control over their funding and how they choose to spend it. 

Tenant organisations should be in control of their finances, ensure that proper accountability arrangements are in place and receive training in managing and accounting resources.

The level of grants and means of awarding grants should be negotiated between landlords and tenant groups. Clearly landlords do not have an unlimited budget, resources need to be prioritised and allocated accordingly. The resources for TP should therefore be determined with tenants as part of the rent setting process. 

Fundraising

Many groups across the country organise their own fundraising events to raise money to assist with running costs or extra equipment. Local fundraising events such as coffee mornings and social events not only bring in additional income, but also raise tenant and community awareness about the group and can encourage more people to get involved.

Accessing external funding

Many tenant groups undertake community projects that improve their local area, such as environmental projects. Clearly landlords have a limited budget and they may be unable to finance such projects or cannot carry them out for a number of years. However, there are lots of organisations who offer grant funding for community projects and many tenant organisations across Scotland have been successful in tapping into these resources.

Funding Scotland is an excellent site that helps not-for-profit organisations in Scotland find funding for charities, community groups or social enterprises using their free online search engine. From small grants to funding for big capital projects, they can help track down the funding needed to make a difference in the community. http://fundingscotland.com/p/www-about

2.5 Training and support for staff and tenants

Joint Training (The Benefits)

Training for staff

Staff need to be clear about their roles in relation to consulting and working with tenants and tenant groups. As TP covers a wide range of activities most staff will be involved in working with tenants. While some landlords may employ specialist TP staff to support TP activities, good TP is the responsibility of all staff and it is a good idea to include this in all staff job descriptions. TP therefore has time implications for all staff within the organisation.

The staff most directly involved in working with tenants and tenant groups will likely be front line staff who meet tenants regularly and managers who are responsible for service delivery and performance.

It is essential that all staff have appropriate delegated authority to make decisions and respond to requests from tenants.

When working well TP is mainstreamed within the organisation, with all staff having a role to play. All departments and teams within a landlord organisation will be involved at one time or another, in providing information, consulting with tenants and reviewing policies or monitoring and assessing performance, and will benefit from the knowledge they have gained in this area. Staff responsible for an activity or service are the ones best placed to work with tenants when reviewing their service area.

Training for tenants

To be able to fully participate in discussions and decisions on housing issues, tenants need to have access to information, training and development support. They will require some or all of the following:

  • the opportunity to network with other tenants at training days;
  • funds to cover running costs;
  • access to suitable premises;
  • support to develop their group;
  • access to wider tenant opinion;
  • attendance at seminars and conferences;
  • information on how policies and services work and the legal framework around them;
  • encouragement and support to form representative organisations.

Development support

It is important that tenants have access to staff who are able to help them develop their skills, knowledge and confidence to participate and give their views in a way that suits them. Development support includes:

  • support and advice for tenants who want to form a group;
  • supporting the growth of existing groups;
  • supporting individual office bearers and committee members to be effective;
  • providing training to increase organisational skills and knowledge of housing issues;
  • enabling groups to network with other tenant organisations groups.

For more information on working with tenant groups see section 4.4.

Joint training 

It is beneficial, and often more cost effective, to hold joint training sessions for staff and tenants. Joint training reinforces the message that tenants are key stakeholders and can strengthen relations between tenant representatives and staff. It can also be beneficial to hold joint training sessions with neighbouring landlords, this can cut costs but also gives the chance to share best practice. 

Accessing training and Independent Advice

Training for staff and tenants can be delivered in a range of different ways. Depending on the issue, landlords may have the knowledge, skills and capacity to deliver tenant and staff training themselves ‘in house’. In some cases external trainers might be invited to give training to staff and tenants on a particular subject. 

Remember that training comes in a number of formats, including shadowing an individual, formal training courses, learning from others in small groups and visiting another tenants’ group, tenants’ federation or landlord. Think about your own and your group’s training needs, and find the appropriate training available to meet those needs.

Independent advice and more general training is available from a number of organisations including the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) and Tenants Information Service (TIS) information on how to contact them can be found at Appendix 1.

2.6 Levels of Tenant Participation and Scrutiny

There are a range of ways that landlords and tenants can exchange information and views on housing issues and make decisions together, in order to participate effectively information and support is essential. Tenants need to have all the information necessary to consider issues properly. In order to do this, landlords and tenants should jointly agree how information will be communicated between all participants. It is important that information is:

  • easily understandable;
  • made available with sufficient time for tenants to fully participate, consult with others and give their views;
  • accurate;
  • relevant;
  • made available in formats that suit the user, such as Braille, audio tape and community languages.

Within the limits of confidentiality all participants should have equal access to information that is relevant to TP. Where information is sensitive it should be made clear why it is restricted and that participants are bound by confidentiality.

Tenants should have the opportunity to identify what support they need to participate. 

Where appropriate landlords should ensure that:

  • meeting venues are accessible;
  • meetings are held at times that suit tenants;
  • funding is available to cover crèche or care costs;
  • transport and out of pocket expenses are reimbursed promptly;
  • communication aids (loop systems, interpreting) are available;
  • relevant training is provided. 

Staff support should be available to groups to assist them in the day-to-day running of their group.

Consultation

Landlords are legally required to consult with RTOs and individual tenants on a range of housing and related issues, which may affect them under Section 54 of the Act. 

Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 has a specific duty to consult on allocations policies. 

Consultation provides tenants with an opportunity to give their views, but does not give the opportunity to develop their own ideas or participate in putting plans into action. Consultation involves asking for tenants’ views before reaching decisions, with enough time for tenants to give their views and landlords to consider them, then agree an outcome together.

There are a range of consultation methods that can be used, including:

  • focus groups and working groups;
  • postal, phone and door-to-door surveys;
  • house visits;
  • conferences;
  • road shows;
  • tenants’ forums;
  • consultation registers;
  • IT and the use of social media. 

Where possible avoid carrying out a consultation exercise at times of the year where tenants are less likely to be able to get involved, such as over Christmas and New Year or the summer holiday period. The timing of religious festivals should also be considered. Consultation should be carried out before proposals are formulated, although there will be occasions (involving legal requirements, for instance) where the outline proposals are already formulated and are not negotiable.

Always feed back the results and outcomes of a consultation exercise to tenants. 

It is helpful for tenants to know that their input has been taken into consideration and not ignored, this will help build trust and partnership working. 

Feedback should include the options that have been considered, and the decisions and actions agreed, along with any future activity. Feedback should be provided within an agreed timescale and format.

Partnership Working

Discussions between tenant representatives and landlords suggests that both parties have an interest in reaching an agreeable outcome. This type of discussion often takes time to develop but is the most positive working relationship tenants and landlords can have.

This involves tenants contributing ideas and deciding the best way forward. This process is likely to involve tenants’ representatives and groups rather than individuals, where tenants have been involved at the start of the process and have been involved in deciding the issues for discussion, then a shared agreement of the issues emerging tend to be easier to reach.

At all levels of participation the National Standards for Community Engagement should be adopted. The standards are a practical tool to help all participants involved in community engagement to achieve the highest quality of process and results. The standards can be used in both formal and informal community engagement. For more information see the standards at http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/engage/NationalStandards

Tenant Scrutiny

Scrutiny is a critical examination of services, underpinned by good quality, up-to-date performance data and information that is made available to those involved in scrutiny activities. Scrutiny is about being able to ask landlords questions based on clear information and data, such as: why is a service delivered in a particular way; why are particular timescales in place; how much is this costing; can costs be reduced while still providing a good level of service; and could we do this better or differently? The answers to these and similar questions should lead to recommendations that result in change and improvement.

The Three Principles for Effective scrutiny are:

Independence – scrutiny activities should be separate from governance, management and mainstream TP structures, but have a formal recognised status with support from the organisation at the outset.

Formality – scrutiny activities should include clear roles, remit, terms of reference and lines of reporting for those taking part.

Power – tenants and other customers involved in scrutiny activities should be able to undertake a detailed examination of services and standards, and make recommendations for service improvements. Landlords should respond to this by agreeing which measures can be implemented and, where they can’t be implemented, explaining fully why not.

Scrutiny activities can include service-specific scrutiny, where a particular service or policy is scrutinised, or scrutiny of a range of activities, where performance is scrutinised on a regular and systematic basis. This can include comparing performance against, for example, the previous quarter’s performance and looking at trends, improvements and dips in performance to identify areas where service-specific scrutiny may be needed.

Ultimately, the purpose of tenant scrutiny is to improve organisational performance and the standard of services being delivered. Tenant scrutiny can be effective in doing this because:

  • it provides a valuable reality check about the quality of services;
  • it ensures tenants’ experiences are routinely considered alongside other forms of performance data; 
  • it provides a mechanism to ensure that landlords are delivering the services tenants want, which means they can tailor their services to reflect local needs and priorities; and
  • tenants can be powerful advocates for efficiency and improving Value for Money (VFM).

The Scottish Government is committed to assisting social landlords in Scotland to develop and improve their scrutiny activities and practices. Guidance has been published to help, the ‘Stepping Up to Scrutiny Trainer Toolkit’ and ‘A Practice Guide for Tenants and Landlords’ have been designed to assist social landlord organisations develop and improve their scrutiny activities and practices, in addition to understanding the scrutiny activities linked to the Scottish Social Housing Charter and related regulatory framework.

Links to these are: 

Practice guide: http..//bit.ly/2sjwWdi

Trainer toolkit: http..//bit.ly/2ssBZYK

Planning Tenant Participation activities

There is no blueprint for planning TP with approaches suiting different circumstances. Approaches should be flexible to suit the particular issues being considered and the level at which tenants wish to get involved. 

2.7 Charter reporting and tenant involvement

The SHR requires each Landlord’s ARC to be submitted by the end of May every year and they require that landlords engage with tenants through regular surveys on tenant satisfaction to enable them to meet the outcomes of the Charter. Landlords should regularly report their performance to tenants outlining areas of strength but also saying where and how improvements will be made if and where these are required. 

2.8 Involving All – Harder to reach groups

It is important that every tenant has the opportunity to participate if they want to. However, there are particular groups that are generally under-represented in mainstream participation structures, for example minority ethnic communities, young people, tenants with support needs, and older tenants in supported accommodation.

Identifying and engaging with these groups is required to enable successful TP. Landlords and tenant groups need to be proactive and put arrangements in place specifically to involve traditionally excluded groups. Case study examples of involving Gypsy Travellers are in Section 5 of this guide and more general advice is given below.

Identifying the needs of harder to reach groups

Making links can be very important in building the confidence of individuals and in strengthening the position of traditionally hard to reach groups in participation processes. These include working with advocacy organisations, religious and cultural groups which can help landlords to:

  • identify and address issues likely to affect on the participation of these groups;
  • work with organisations who have already established the trust of these groups;
  • use existing structures to contact hard to reach individuals;
  • help to make links between particular groups and individual tenants.

Landlords can also use their own methods to gather information about the needs of their tenants who have traditionally been hard to reach. For example, when new tenants sign their Scottish Secure Tenancy this can be used as an opportunity to gather equalities information, and find out about their preferred means of communication and involvement.

Removing barriers and involving all

There are a number of steps that landlords can take to remove barriers to participation, including the following basic measures:

  • making information available in appropriate formats, including Braille, audio and DVD and in community languages where required;
  • holding events in venues that are accessible to those with physical disabilities;
  • providing transport to and from events;
  • using venues that are used by community organisations working with excluded groups;
  • tapping into cultural events;
  • holding meetings and events at suitable times*;
  • using information technology to communicate with those living in remote areas or those with mobility difficulties;
  • providing crèche facilities and offering carer allowances.

* holding events at different times to get around varying schedules (including shift work and full-time work) and preferences (for example some individuals may not like going out in the evenings). It’s important that you also take into account religious festivals when planning events.

A common barrier to the participation of traditionally excluded groups is the feeling of isolation and lack of confidence often felt by individuals. These barriers can be addressed through the development of trusting and supportive relationships between staff and individual tenants, and between existing tenant groups and individual tenants.

It is essential that equal opportunities are promoted within all ‘mainstream’ participation structures and activities. However, minority or excluded groups may feel isolated and lack confidence. One way that landlords can get help is to establish specific participation initiatives aimed at these groups. These can include one-off events, such as social events and outings for young or older tenants, or establishing longer-lasting structures for participation.

2.9 Engaging with minority ethnic communities

Under the Act, landlords have a specific requirement to consider the needs of equalities groups in TP. Almost every part of Scotland, including the most isolated rural communities, now has a multi ethnic population and this has major implications for the relevance and appropriateness of mainstream services.

Although many landlords are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of consulting with minority ethnic tenants and service users, traditional methods of engagement are not always suitable for cultural, religious or social reasons.

The usual standards for engagement are still broadly applicable, but these principles need to be applied sensitively and appropriately to the ethnic group being consulted.

Successful TP requires a positive, respectful and non discriminatory approach. Engagement must always be well-planned with specific consideration given to cultural, historical, religious, social and communication issues.

It is also important that everyone involved is respectful of each other’s cultural, religious and language differences.

Getting started

Tapping into established networks, community organisations and cultural events can be particularly effective, and it is important to use channels of communication which are already credible in the eyes of each community. This will most often mean using existing community groups of cultural or religious affiliation, and groups that have a wide reach across the community or among a particular section of it, such as women, young people or older people. The involvement of established, credible groups can dispel a lot of scepticism and doubt about taking part.

Initially it can sometimes be challenging to reach beyond senior members or leaders of a community and engage with the wider membership, and it will take time, patience and perseverance to develop relationships. Working with black and minority ethnic communities in their own environment and respecting their rules and decision making processes is the most successful approach.

Information

Everyone needs to have equal access to information, and it should be provided in English and other relevant languages when required. Interpretation support in understanding information may also be required.

There are also likely to be a wide variety of reading skills, both in English and in the relevant minority ethnic language, and some people may not be fully literate in the ethnic language of their community. Getting it right at this stage will have a direct influence on the effectiveness of information, and on responses where required.

Consultation

The concept of consultation itself may be unclear to some minority ethnic communities and it is therefore particularly important to provide clearly written information on the purpose of the consultation, and what it will involve.

Methods of consultation that involve travelling away from the local area or writing are less likely to be successful across minority ethnic communities. Like all communities, a range of consultation methods should be put in place. Face to face methods such as small focus groups, where everyone can have a chance to make their views clear and be listened to, often work best. These also provide a more relaxed context for those less confident in speaking English. Try organising a relaxed culturally appropriate social event in consultation with the black and minority ethnic community.

Planning consultation events

When planning an event, make sure that you consider:

Location

Where possible, hold events in the local area, as some people will not be confident travelling to an event outside their immediate community. Organising events through existing black and minority ethnic groups and holding the consultation at the same time and place as the group normally meets can be the more successful approach.

Timing

Time events to avoid meal times (unless food is being provided), religious holidays, and observances.

Cultural traditions

As some cultures have specific traditions regarding the social interaction of men and women it may be necessary to hold separate events. At gender-specific events facilitators should be the same gender as the participants. You also need to be aware of inter-generational issues where, for example, young people in a group of older people may not contribute to the discussion out of respect.

Interpretation and translation

Interpretation and translation services should always be available where required. These may be available from family members, friends or staff from community groups. Take the time to discuss the format and content of the consultation with interpreters before participants arrive so that they have a clear idea of what is going on and can provide as high a quality of interpretation as possible. Interpreters may also have to act as scribes if the consultation requires writing, as reading and writing skills may not be as good as spoken language skills. And remember that time for translation can also make events run longer than usual.

Catering

Organising events around food has proven to be very successful in attracting people to get involved, increasing participants’ enthusiasm and involvement in an event, and for on going consultation. In planning events you should find out participants’ dietary requirements and provide a suitable range of food that complies with religious requirements.

Communication styles

Recognise that different communities have different styles of communicating and everyone involved in engagement needs to adapt to this. For example, what a facilitator perceives as being a hostile and aggressive atmosphere may, to those participating in the consultation, simply be an open discussion.

Training and support

Like all forms of participation, the training and support needs of individuals and groups need to be considered and agreed with them. Effective routine support such as providing grants to groups, training, IT support, use of appropriate languages and providing dedicated staff from the community’s ethnic background can strengthen the ability of minority ethnic organisations to engage.

Support is also a key issue in the successful engagement of individuals from ethnic minorities whose culture or religion may make certain factors, which may not seem significant to others, critical in determining their attendance. For those whom childcare is an express responsibility, access to creche facilities can greatly increase the extent of their involvement. The provision of childcare by those outside the family unit may be a new concept, and encouragement may be needed to make use of this facility.

Giving feedback

As in mainstream participation, sometimes those who participate do not receive any form of feedback. This can often generate frustration, as it is unclear whether individual contributions have been considered and if progress has been made as a result. As most participants attach great importance to being involved in consultations in order to improve services or change how things are currently done, lack of feedback is particularly discouraging to this group. Ask participants how they want to get feedback and ensure that written feedback is given in understandable and appropriate language.

2.10 Involving tenants in rural areas

The aspirations of tenants living in rural or remote areas are no different to those of tenants in large urban areas. In terms of the diversity of population too, our rural communities mirror Scotland and rural communities include, among others, the young, the elderly, those with disabilities and those from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

It is the geography of rural communities that creates some particular challenges for those enabling TP. The more remote a community is from the large urban centre which provides services and facilities (such as housing administration), the more challenging it becomes for tenants and landlords alike to facilitate effective consultation and involvement. This is especially true where the number of tenants is small and the community itself dispersed. Communities may be more than 20 or 30 miles from an urban centre and those travelling to meetings face long, expensive journeys through areas which often see the worst of weather conditions and where public transport is not always readily accessible.

Costs of staff time, additional venues for meetings, travel and subsistence expenses and the provision of information technology equipment will all influence the resources required.

Engaging with all tenants

In developing and implementing rural TP strategies, focusing on making it convenient for tenants to get involved. Some ideas to consider are:

  • Maintaining information in libraries, mobile libraries or service vans, surgeries, local schools and other local access points;
  • Maximising the use of local housing scheme facilities (for instance, sheltered housing lounges);
  • Holding occasional road-shows and local shows;
  • Using local community radio services, community websites and newspapers;
  • Holding meetings at a range of venues and times to meet all needs;
  • Taking management committee meetings out to rural communities and allowing time for discussions with tenants at the end of the meeting;
  • Providing transport and ensuring that expenses are reimbursed promptly;
  • Maximising the value of staff who, for whatever reason, will be visiting tenants in their own home. The culture of the organisation should direct and enable all staff to promote participation and deliver feedback from tenants;
  • Join forces. If there are several landlords operating in one community then consider how joint working can help all tenants get better consultation opportunities.

Engaging with groups and individuals

For geographical reasons, rural residents are less likely to develop and sustain local and formal tenant groups than those living in towns. Armed with this information, those involved in TP should examine whether other structures for participation can be adopted to fill gaps in communications with, and representation of, rural communities.

The TP strategy should offer rural tenants a range of structures to get engaged in consultation: 

Representative volunteers

Many rural and remote communities decide that it is not possible or appropriate for them to be represented through a local group. If this is the case then a second option could be for them to elect a representative volunteer from their community to take local issues and concerns to the landlord, engage in consultations and feed-back to the community. Representative volunteers can also be part of more formal structures which are in place. For example, a landlord-wide tenants’ forum.

Developing structures, recruitment, support and monitoring arrangements for representative volunteers requires commitment and planning from staff and tenant representatives, steps in developing a scheme could be as follows:

  • Identify communities which are under-represented in consultation;
  • Agree draft proposals for a representative volunteer scheme;
  • Promote various options for representation to tenants in the community and survey tenants as to their preference;
  • If a representative volunteer scheme is selected, agree detailed proposals, including duties, recruitment, support, monitoring and training arrangements;
  • Seek nominations;
  • Support nominees to give a short presentation and/or narrative in a tenant newsletter;
  • Arrange a ballot to elect one or more representative volunteers. A ballot could be held even if there is only one nominee; in this instance the majority of those participating in the ballot should agree to the election of the specific individual;
  • Hold elections regularly at a minimum of every three years.

Where there are representatives elected in several communities, these individuals could meet together as a team which is constituted to enable their recognition as a registered tenant organisation. Such a structure would enable the scheme to be self-supported and regulated.

Individual volunteers

Where tenants indicate no inclination to have representation through a formal tenant group, individual tenants may be prepared to come forward to take part in consultation matters within focus groups, forums or panels. These individuals make a valuable contribution to TP even though they cannot be assumed to play a role as a representative of their respective local areas, without proper election. The volunteers should understand their role and be provided with advice, guidance and any essential training to participate fully in the processes.

It does take extra commitment from all parties and adequate resources to ensure that informal comment in the local area can develop into sustained and positive partnership working.

Diversity

In the recruitment of volunteers, efforts should be made to get a cross-section of the community involved, as minority groups may be more hidden in dispersed rural areas than in large urban areas. Special efforts may need to be made to reach and engage with young tenants, those with disabilities and those with language or cultural differences. Those involved in delivering and supporting TP should take steps to ensure that they understand the diversity issues in individual rural communities, as there may be significant variations from one community to another.

Using information technology

Whatever consultation structures are put in place, there are a number of ways in which information technology can assist with rural participation. It may be worth considering the following:

  • Encouraging people to participate from their own homes could reduce the need for meetings and be particularly beneficial for those who find it difficult to travel. Also, young tenants may find this a preferable option for participating;
  • Setting up email and interactive sites for volunteers and tenant representatives would allow them to communicate with each other and with officers, reducing any feeling of isolation;
  • Video-conferencing could be useful for enabling remote communities to share in centralised tenant events or conferences as equipment is available at many local schools, universities and other public buildings.

Those enabling TP in rural communities should be aware of the importance of getting the right structures in place to engage with a diverse range of individuals and representatives. They must also be prepared to be innovative in the use of new technologies and systems which have considerable potential for future rural development.


Contact

Email: susan.mclellan@gov.scot