5.0 Good Practice Case Studies
Case Study: Rural Participation
The Scottish Social Housing Charter embraces an “involving all” approach. It embraces groups who are often difficult to reach or excluded.
Involving rural, island and remote communities is challenging, tenants can be widely scattered, the more traditional participation methods and activities may not be appropriate.
Some key questions to think about:
- Do tenants who live in rural/remote communities have a range of methods to enable them to take part?
- Is distance and travel time taken into account when organising events?
- Is participation adequately resourced to enable tenants to get involved?
The Act requires Local Authorities, Housing Associations and co-operatives to consult and involve tenants, and to take account of their views across all services and decisions which impact on tenants lives irrespective of where they live.
The Scottish Social Housing Charter lays down 16 outcomes that all social landlords in Scotland should aim to achieve when undertaking their obligations and services to tenants. “The Charter helps to improve the quality and value of the services that social landlords provide, and supports the Scottish Government’s long term aim of creating a safer and stronger Scotland” no matter where tenants live.
Outcome 3 – Social landlords manage their businesses so that: tenants and other customers find it easy to participate and influence their landlord’s decisions at a level they feel comfortable with.
Working effectively in rural communities
- Involve and ask tenants what methods they prefer.
- Use a wide range of methods, including face to face, phone, online forums etc.
- Involve tenants in planning a consultation or an event.
- Ensure resources are available to enable involvement, tenants should not be out of pocket.
- Build relationships and community knowledge.
- Use participation structures that are already in place such as community groups, community councils, participation structures through NHS and Social Care.
- Build on the active networks of local groups, clubs societies and informal connections that complement public services. They provide personal support, social networks and learning opportunities. These connections can provide the first steps.
Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP): A good practice example
Rural participation has some key challenges, not least of which is geography, but with a range of methods and excellent communication structures, participation can work and tenants can play a meaningful part in all service delivery and in improving services.
The Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP) was formed following a tenant ballot and a stock transfer from the Western Isles Council. It has tenants scattered across 10 islands. HHP have a long history of tenant involvement across the islands and have developed a range of Tenant Participation methods which works for them including:
- Wester Isles Community Housing Association Forum – is the umbrella group for all RTO’s, tenants groups and village voices across the Western Isles. Membership of the Forum is open to formal and informal tenants groups and village voices.
- Resources – all tenants travel by road, ferry and air and any overnight expenses to meeting or events are funded by HHP tenants developed an expenses policy.
- Village voices – village voices gather the views of their friends and neighbours and report back to the Forum or HHP, there is a scheme in place to support and recruit village voices.
- Out and about – the Tenant Participation officer has built excellent links across the islands with interested individuals and community groups and is a regular visitor to the remote island communities to support Tenant Participation.
- Tenant and community events – in addition to an annual tenants get together in Stornoway, there are events for tenants across the islands.
- Information – the forum have an action plan with the participation officer on key issues they wish to focus on, such as communication, and producing good quality information.
- Building links – the forum in its early days spent time making connections and developing relationships with tenants, staff community groups, and partner organisations.
- Consultation – the forum and the Tenant Participation officer have developed methods of consultation and communication for HHP to meet the challenges of working across the islands communities and settlements.
- Communications group – this group of staff, including the Tenant Participation officer has created a forum to share ideas and resources and co-ordinate all tenant faced communication.
- Housing staff – staff contact the Tenant Participation officer to identify tenants who have expressed an interest in getting involved.
- Information – newsletters, the web site and the forum all work hard to increase tenants awareness and understanding of the options and support available to help them get involved.
- Going local – informal approach works well across the island with tenants meeting in a range of very local settings such as cafes, community halls, and tenants homes.
- Piggy back – HHP staff, the Tenant Participation officer and the forum attend other events such as village fairs, local agricultural shows etc. to encourage participation.
- Resources and time – need to account for the time and costs of travelling across a large rural area.
- Take account of the time it takes to get to know people, to build relationships and trust.
- Acknowledge and understand the potential power imbalance in communities and with organisations. Recognise that there may be a need to support communities and individuals to become more competent and confident.
- Public transports systems can be poor.
- Tenants in island communities may have additional challenges with ferry times which may require overnight accommodation.
- The weather can have an impact.
- Poor/slow internet connections.
Key learning points
- Do not impose landlords agenda and structures, create agendas and structures that suit the rural circumstances;
- Listen actively to peoples stories to build connections;
- Try new things – let the tenants take the lead – it’s an evolutionary process;
- Use every and all communication mediums but face to face is always best;
- Engage with decision makers, explore issues and maximise influence;
- Provide “on the job training” and information for tenants;
- Know your community, challenges and issues that they are facing;
- Identify the skills and assets that they have. The knowledge and opportunities that already exist;
- Don’t worry about people dipping in and out – they have other things going on in their life. Send a little hello from time to time and take an interest in them;
- Allow things to evolve organically;
- Integrate with other infrastructures;
- Facilitate and allow individuals, groups and communities to develop their own solutions;
- Give respect and recognition for the issues and challenges people face, rural poverty is a huge issue;
- Long term commitment, not short termism.
South Dell, Isle of Lewis
This group has been going for ten years. They are a small informal group and want to remain as a small informal group. From the beginning HHP staff have attended and participated in their meetings, giving everyone on this small estate the opportunity to share concerns and ideas. The group focus on sharing with neighbours and fostering a good community spirit, welcoming new people to the area and keeping in touch with HHP. The group work on maintaining the area with funding to buy flowers and tubs. A few years ago they won the best small rural estate award.
Case Study: Involving Gypsy/Travellers
The Scottish Social Housing Charter encompasses an “involving all” approach, which it embraces groups who are often difficult to reach or excluded.
Gypsy/Travellers and their sites are predominately the responsibility of Local Authorities, some sites are managed by Housing Associations on behalf of a Local Authority.
Some key questions to think about:
- Are Gypsy/Travellers routinely included in any participation and consultation activities which may impact on their services?
- Is information provided in a range of formats?
- Is there feedback after any involvement?
The Act requires social housing organisation to consult all tenants and take into account their views when making decision about services and policies. Although Gypsy/Travellers do not have a Scottish Secure Tenancy Agreement they must still be consulted and involved in decisions which might affect them.
Charter outcome 16 is concerned with Gypsy/Travellers, and importantly states that notes that “all the standards and outcomes apply to Gypsy/Travellers”. With this in mind Gypsy/Travellers must have access to a range of services and can participate in decisions which may affect them.
It also states that – “local councils and social landlords with responsibility for managing sites for Gypsies/Travellers should manage the sites so that: sites are well maintained and managed, and meet the minimum site standards set in Scottish Government guidance.”
- In some instances, long term projects are less likely to be successful due to the fact that the Gypsy/Travellers may move on to another site.
- Many Gypsy/Travellers do not consider themselves part of the Social Housing sector; they have a distinct culture, traditions and needs, it’s important that staff understand these needs.
- Many site residents are not used to being asked their views or opinions.
- Literacy and numeracy could be a problem.
- There can be a lack of trust of authority;
it takes time to build relationships and trust.
Working effectively with Gypsy/Travellers
1. Building trust takes time, feedback on how residents’ views have influenced or impacted is important to build trust.
2. Every site is different, for example on one site the residents were happy to meet as a group, on another they preferred a one to one approach, find out what suits residents and use a mixture of approaches and methods
3. Include participation and success stories as part of the site settling in procedures
4. Where possible, use informal approaches to participation and involvement
5. Working with individual families rather than the traditional group model works well
6. The site manager is often the key to the success of involving Gypsy/Travellers, they are the key point of contact with residents and have responsibility for the day to day running of the site and will be aware of the best approaches to take with residents
7. All staff must be trained in equalities and in particular working with Gypsy/Travellers their culture and traditions
Shawlands Park Larkhall
Working with Gypsy/Travellers requires knowledge and understanding of their cultures and traditions. Building trust and demonstrating change, where the views of the Gypsy/Travellers have been fed back and taken on board is a key to success. Residents will have experienced a range of participation practices; there is not one perfect solution to involving Gypsy/Travellers.
The success of involving Gypsy/Travellers on this site is due to the hard work and commitment of the site manager. He has, with site residents, built a range of methods for involvement and running the site including:
- Clear procedures – the site manager has worked with residents to develop clear procedures for dealing with issues such as repairs.
- Excellent communications – residents have excellent two way communication between themselves and the Local Authority through the manager, in, for example investment priorities.
- Building – the manager has built strong relationships built on trust and mutual respect which has enabled the residents with the manager to develop simple, fair rules.
- Understanding – with the residents, clear roles and responsibilities have been developed which are easily understood and applied consistently.
- Annual event – an Annual event is held in September each year where they can discuss local issues and influence the services they receive.
- Making it happen – from the annual event, action plans are developed and monitored and progress fed back to tenants.
- On going involvement – residents are clear what their involvement is and are kept up-to-date with progress.
- Rents – annually residents give their views on any changes to rents.
- Involving all – residents are encouraged to attend the Local Authorities tenants conference.
The residents feel empowered and confident to engage with the local authority and give their views resulting in increased resident satisfaction with their home and living environment, residents feel pride and ownership of the site and are involved in a loosely structured approach to decision making.
Key learning points
- Information for residents on how the site works and opportunities for involvement is important for new residents;
- Working with residents;
- Demonstrate change and any impacts residents have been involved in, no matter how small;
- Be prepared for starting over when residents move on;
- Well trained and well informed staff are crucial;
- Develop a variety of methods that residents are comfortable with;
- Present information in a variety of ways;
- Give options for change;
- Consistent frequent feedback, the good news and the not so good news;
- Locally agreed activities and events;
- Involving children will often encourage adults to attend;
- Link activities and consultations to other events on the site, such as health services events;
- Invite Gypsy/Travellers to get involved in other participation events such as tenants conferences, and fun days;
- Take time to build relationships and trus;
- Informal activities around children and families such as fun days work well.
Case Study: Involving Tenants in Rent Setting
A housing organisation’s main source of income is the rents that tenants pay, and for most tenants, it is also the main item of household expenditure.
With this in mind, it is crucial that housing organisations engage with tenants, provide clear information, and listen to their views about the rents that tenants pay before considering any increase or change to how rents are set or structured.
Key questions to think about include:
- Are tenants given genuine options and opportunities?
- Is information clear and transparent?
- Are tenants listened to?
The Act requires social housing organisations to consult tenants and take account of their views when making decisions about proposed rent increases. Landlords should give tenants at least four weeks’ notice of the increased rent due to be paid. Prior to issuing this notice, social rented landlords must consult with tenants affected by the proposal and take their views and opinions into account.
The Scottish Social Housing Charter (the Charter) sets the standards and outcomes that all social housing organisations in Scotland should aim to achieve when performing their housing activities including:
- Social Landlords manage all aspects of their business so that tenants, owners, and other customers receive services that provide continually improving value for the rent and other charges they pay. (outcome 13);
- Social Landlords set rents and service charges in consultation with their tenants and other customers so that:
- A balance is struck between the level of services provided, the cost of the service and how far current and prospective tenants and service users can afford them. (Outcome 14).
- Tenants get clear information on how rent and other money is spent, including details of any individual items of expenditure above thresholds agreed between landlords and tenants. (Outcome 15).
Six Steps for Effective Consultation
1. Involve tenants in planning your consultation
2. Agree your consultation activities and timescale
3. Remove barriers to ensure lots of different consultation methods are used to encourage responses from a broad range of tenants
4. Provide information on how rent money is spent and find out tenant priorities for service delivery and investment
5. Provide realistic and achievable options that assist tenants to choose between varieties of genuine options. Each option should set out what services or levels of investment would be delivered
6. Demonstrate that you have listened: It is important that you feedback the findings of the consultation and clearly highlight how tenant consultation shaped the rent setting process.
North Lanarkshire Council: A Good Practice Example
Effective Tenant Participation means tenants being involved in all aspects of service delivery in a meaningful and inclusive way. Where Tenant Participation is well embedded within an organisation, establishing structures for planning and overseeing the rent setting consultation can be more straightforward.
North Lanarkshire Council, has established a programme of consultation that takes place from September and December each year. Recently consultation methods have included:
- Open meeting: In September 2017, North Lanarkshire Tenants’ and Residents’ Federation (NLF) hosted an open meeting and the rent consultation was formally launched.
- Food 4 Thought: The NLF also run a programme of ‘Food 4 Thought’ sessions throughout the year in partnership with the Tenants and Residents Participation Project, providing more information about particular topics to tenants and members pf Tenants’ and Residents’ groups. The rent setting ‘Food 4 Thought’ every year, provided tenants with the opportunity to discuss the options and the process in more detail.
- Tenant survey: The Council uses Survey Monkey to develop a rent setting questionnaire that is available online and promoted via the Council’s website and social media sites.
This platform gathers feedback around tenants’ views. Other rent consultation processes have included a survey postcard summarising the proposed rent increase options, and giving participants the opportunity to indicate their preference.
- Tenants’ newsletter: The summer edition of the tenants’ newsletter includes a section on the rent setting process. It includes background information about how collected rent is spent and priorities that have been identified for the year ahead. A paper version of the rent survey is also included.
- Vote at tenants’ conference: In November each year the Council hosts its annual tenants’ conference and rent setting is featured on the agenda. The event includes an interactive voting session allowing participants to express their preference for the options presented.
- Feedback: All feedback from the above methods is collated and considered before Council Officers submit final proposals to Elected Members for consideration and approval. Tenants are then informed of the result of the consultation process in advance of rent increase notices being issued to each tenant in March.
- Not all tenants participate in the consultation activities.
- Communicating with all tenants individually can be costly.
- Councils are not always aware of what funding will be provided by the Scottish Government in advance of setting housing service budgets and rent increase proposals.
- The austerity agenda means landlords need to do more with less.
- Balancing the needs and demand for services and investment needs with affordability.
Key Learning Points
- In order to give an informed view tenants need to know and understand how rents are set and spent;
- A variety of consultation methods is crucial;
- Opportunities are required for tenants to discuss proposals with officers and other tenants encourage learning and debate in a more considered and meaningful way;
- Information on expenditure and performance is required prior to consultation taking place;
- Opportunities for involving tenants in scrutiny of the housing budget, although a recent development, is encouraging a deeper understanding of rent and budget setting processes along with how income and expenditure is monitored, which will in turn provide an opportunity to identify any improvements required.
Case Study: Tenant Led Scrutiny
Tenant led scrutiny aims to give tenants more power in holding their landlord to account for their decisions, performance and conduct. Changes to regulation in Scotland following the introduction of the Scottish Social Housing Charter (the Charter) and the independent Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR), require landlords to be more proactive in self-regulation and to involve tenants in the scrutiny process.
Together these have created a new environment in which registered social landlords, Councils and their tenants must work in partnership to achieve positive outcomes for tenants and other service users in Scotland. The emphasis from the Scottish Government means that landlords must deliver quality services, involve their tenants in assessing the performance of these services, be able to demonstrate value for money and drive forward improvements. Tenant led scrutiny and landlord self assessment are key priorities on the Scottish housing agenda.
Key Characteristics of Tenant Led scrutiny
Key characteristics required for genuine tenant led scrutiny:
Commitment from tenants and service users and across the whole organisation to ensure that tenant led scrutiny is an integral part of the landlords’ governance and performance management frameworks. The development and implementation of a “strategic scrutiny framework” that is jointly agreed with tenants will clearly demonstrate commitment of everyone involved.
Training and support is required for tenants and service users involved in scrutiny activities, along with staff and Elected and Board Members to ensure awareness and understanding of the scrutiny process.
Independence from other governance and management structures. This means that the people who control the tenant led scrutiny activities are not the same people involved in managing or governing the organisation.
Formality in operation. Formality gives tenants and service users’ confidence that they are entitled to ask for information and that their activities and recommendations will be taken into account and fit into the landlords’ other business processes. Formalisation of the scrutiny group or panel and its activities should also assist in the demonstration of accountability to and between participants, the landlord and other tenants and service users.
Power for tenants and other service users to challenge and effect change, making the process an equal partnership between tenants, senior staff, Elected and Board Members.
Planning and procedures are required to be in place to ensure that everyone understands tenant led scrutiny processes, expectations are defined and met, communication between those involved in scrutiny activities, staff and Elected and Board Members is clear and timescales for implementation of recommendations and monitoring progress are in place.
Agree area of scrutiny
Information, training and support
Carry out scrutiny:
Agree and participate in scrutiny tasks
Report results and recommendations
Agree what will be done, when and how
Monitor and evaluate:
What’s been done, is it working?
Glen Oaks Service Improvement Group: A Good Practice Example
Having shared their experiences of moving into their home with Glen Oaks Housing Association, Service Improvement Group (SIG) members identified some common themes and started a conversation on how the experience could be improved for all new tenants, particularly with regard to the standard and cleanliness of properties. The Void and Lettable Standard Scrutiny Project was therefore agreed.
The SIG members carried out a range of scrutiny activities to assist them thoroughly review the service including:
- An extensive desk top audit of the lettable standard, void contract, specification, void process paperwork, complaint and satisfaction levels with regard to the standard of the home when a new tenant moves in;
- Meetings with the Association’s Technical Team to understand roles and responsibilities as well as processes and procedures;
- Staff survey;
- Work shadowing void inspection visits with staff;
- Inspection visits to void properties when tenancy terminated and then after void works carried out.
The SIG members demonstrated a great understanding of the financial constraints on the Association when properties are vacated in a poor condition, as well as the importance of keeping refusals and void rent loss down and tenancy sustainment high. This tenant led scrutiny resulted in the SIG proposing 91 recommendations for improvement, which the Corporate Management Team and Association Board welcomed. The recommendations were used to procure a new void contractor and overall from the 91 recommendations, the Association agreed to 59, 22 were addressed through the new void contract, 5 will be considered at a future date, and only 5 were not taken on board. The SIG recommendations on what should be included in the lettable standard and void contract resulted in a 30% increase in tenant satisfaction with the quality of their home when moving in.
Time – tenants involved in scrutiny activities are volunteers and need time to carry out this work and it may take longer than initially envisaged
Staff pressures – staff may not always be available to meet with or assist tenants in their work due to other constraints on their time
Resources and costs – not all recommendations may be implemented due to finance or other resource implications
Key Learning Points
- Commitment, enthusiasm and understanding of tenants, staff and Board members is crucial;
- Tenants identified and reported on good practice, as well as recommending improvements. This reassured staff that the SIG is not “out to pick faults”;
- Staff and Board members must be willing to embrace new ideas and change;
- The SIG has become an integral part of the Association, finding a balance between being “friends of the Association” and being “the critical eye” never afraid to challenge something they think isn’t right;
- Tenants must be aware that not all recommendations may be feasible;
- SIG Terms of Reference and Scrutiny SIG Outline for staff developed;
- Training and support is vital;
- Action Plan developed for scrutiny project and assessment of information required at outset agreed and supplied.