Resident engagement to be proud of

14 November 2017 | 14 November 2017

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As Chair of Sovereign’s Resident and Board Partnership I’m very proud of the way residents led on developing our new engagement structure and that this enables us to influence such a range of activities.

The Partnership works closely with the main Board and gives residents like me a chance to get involved in Sovereign’s strategy, policies, service standards and performance.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently as this topic cropped up at our last meeting and I’m preparing a presentation on our engagement structure for residents of another housing association.

Hopefully this report on our meeting’s a good illustration of what we do.

The Partnership works closely with the main Board and each meeting we get a report on the Board’s activities. At our end of October meeting we were delighted to have this presented by Christine Turner, who’s taken over as the Board’s link into the Partnership since Gordon Holdcroft was appointed Chair of the Board.

Fire safety a priority

We were pleased to hear from Christine that safety and compliance remain a high priority in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. In the weeks after the fire there was an urgent review of all our blocks with any cladding, which confirmed that none of Sovereign’s are clad in the same sort of material as at Grenfell Tower.

While other checks and improvements have already been made, such as a tightening up on the message to residents around not leaving items in corridors and other communal areas, we’re now awaiting any recommendations from the wider fire safety review underway nationally.

Christine also touched on Sovereign’s strong performance since the merger and that we expect an In Depth Assessment soon by the regulator, the Homes and Communities Agency. This will focus on customers and include the work of the Partnership and other resident engagement structures.

Scrutinising our engagement structures

The Scrutiny Coordination Group also reported back on their work and are about to start their first scrutiny exercise. Aptly this is into resident engagement and the way we developed our new structure.

In our case the approach was slightly unusual with engaged residents from Sovereign and Spectrum coming together in advance of the merger being completed. The review was led by a working group of residents, with support and facilitation from an independent consultant.

View from the front line

One of the most interesting items at each meeting is a view from the front line. This time Chris Jones shared his experience as an Anti-social Behaviour (ASB) Officer during one particularly difficult week. While Chris spends a lot of time dealing with fairly simple noise or drugs issues, he can also handle some very complex cases. In this case it was clear officers face very real or potential danger and need to think carefully about risks and safety (their own and that of individuals and neighbours). It’s clearly a rewarding but even more challenging job than I’d realised!

We also looked at ASB under our performance agenda item and saw how the previously different ways that this service was managed are being brought together following the merger.

On a personal note I’d also like to congratulate Richard Lane, our Oxfordshire ASB Officer, who I know well. I’m delighted that Richard’s been shortlisted for Practitioner of the Year in the annual RESOLVE ASB awards.

Shaping our culture and values

Elsewhere on the agenda we had input into shaping the new Sovereign’s future culture and values. We had a very high-energy, interactive session on this and it’s great that residents are being asked to contribute their views alongside employees, the Board and others.

Fact-finding on the Isle of Wight

Two of our members also shared their thoughts from a ‘fact finding’ visit to the Isle of Wight. Perhaps surprisingly it’s one of the least affluent parts of the country outside of inner city areas – but there were some good examples of our support and community activities there.

In particular we heard about the Foyer for the Island’s amazing work providing safe and secure accommodation for young people who are homeless or at risk of this.

Reviewing key landlord policies

We regularly look at Sovereign’s policies and procedures when they need reviewing or revising. This time we reviewed the tenancy policy, which we felt was still appropriate – including continuing to offer probationary tenancies.

Much of our debate then centred on what criteria should be used to assess whether a fixed term tenancy should be renewed or not. We’ve agreed to run a separate discussion forum on this so that we can consider everything in more detail.

I’m looking forward to being able to share some of my enthusiasm for our approach with residents at another association but I’ll confess to being a bit nervous too – so wish me luck!