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Welcome to the learning4housing blog. I will be posting my thoughts and opinions on a range of issues facing the social housing sector. You are more than welcome to post your comments, whether you agree or disagree on the points. The aim here is to stimulate some debate on these issues, whether they are about current government policy or about best practice in housing management or strategy.

is an independent training provider for the social housing sector. We cover a wide range of subject areas, including anti-social behaviour, homelessness, resident involvement, void control, choice-based lettings, and complaints management, as well as personal skills development around communication, negotiation, assertiveness, influencing, managing people, etc. Please visit the main website for more information at

Please call David on 07986 246406 to discuss your training needs and how we can help, or email at

Wednesday, February 8

More on regulation and scrutiny

Well, it sometimes goes like this don't you think. There's no L4H blog post for ages, and then two turn up on the same day! 

Having delivered quite a few training courses recently on the issue of co-regulation and tenant scrutiny, L4H feels that there are a few questions to be asked about these issues. Any comments or thoughts about this issue would be welcome, as a number of tenants have expressed their concerns about how scrutiny will work in practice.

First of all, we are all resigned now for the imminent abolition of the TSA and the Audit Commission. As the mantle for maintaining standards for social housing is passed to social landlords and their tenants, is there a gap - a rather large gap - that could open up in front of us? Now don't get me wrong, L4H thinks that the prospect of developing the tenant scrutiny role is very positive and heralds a genuine opportunity for tenant empowerment. But, and there's always a of the problems with any form of tenant involvement is that it is very easy to pay it lip service and to get away with 'sham' involvement. We have all heard about those conultation exercises where the decision has been taken beforehand, but as an afterthought, we will ask tenants' opinions just so that we can 'tick the box'. 

Now as I said, L4H is all in favour of the scrutiny role, because if it is done properly, it is a very powerful tool for holding landlords to account and for tenants to exert influence to improve services. However, L4H recalls that when the TSA was first established, there was much talk of going after the poor performers. Those organisations who, under the 'old' regime, had received no stars or one star ratings from the Audit Commission. Attention would be given to making sure that these landlords improved their performance, whilst those with better results would be given a 'light touch' by the regulator. Risk-based regulation and inspection I think it was called at the time. However, under the new regime, where, in the spririt of localism no doubt, the task of consumer regulation is to be handed to landlords who are expected to self-regulate, and to invite their tenants to scrutinise their operations, performance and policies within a loosely-defined framework. The problem as L4H sees it is that while the good performers will embrace this new framework by embracing the concept of scrutiny and welcoming any challenges and criticisms as a way of facilitating further improvement, there is a real possibility that poorer performers may not do so. Some may just take the opportunity not to engage in this way with tenants, or to go through a pretence of doing so, in an attempt to have an easy life without all those messy challenges from pesky tenants. 

Although the TSA standards, including the empowerment standard, will remain in place, the only intervention that will happen is when 'serious detriment' is threatened, leaving landlords to regulate themselves. This is fine when everyone can be trusted to operate in this way, but in the absence of any external checks, the drive to improve services may be a fairly rocky one.

I'm a Housing Minister, get me out of here...

It has been very busy times here at the L4H office, hence the lack of posts to this blog in recent weeks. L4H will attempt to keep a bit more up to date on all things housing in future. The trouble is, so much seems to be happening on the housing front, perhaps partly due to the frenetic activity of our exciting housing minister, Grant Shapps. Certainly not afraid to put his mouth where his, er... mouth is, it would seem that Grant is clearly intent on making a name for himself, with frequent appearances on TV, radio, Twitter - in fact whenever he can get some friendly media exposure.

Anyway, although Mr Shapps may have succeeded in gaining more publicity for the housing issue in general, L4H believes in the old addage of quality over quantity. Some people have accused Grant of making housing policy 'on the hoof' and introducing populist measures without any having any clear direction.  But L4H believes that there is a clear direction that is being taken by Mr Shapps and the Coalition Government as a whole. In adopting a very negative stance towards social housing and social housing tenants, the government is in real danger of marginalising a major section of the population. L4H is waiting for election posters to appear depicting tenants with horns and pointy tails. Apart from cuts to welfare benefits, housing benefit, and reductions to security of tenure and increases in rents, it is also the constant drip, drip, drip of negative perceptions, gladly grasped and manipulated by the tabloid media, about benefit scroungers, layabouts and people generaly being undeserving of any compassion, let alone taxpayers' money!! Is this a good way to bring the country together? After all, we are always being told that 'we are all in this together' (pause for wry smiles)...should we not therefore be trying to unify the country in a positive way, and one which celebrates and builds on the successes of the past (and yes, social housing does have many such successes) but which avoids the mistakes that have been made by politicians of all parties. On the way, let's try not to vilify whole sections of the population - this path is much too well trodden and always leads to disaster in the end.

Meanwhile, L4H is just off to check on the latest line-up for I'm a Celebrity...