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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

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Monday, August 5

Supporting Scrutiny

With tenant-led scrutiny now becoming more established, and some very positive outcomes being reported, one question that I have regularly heard posed is how tenants should be supported in carrying out scrutiny reviews. Support can come from various sources, but is usually provided by officers and/or by an independent advisor. For scrutiny panels to be able to operate without support they need to have skills, experience, resources and confidence to succeed. Providers who set up a scrutiny regime without ensuring that these are in place could be accused of setting tenants up to fail. Whilst there may be some (hopefully very few) providers who would willfully set out to do this, despite having a negative view of scrutiny, I would hope that the majority of social housing organisations would make some positive attempt at making sure scrutiny is a success.

So, can support be provided by a landlord without jeopardising the independence of the scrutiny panel? Clearly, it is a matter of determining how that support will be provided and ensuring that the input is genuine support and not taking over the leadership and responsibility from the panel. Perhaps this is where independent support can be useful. Independent tenant support emerged as a vital aspect of the stock transfer process, providing advice and guidance to tenant groups and information to the wider tenant body, on the often confusing and tortuous route through officialdom and bureaucracy. So, does tenant-led scrutiny also require this input from independent advisors? Well the answer has to come from tenants themselves. Each scrutiny review is different, and it should be up to tenants who are involved in the process to determine whether or not they should have support which is outside the organisation. Clearly, there should be a constructive partnership which emerges, with tenants, officers, and if required, independent supporters, working together towards shared aims around improving services.

What should the support be aimed at? Again, this should depend upon the skills and experience of the tenants involved. It might be support to enable panels to select certain services for review, or assisting in developing a project plan for a review. Support may be needed for locating the source of evidence, or in the drafting or writing a report. The key aim in all the support that is provided should be to build the skills and experience of the tenants who are involved in scrutiny. Those providing support, from without or outside the organisation, should aim to reduce their input as those skills and experiences develop.

Whatever the source and the type of support that is provided, everyone involved should make sure that the overall outputs and outcomes from the review are tenant-led, and are seen to be tenant-led. This can be a challenge in itself, but certainly not beyond the wit and means of all those involved in scrutiny.