8. Other involvement groups
East Devon Tenant Representative Group:
In our last Tenant Involvement Strategy we made a commitment to revisit the purpose of the Tenant and Leaseholder Customer Panel to ensure that its role was still relevant and it was representative of all our involvement methods. As a result of this review it was decided to disband the Panel and set up a new group, the Tenant Representative Group. The group, set up in October 2011, meets every two months, and is made up of representatives from each Service Review Group. It has an independent chair person and tenant vice chair person. It receives reports from all Service Review Groups, considers matters going to the Housing Review Board and a wide range of other housing related issues.
We have a number of tenants who have been trained in our recruitment and selection policies and procedures. During 2012 tenants have helped us recruit all of the 12 new staff we have within the landlord and repairs functions, including mobile support officers, programmed works officers, Home Safeguard team leader, repairs assistants and allocations assistant.
This is a formal council overview and scrutiny committee consisting of five councillors, five tenants, and two independent community representatives. The board’s main function is to consider matters relating to the landlord and housing management activities of the council, including budget and performance issues. Housing Review Board members are also invited to join Task and Finish Forums (TAFFS) which this year have been working on projects such as reshaping support for older people, car parking and garages.
Residents and tenants associations:
The associations enable tenants to have a say on housing and neighbourhood matters, including having a choice on how services are delivered. There are currently four tenant/resident associations: Meadway and St Gregory’s (Seaton), Lymebourne and Arcot (Sidmouth), Dray and Morgan Court (Exmouth) and Littleham (Exmouth).
We hold a conference for tenants every year, with 60 to 100 tenants from across the district attending. We use this opportunity to find out what tenants think about the services provided and to inform them about service improvements. The conference is attended by the chief executive and head of housing as well as other housing officers. The conference is organised by a sub group of the Tenant Representative Group.
Each year we organise a garden competition which is open to all tenants and leaseholders. Prizes are awarded for the best gardens and judging takes place in July, with prize winners invited to attend a prize giving ceremony in September. This is very popular and we regularly have over 40 entrants, all of a high standard.
Postal, telephone, email, and in-person surveys:
Periodically we need to contact people and ask for their views and opinions about different things we are doing or are planning to do.
Housing and Housing Review Board ‘drop-in’ sessions:
These are open sessions that are held every couple of months across the district. They are open to all tenants in the area, but other customers can also drop in. More the 20 tenants dropped in to the six sessions held during 2012, and the Housing Review Board is currently reviewing their future.
Customer satisfaction surveys:
We constantly ask our customers how they rate the service they receive. We currently do this:
- for estate management service requests (for example, reports about anti-social behaviour)
- for programmed works such as new bathrooms, kitchens, and heating systems
- for all responsive repairs
- for new tenants who have recently moved into a property
- By the ‘Have your say’ questionnaire which goes out periodically in the Housing Matters magazine and asks for comments, compliments or complaints about our service
- By the questionnaire that goes out each year with the Annual Report
The feedback received is used to help tackle poor performance, improve the service further, and to give positive feedback to staff and contractors. We include feedback on these areas in the Annual Report to Tenants each October.
The Tenant Representative Group has at its disposal a small budget which it can use to support community initiative that they judge to be of direct or indirect benefit to tenants. Grants of up to £1,000 may be applied for to help with projects in the community.
Housing Matters magazine:
Housing Matters replaced the Partnership News and Housing Standard newsletters. Housing Matters is produced three times a year designed and edited by a group of tenants supported by the Tenant Participation team. Tenants are invited to contribute articles and suggestions for the newsletter and are periodically asked for formal feedback on its design and layout.
Mystery shopping and audits:
These have been running for nearly four years and have recently been re-launched with new members and refresher training. Mystery shopping has carried out an exercise in a number of areas including, new tenancies, telephone responses, grounds maintenance, and standard letters. This year they looked at repair satisfaction reply slips and our reception/parking issues. The mystery shopping group present a report to the Housing Management team and the Housing Review Board with their findings and recommendations. This is an extremely valuable resource and needs to be utilised more often.
This group was set up a couple of years ago and was designed to be used by officers when producing new leaflets or standard letters. The idea was for tenants to read the leaflets or letters and comment on the readability. The group receives papers for reading by email or in the post. This group has recently been consulted on leaflets regarding anti-social behaviour; fire safety; getting involved; night storage heaters and the supporting people subsidy. Their feedback has helped make the leaflets easier to read and understand with less jargon.
Periodically our customers help us review the housing pages of our website. We made a commitment in our last Tenant Involvement Strategy to carry out another review and this took place early in 2012 led by our information and analysis officer.
When we refreshed the Tenant Involvement Strategy in Autumn 2010 it was clear that some areas of the service were not involving tenants as much as was desired. Since then we have continued to work across all housing areas to ensure tenants are involved as much as possible and are pleased to report two new Service Review Groups, for Rentals and Housing Needs. However, we know that we still need to set up a forum for leaseholders, a group for younger people and a ‘council own build’ review group will be set up when our programme of building homes for our own stock continues.
While many of the tenants who get involved with our service are older or retired, it was also clear that we are not always good at considering the needs of our disabled, older, Black Minority Ethnic (BME), and younger tenants. The needs of our older and disabled tenants are generally considered by the Sheltered Housing Service Review Group, but only if they live in sheltered housing. We need to continue to ensure that we consider the needs of, and encourage participation from, all of our tenants, especially younger, working tenants and those from ethnic minorities.
Under changes to the way in which housing providers must deal with complaints, introduced through the Localism Act 2011, we are looking to work with tenants to set up a tenant complaints panel. This would be a group of tenants to whom anyone making a complaint about the housing service could go to if they have gone through our formal complaints procedure and are still unhappy with the decision.
We are also considering starting a ‘virtual development group’ to consider aspects of our new build programme.