New research by local government think tank, LGiU, calls for councils and housing associations to re-think their relationships with their tenants.
The report, supported by Mears Group, argues that social landlords must engage in a meaningful conversation with tenants if they are to meet the complex challenges of today.
Residents of social and council housing are disproportionately impacted by welfare reforms, heightening the risk of rent arrears. Combined with longer-term drivers such as an ageing population, climate change and digital inclusion, households today must adapt quickly to meet these challenges, but this cannot be a one-way street. We need strong, collaborative relationships between social landlords and their tenants.
The report welcomes the steps already being taken: 60% of council and housing associations raised their spend on tenant engagement in 2013/14 compared with the previous year. Such spend increases are significant in an era of reduced financial resources and reveal that tenant engagement is a growing priority.
However, the report highlights that there is scope for further progress:
- There is still a high level of uncertainty, particularly around Universal Credit. A quarter of respondents overall, and a third of councils, felt they did not have the resources they needed to give people the right support and advice.
- Only a quarter of respondents reported that they were currently making use of customer contact points between their tenants and third party providers. However, 55 per cent expressed an interest developing these relationships in future.
- Three-quarters of respondents to our survey agreed that residents will need additional advice and support services in future.
The report identifies four broad practical lessons landlords should consider in shaping more proactive conversations with their tenants.
- working with tenants to build relationships
- using customer contact points and data effectively – which leads to joined-up support, saving money, and improves services and participation
- targeted communications and digital inclusion
- training community champions
Commenting on the report, Dr Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGiU, said:
“The relationship between social landlords and their tenants is undergoing a period of fundamental change. This is a direct result not only of a shifting welfare landscape, but of long-term challenges associated with the growing gap between demand for services and availability of resources.
“These changes mean that there is a pressing need for housing organisations and councils to think seriously and creatively about how they engage their tenants. Our research reveals that there is an aspiration to do so within these organisations and we should welcome the increased prioritisation of tenant engagement.
“We hope that this report and the practical recommendations that arise from it will help councils, social landlords and others to work with their tenants to ensure that they are able to cope with changes to the welfare system and the bigger long-term challenges we all face.”
Alan Long, Executive Director at Mears Group, added:
“Social landlords are finding themselves the backstop for Whitehall decisions risking long established relationships and changing the terms of engagement. These seismic shifts in policy are demanding a rethink in resident landlord discourse.
“This research comes at a vital point and gives new insights into what needs to be done to ensure engagement practices optimise positive outcomes.
Notes for Editors
For all press enquiries, including arranging to speak to a spokesperson, please contact:
- Lizzie Greenhalgh, LGiU, 0207 554 2800, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Abigail Lock, Mears Group, 0207 259 4780/ 0780 8647836, Abigail.Lock@mearsgroup.co.uk
The full report is available here: http://lgiu.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Strong-Foundations.pdf
Survey – key statistics
The survey received 200 responses. Just over half (51.5 per cent) of these were housing associations, a quarter (24.7 per cent) retained stock authorities, and the rest were ALMOs, Large Scale Voluntary Transfer organisations, alms houses, and local authorities with arms length management bodies. The survey targeted officers in senior positions in relation to customer engagement and elected members with responsibility for this agenda.
The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) is a think tank which works to strengthen local democracy and put citizens in control of their own lives, communities and local services. It works with local councils and other public services providers, along with a wider network of public, private and third sector organisations. lgiu.org.
About Mears Group
Mears is the leading social housing repairs and maintenance provider in the UK and a major presence in the domiciliary care market – bringing the highest standards of care to people and their homes.
Partnering with clients, 17,000 Mears Group employees maintain, repair and upgrade people’s homes, care for individuals and work in communities across the country – from inner city estates to remote rural villages. For more information, please contact Abigail Lock at Abigail.Lock@mearsgroup.co.uk