What England could learn from the Scottish approach to regulation
The Social Housing Green Paper suggests the Scottish approach to regulation could be considered for use south of the border. In this new piece, originally published in Inside Housing, CIH Scotland’s policy and practice manager Ashley Campbell explains which parts of the system in Scotland are worth a look.
The recent Social Housing Green Paper suggested the UK Government may benefit from looking towards Scotland for ideas on performance monitoring and regulation.
In their response, our CIH colleagues in Coventry called for a regulatory system based on transparency and co-produced with the sector. Given these asks, we think there is a lot that the rest of the UK can learn from the Scottish approach.
The Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) is independent of Government and has powers to investigate and intervene in the interest of tenants, homeless households and other customers. Intervention is based on assessment of risk with an emphasis on supporting compliance and good practice.
Performance is measured against 16 Outcomes set out in the Scottish Social Housing Charter. These are the standards that all social landlords should be achieving.
The Outcomes are based on transparency, communication and engagement, placing tenants and customers at the heart of service design and delivery. This focus is not only important in developing trust between landlords and tenants, we know that engagement leads to better, more efficient services and in turn, better value for money.
The Charter was developed in line with the principles of co-production with significant input from landlords, tenants and other service users. It is updated every five years and you can find the latest version on the Scottish Government’s website.
Each year, landlords must submit an Annual Return on the Charter (ARC) based on a set of indicators which measure performance against each of the Charter Outcomes.
In the spirit of transparency, all of the data submitted each year is published in full on the SHR’s website allowing anyone to explore and compare the performance of any social landlord. While the volume of data published means that you need to be pretty nifty with Excel to find what you are looking for, the principle of sharing all of the data is certainly welcome.
Publishing data in full also allows organisations such as HouseMark Scotland to step in and develop more accessible tools for comparing performance over time and between different landlords. This is an invaluable resource for tenants and landlords.
But what is the result of all of this data collecting and publishing? Data monitoring by HouseMark across the UK shows that while tenant satisfaction and service delivery has been declining in England, it has been improving in Scotland with 90% of tenants reporting satisfaction with their landlord’s services. There is variation between landlords and performance could still be improved across the sector but publishing this information means that issues can be identified and landlords can learn from each other.
Interestingly, the idea of introducing a rating system or ‘league table’ for the sector came up in recent consultation carried out by the SHR and received lukewarm support at best. Feedback from our members and other suggested that points or ranking systems can result in landlords focussing too much on their rating and not enough on outcomes for tenants.
We think that our system of performance monitoring and regulation is fair and transparent – but of course it could always be better. The SHR is currently consulting on a new regulatory framework. Suggestions being taken forward include a new Annual Assurance Statement to be submitted by social landlords setting out how they are complying with regulatory requirements or highlighting areas where they know more work is needed. There are also proposals to provide better support and tools for Boards and Committees to ensure they have the skills they need to scrutinise their own performance and to explore new ways to make the ARC data more accessible.
If you would like to have your say, the consultation will be open until 14 December.
*This article appeared in Inside Housing on 19 November 2018.