The Governments Social Housing White Paper has driven a unique, strategic, and measured vision from a leading housing association by one of its customers.
Platform Housing Group established a Customer Experience Panel in 2019, providing an arena for tenants to play a pivotal role in influencing and shaping the customer voice. This Panel has been developed and is now functioning as a high-level critical friend and is well respected in its methods in improving the tenant and landlord relationship and delivery processes.
The Social Housing White Paper set out the actions the government will take to ensure that residents in social housing are safe, are listened to, live in good quality homes, and have access to redress when things go wrong.
When it was issued in November 2020, a long-standing customer and panel member embraced the Charter for Social Housing and broke down the seven key areas with her strategic vision including ensuring the panels views on proposals to extend the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 were put forward.
Shaolan Menzies has methodically steered members through each policy point through a series of detailed presentations, lectures and debates, drawing on her knowledge gained from her psychology degree and studies in social and community, to achieve her main objective for members to be prepared for future legislation and have an in depth understanding of how that relates to their roles of oversight and to understand the connection between the businesses economic and consumer standards whilst empowering members along the way and improving on the abilities already possessed within the group.
In order to address each of the seven key areas (to be safe in your home, to know how your landlord is performing, to have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly, to be treated with respect, to have your voice heard by your landlord, to have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in, to be supported to take your first step to ownership), relevant service area representatives were invited onto the debate to address responsibilities within the legislation such as health and safety, fire risk, resident engagement, transparency and accountability, tackling anti-social behaviour, management costs, complaint handling code, the Green Homes Grant and more.
Examples of this have been the panel challenging the Head of Building Safety on how Platform will comply with the new health and safety requirements of the Building Safety Bill and the Fire Safety Bill, and the Director of Strategic Asset Management talked about the challenges in asset management and repairs, and responded to questions from the panel regarding fire safety and repairs for Platform customers.
Whilst Platform Housing Groups customers have taken the lead in developing relations with their landlord, the Group itself continues to create positive relationships with its residents through the Together with Tenants Charter which it adopted as a sector-leading example to help in taking the lead in accountability and resident oversight.
Shaolan said: “I became a customer of what is now Platform Housing Group in 2008 and have volunteered on its boards and panels across 13 years. It occurred to me during my studies that those involved in social housing were innovators, rich in their research and at the forefront of finding new and different ways in resolving societal issues and inequalities, as a student I knew I wanted to be part of that innovative process within social housing.
“Whilst in Higher Education I researched studies carried out by different housing associations such as The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. I’ve used that experience and tried my best to help guide the panel from what I learned fully immersing myself and my time into the White Paper Charter as it is an important way forward for housing associations, benefiting both the tenant and the landlord.”
“I have Dyslexia and Mears Irlen Syndrome also, so I am an advocate amongst the panel for making sure no one feels left behind in our studies and understanding.”
Chair of the Customer Experience Panel, Ella Corbett, said: “We have worked very hard on many issues whilst representing Platform customers and as Chair, it is my duty to ensure all voices are heard and panel members given the opportunity to take a lead on policies such as the White Paper to make it as meaningful as possible at a lower level.
“The ways in which Shaolan has been able to take a vitally important Government policy and break it down, has been nothing short of astounding. Shaolan has exceeded all my expectations and I am very proud of how she has taken on this project and dedicated herself to educating the Panel on its content.”
Lisa Fairlie, Director of Housing Operations at Platform Housing Group, said: “The way in which Shaolan has taken this head on has shown professionalism and dedication for a subject matter that is vitally important to ensure Platform evolves and improves in service areas where required and in such a way that it involves everyone as a team.
“Our customers are at the heart of all we do and the White Paper helps to regulate our services but this has evidenced how it can be done effectively and collaboratively.”