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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Shaping Social Housing: Involving Communities - conference report

Over 80 delegates attended a conference held in Belfast on the 5th March, aimed to help stimulate ideas and discussion for those who want input into the Department for Social Development’s (DSD) consultation “A Tenant Participation Strategy for Northern Ireland: 2015-2020”. 

Lessons from Scotland

The delegates heard from Anne Cook, Head of the Social Housing Services Team in the Scottish Government, and responsible for the regulation of social housing in Scotland and tenant’s rights, empowerment and scrutiny. Anne was able to provide an insight into the Scottish Social Housing Charter. The purpose of the charter is to

  • Give tenants and other customers a clear understanding of what they should expect from a social landlord
  • Give landlords a clear understanding of what they should be delivering through their housing activities
  • Provides the basis for the Scottish Housing Regulator to monitor, assess and report on the performance of social landlords and if necessary to require compliance with the charter

Areas covered in the charter include customer / landlord relationships. Housing quality and maintenance, neighbourhood and community, access to housing and support and getting value for rent and service charges paid. The charter also gives an enhanced role to tenants in scrutinising landlords performances, which gives tenants more power in holding their landlords to account for the services and performance they provide

The audience also heard from Lisa Peebles, a board member of the Scottish Housing Regulation Board. They have created an online landlord reporting tool that allows tenants to find and compare up to four landlords on a range of factors. Lisa explained how the Scottish Housing Regulator consulted and involved tenants in the development of their strategy. This included dialogue with tenant groups, testing of communications, and giving tenants increased powers in landlord scrutiny.

Northern Irelands Journey so far

The delegates and the conference got the chance to hear about local examples of best practice in tenant participation. Sheena McCallion (Apex Housing), Paul Lynch & Colm McQuillan (Northern Ireland Housing Executive) and Chris Symington (Oaklee/Trinity) shared their vision and initiatives in their presentations.

Involving Everyone: Including ‘easy to ignore’ groups in housing policy

Jenny Muir and Mary McMahon presented the findings of their research ' Involving Everyone: Including ‘easy to ignore’ groups in housing policy and strategy development', commissioned by Housing Rights Service.

Their research concluded;

  • People first – start with the individual and their issues
  • Rights based approach
  • Think about power all the time - and everybody has some power
  • Turn issues into policy and strategy – widen the agenda
  • Improve processes, communication and negotiation – better outcomes
  • Work with people’s strengths (assets) – capacity release
  • But use multiple participation techniques too – including good quality information
  • Evidence based approach – small independent resource base needed, including international links

The research paper will be available from the end of March.

Workshops on the details of the Tenant Participation Strategy

The afternoon of the conference gave delegates a chance to get into the detail of the strategy with four workshops. The feedback from these workshops has been collated and can be downloaded below. 

The Presentations

Shane Clements

Anne Cook

Lisa Peebles

Apex Housing

Housing  Executive

Oaklee/Trinity

Jenny Muir and Mary McMahon

 

Tagged In

Social Tenancies, Policy
This article was written on 10 March 2015. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.