Last Updated on April 21, 2015
Category: All, Customer Engagement, Social Housing

Phil MorganPhil Morgan is an independent housing consultant and former housing regulator. He has been England’s leading authority on resident involvement for over a decade. Arena Partnership’s Helene Beales talks to Phil to find out his views on how resident involvement is developing today and explores the challenges and opportunities housing providers face.

H: What are the biggest changes you have seen in regards to resident involvement over the last 5 years?
P: There has been a large rise in resident scrutiny, landlord accountability, customer focused service delivery and emphasis on value for money (VfM). This of course has been driven by the HCA (2010) regulatory framework but landlords are also realising that resident involvement makes good business sense too.

H: Where do you see resident involvement going in the next 5 years?
P: Scrutiny will be developed further becoming more nuanced. Involvement will include a more diverse range of tenants and there will be an increased diversification of approaches. The way in which landlords capture data on their activities will become more sophisticated. Moving away from just collating numbers of tenants who have participated and when, to more detailed analysis of the costs and benefits of the activities. This of course is influenced by the VfM statement and the need to demonstrate the value of such activities.

H: What regulatory frameworks should housing professionals be mindful of when performing resident involvement activities?
P: Obviously the HCA (2010) regulatory framework is the main player for housing. However as the lines between housing and health begin to merge and more housing providers begin to provide care, then the CQC guidance is another framework to be mindful of, for example delivering a person-centred approach.

H: From your experience of working with landlords what range of activities are they offering? Are some activities becoming more popular?
P: From my experience of working with medium to large size housing providers many provide a wide menu of involvement options, typically between 30-50 activities per organisation per year. Service improvement groups seem to be on the increase covering areas such as procurement, service delivery and Plain English reading panels. Traditional Resident Association groups although less popular these days still have an important role to play. Of course we also cannot ignore the increasing role of social media in resident involvement today.

H: How has the increased use of technology and the digital age complemented resident involvement activities? Or has it hindered it in any way?
P: Yes following on from the last point social media has had a huge influence on resident involvement. I think largely this has been a good thing in that it allows people who use social media to get involved. It has made involvement more democratic, accessible and mobile, perhaps reaching people who would not have traditionally got involved. However on the other hand there are still individuals who do not have access to the internet or indeed know how to use it. Therefore landlords need to be mindful to make sure individuals are not excluded on the basis that they can’t access the internet. In this case paper copies may still be required.

H: You currently provide a lot of advice to housing organisations on governance, co- regulation and tenant scrutiny. Is there a simple way to explain what these are and how they work together?
P: Governance is about landlords being run properly with non-executives leading and holding an organisation to account. Co-regulation recognises that landlords should work closely with their tenants to ensure that they involve tenants and deliver effective services. Tenant scrutiny is a very visible sign of co-regulation – providing a strong element of accountability of landlords to their tenants. It also reinforces the cultural commitment to tenants by landlords.

My work often involves setting up and recruiting tenant scrutiny panels, reviewing resident involvement strategies and mechanisms and working with clients on regulatory compliance. It also includes wider approaches such as Dudley’s Housing Board which combine tenant and resident empowerment with scrutiny, monitoring and advising on major decisions on community funding and housing strategies.

H: What impact do you believe the Social Value Act (2012) has had in relation to resident involvement?
P: To be honest I haven’t seen a large impact in the area of resident involvement yet. From my experience of working with housing providers this act currently seems to be used largely at the procurement stage. However there are some good examples out there with residents getting involved in consultation re procurement. But as yet I have not seen the act being implemented across departments and throughout organisations.

H: What top tip/s would you give to organisations delivering resident involvement strategies?
P: I truly believe that organisations need to make a cultural commitment to resident involvement and embed this across their organisation. Resident Involvement mustn’t just be given to the resident involvement officers but adopted by all working for the housing provider. They should embrace and want to get their residents involved for the good of the residents and the organisation. Otherwise resident involvement can become tokenistic and not provide the desired results.

H: Finally in your opinion do you see resident involvement and community development teams working more closely today than they have in the past?
P: Not necessarily, in fact I think they should probably work together more.  If you were to take the perspective of the residents they would not distinguish between these two types of involvement. They would just see it as them getting involved with their landlord. It would therefore make sense to have these teams covered by one involvement policy and share resources and knowledge across teams.

Arena Partnership would like to thank Phil for taking the time to talk to us. If you would like to find out more about Phil’s work check out his website or find him on Twitter @philmorganblog