23 November 2021

I have vivid memories of the last ‘in-person’ Boards Excellence in Housing conference, held in London in February 2020, probably because it was the last event I attended before the world changed. I remember driving home, listening to the Radio Four news, hearing that the Chinese Doctor who first reported the new virus in Wuhan City had died in hospital.

Looking back it is hard to believe how we failed to see what was coming and also hard to appreciate how quickly we adapted.

So, fast forward two years and Board Excellence in Housing is returning to Manchester. There are lots of great new topics on this year’s agenda, from the economy to net zero, but I’m really looking forward to talking about service quality on day two, something we haven’t had on the programme for a good while.

For too long many boards have been criticised for ‘being operational’ when concerning themselves with repairs, the quality of our homes, and whether our frontline services are delivering what our communities need. This is despite the fact that we sign off on our compliance with the consumer standards every year, and have done every year since they were introduced in this form in 2011. If they aren’t our business then something is very wrong.

The government published their long awaited White Paper, A Charter for Social Housing Residents, late last year. This follows the Green Paper that was published after the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, which was heavily informed by Ministerial roundtables with social housing tenants and leaseholders. It makes pretty uncomfortable reading in parts but also serves as the sector’s ‘to do’ list. Part of the board’s job is to ensure the resources are there and there is enough organisational attention devoted to it.

Fast forward to the middle of this year and ITNs Daniel Hewitt began a series of investigations into the state of some social housing in England. If you haven’t caught any of these reports then I’d recommend that you do. They make for deeply uncomfortable and distressing viewing and cannot be dismissed as ‘operational’ in any way, shape or form. These are systemic failures and show that while the sector does some incredible work we are also capable of getting things desperately wrong.

Every board member needs to ask themselves ‘how do I know that isn’t the organisation I have joint responsibility for?’. What assurance do we need? How good are we? Where are the worst of our properties, who lives in them, what are our plans to make life better for the people living there?

How does the board know what we do well and where is the service just not good enough? How do we know that we won’t be the next housing association to be featured’?

Next year’s Board Excellence in Housing conference has been designed to help answer these questions.

The Social Housing White Paper will help boards to get a real grip on service quality and we will be joined by Kate Dodsworth, Director of Consumer Regulation, at the Regulator of Social Housing. Ignore her at your peril. Also on the panel, talking about learning from complaints (and learning to avoid them!) is the Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway. He has had a massive impact at the Housing Ombudsman Service and, again, every board member needs to be cognisant with his decisions and his expectations.

We will also be hearing from Martin Hilditch, Editor of Inside Housing, with a journalist’s view of the best, and the worst, of the sector, gained over many, many years.

The inestimable Terrie Alafat, Chair of Riverside, will be attempting to keep order, please come along and join in the conversation.

Alison Inman is a Board Member at Balkerne Gardens Trust, Saffron Housing Trust, Tpas and Housing Diversity Network will be joined by Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, Kate Dodsworth, Regulator of Social Housing and Martin Hilditch, Inside Housing on the session ‘Accountability for quality - how do you know it’s not you?’ on day two of Board Excellence in Housing 2022 – Friday 4 February 2022 at 9.40am.

Alison Inman

Alison Inman is a board member at Balkerne Gardens Trust, Saffron Housing Trust and Tpas.

Alison Inman is a board member at Balkerne Gardens Trust , Saffron Housing Trust and Tpas. She was CIH President 2017/18 and is a former chair of Colchester Borough Homes, the National Federation of ALMOs and Broadland Housing Association.

Accountability for quality – how do you know it’s not you