Preparing to meet new standards for social housing in Kent and Medway

More than 70 people attended the Kent Housing Group’s consumer standards event, which saw local housing providers come together to discuss the key themes, challenges and solutions as we prepare to meet the new regulations for social housing which come into force on 1st April.

The event, hosted in Chatham by mhs homes on Wednesday 13 March, was chaired by Amy Cheswick, Executive Director, Customer and Transformation.

Kate Dodsworth, presenting via Teams

The keynote speaker was Kate Dodsworth, Chief of Regulatory Engagement at the Regulator of Social Housing, who outlined key changes to the regulator’s approach following the new consumer standards, in particular, ways the regulator will seek to ensure tenant voices are heard more. A key takeaway was that it’s going to be even more important to have training and support for customers, as well as the right engagement structures in place, to enable effective tenant scrutiny.

Jonathan Cox, from Housemark, shared the drivers for customer satisfaction with their landlord. The biggest performance drivers are being quick and easy to deal with, followed by respectful and helpful engagement, and a fast, responsive repairs service.

Mike Bailey from Folkestone and Hythe District Council shared its vision for its housing service and how the poorer than hoped for results of a tenant satisfaction survey became an opportunity to develop a new engagement strategy.

Leading discussion on the tenancy consumer standard, housing consultant Neil Morland touched on his own experiences growing up in social housing in Chatham. He provided insight on allocation and lettings, and the changes in expectation the new consumer standards will bring.

In Kent, every social landlord is a member of HomeSwapper, an online mutual exchange tool. Eddy Irvine from MRI Social Housing shared ways we can maximise value and increase opportunities for customers to move; including matching and multi-swap tools, letting hard-to-let homes, support for customers, and accessibility tools such as translation.

Amy Cheswick chaired the event

A roundtable, led by Amy Cheswick, discussed the biggest challenges and opportunities implementing the transparency, influence and accountability standard. Outcomes included the importance of a customer-centric culture prioritised from board level down and ensuring we improve proactive communications with customers, sharing where feedback has influenced policies and decisions.

The event covered three key elements of the neighbourhood and community standard. Julie Terry shared West Kent Housing’s experience of writing and promoting their domestic abuse policy, stressing the importance of this being informed by residents’ voices.

Lisa Clarke from Clarion Housing shared Kent Housing Group’s reciprocal scheme which is helping domestic abuse survivors relocate and rebuild their lives. Providers who are not already part of the scheme were encouraged to sign up.

The challenges managing anti-social behaviour were covered by Janine Green who outlined some best practice and compliance to deliver the new standards.

Neil Diddams from West Kent Housing discussed the importance of accurate data to comply with the safety and quality standard, but also understanding our customers’ experience.

Kent Housing Group Chair Brian Horton said: “The new standards are already having a huge impact on housing providers and the services we provide to our tenants, which is why this forum was such an important date in the KHG calendar. My thanks go to mhs homes for hosting such a well-attended event and to all the contributors who helped make this a success.”