Halton Housing is committed to enabling customers to become directly engaged in the management of their homes, and in determining the existing and future shape of services they receive.
We recognise that in many of the areas in which we work a substantial proportion of the housing stock has been sold under the Right to Buy. Therefore, to ensure we build and maintain sustainable communities Halton Housing recognises the importance of engaging all those people who live in the areas in which we work.Where specific reference is made to ‘customers’, this refers to all occupiers of Halton Housing’s homes including customers who hold assured and starter tenancies, residents in supported housing and leaseholders.
This document sets out what Halton Housing seeks to achieve from the commitment and substantial investment it makes into its community development arrangements and how this is to be achieved and supported.
Halton Housing is committed to ensuring that all customers will have the opportunity to be engaged both on a formal or informal basis, as individuals or as members of groups, at a level they feel comfortable with and at a pace that they can determine.
Halton Housing believes that customer engagement is the primary tool to enhance and develop its efficiency and effectiveness. This can be achieved in the following ways:
- local engagement in decision making
- accountability at local level including a performance monitoring role
- built in customer perspective for the service
- determining existing and future service quality and standards
- strong community links and relationships
Halton Housing is keen to maintain relationships with Halton Borough Council, other Registered Providers, community stakeholders and a range of voluntary groups to pursue and achieve common goals.
This policy will be implemented in line with the regulatory requirements of the Homes and Communities Agency. All customers engaged in a recognised group are expected to follow the requirements outlined in our ‘Customer Code of Conduct for Involved Customers’; this can be obtained from the Customer Engagement team.
It will provide a clear commitment from Halton Housing to take into account customers’ views when making decisions across all aspects of service delivery, and to ensure that the outcomes from customer engagement are reported back to all customers.
The way in which the policy will be implemented has two separate dimensions:
- Customer Engagement and Influence over Decision Making
- Customer Consultation and Information
- Customer Engagement and Influence over Decision Making
Halton Housing will provide its services in line with the HCA’s regulatory requirements and the service standards as set out across all service areas. Although there is no universal model of engagement there will be a range of opportunities for customers to become engaged, and have a real say in the management of their homes and the housing service. These will include:
- Open Membership to Halton Housing– all customers who hold tenancies have the opportunity to become Members of Halton Housing. As such, they would be able to attend Halton Housing’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), to have access to detailed annual performance and financial reports, and take part in the voting on the appointment of Independent Board Members at the appropriate AGM.
- In addition, residents would have the opportunity to apply to become Independent Members of Halton Housing. Details and application forms regarding membership would be available from the Company Secretary.
- Customers who hold tenancies can apply to sit on Halton Housing’s Board of Management, and they will have exactly the same rights and responsibilities, including voting rights, as the other board members.
- Customer Scrutiny Panel – we have developed a small group of engaged customers, providing them with extensive training to provide them with the necessary skills to actively investigate, challenge and make recommendations to improve our service delivery.
- Customer Inspectors – we will look to provide training to maintain a pool of customer inspectors who can reality check service provision and feedback suggested improvements for consideration in any service improvement plan reviews.
- A panel of customers that meets six times a year, named the Customer Forum. The Forum provides an opportunity for customers to have a strategic role in shaping the services delivered by Halton Housing. They have an active role in performance management and ensuring that Halton Housing is accountable for the quality and standard of services it delivers. We’re committed to the principles and standards for customer engagement and seek to build upon the baseline position negotiated between customers who previously held a tenancy with Halton Borough Council and the Council itself. These principles and standards have provided the foundation for the development of Halton Housing’s own Customer Engagement Agreement and its associated Customer Engagement Statement, as well as wider Customer Engagement Strategy between us and our customers.
- Halton Housing views the Customer Engagement Team with the assistance of the wider Housing Teams – as a primary focus for participation at a local level. This will also be reflected in the core competencies and targets for relevant staff. Examples will include management of local improvement schemes and general liaison between customers and staff. Specific staff members will respond to reasonable requests for information or assistance from customer groups, including attendance at meetings where required.
Halton Housing will support customer engagement by:
- providing a designated Customer Engagement Team to support and sustain customer engagement. The team will: provide start up, annual and development grants to customers groups, help groups identify opportunities and apply for independent funding and explore options to provide additional funding for individual groups.
- developing a training programme for customer representatives across all service areas. This includes identifying and providing training for customer representatives, Board Members and HH staff, to acquire the skills and knowledge which will allow them to work together effectively, and ensure effective engagement in decision making and service improvement
- promoting innovative approaches to engagement and exploring the development of other ways to widen the inclusion of customers in the management of the business. This can include partnership with other local housing associations in providing training opportunities, e.g. with Customer Inspector
- Customer Consultation and Information
Halton Housing will consult with its customers in accordance with the HCA’s regulatory requirements.
We will ensure that customers are provided with sufficient information to understand any proposals it puts forward. We’ll consult and engage customers, where it is necessary, on all matters of housing policy and practice including:
- business planning
- developing the housing strategy
- investment priorities
- setting and monitoring service standards and performance targets
- reviews of services and performance and decisions about remedial action
- regeneration, redevelopment and repairs schemes
- environmental works
- tenancy conditions
- housing management services
- rent levels and service charges (even where there is no legal requirement to do so)
- community safety
- equality and diversity issues
- arrangements for the publication and provision of customer information
- complaints procedures.
This will be achieved by using a variety of means including (but not restricted to) meetings, information sheets, training events, website, Facebook, Twitter and press releases. We will be responsible for making the arrangements for all meetings we sponsor, including the booking of suitable venues and notification/publicity.
We’ll continue to support the creation of independent customer groups, which has always been seen in the past as one of the building blocks of effective consultation.
While continuing to support these formal groups, we’ll also look to continue to develop a more flexible consultation and engagement framework, which includes:
- A Customer Panel – a group of individual customers who are consulted a number of times per year about the housing service and/or proposed changes to policy. This will be done by a combination of on line and telephone surveys.
- Street Representatives – a spokesperson nominated to represent customers living in their neighbourhood who hold tenancies, with a mandate to provide information and put forward views on housing policy issues.
In all of its consultation with customers Halton Housing will:
- allow adequate time for customers to consider proposals and respond;
- take account of the variety of views and feedback the reasons for decisions reached
- provide customers with the outcomes from consultation processes in a format that is clearly understood
- work in partnership with the local community including other local and statutory agencies.
All customers will receive information in various formats which could include on line access to letters, reports, brochures, information pamphlets, leaflets and newsletters. In addition all new customers will receive an information pack about services and opportunities for participation. A customer handbook is provided to all customers when they sign for a tenancy. A separate publication will be made available for leaseholders.
All information will be available in a variety of formats to ensure that it is:
- relevant and at the level of detail appropriate for the customers’ needs
- in a readable typeface and print size
- in an attractive design and format, and inviting to read
- in clear, concise, plain language
- provided in translation where appropriate
- provided in formats suitable for customers with specific communication needs, e.g. large print, Braille, CD, picture format for people with learning disabilities, electronic.
Regulatory and/or Legal Compliance
The HCA’s current Regulatory Framework came into force in April 2012 and has been subsequently updated in 2014. There is a strong link between this policy and the framework in that one of the principles of Co-Regulation (IV) and one of the Consumer Standards directly relate to this area.
The Tenant Engagement and Empowerment standard 2017 has a set of required outcomes and specific expectations which are given below:
1.2 Engagement and empowerment
1.2.1 Registered providers shall ensure that tenants are given a wide range of opportunities to influence and be engaged in:
- the formulation of their landlord’s housing related policies and strategic priorities
- the making of decisions about how housing related services are delivered, including the setting of service standards
- the scrutiny of their landlord’s performance and the making of recommendations to their landlord about how performance might be improved
- the management of their homes, where applicable the management of repair and maintenance services, such as commissioning and undertaking a range of repair tasks, as agreed with landlords, and the sharing in savings made, and
- agreeing local offers for service delivery
2.2 Engagement and empowerment
2.2.1 Registered providers shall support their tenants to develop and implement opportunities for engagement and empowerment, including by:
- supporting their tenants to exercise their Right to Manage or otherwise exercise housing management functions, where appropriate
- supporting the formation and activities of tenant panels or equivalent groups and responding in a constructive and timely manner to them
- the provision of timely and relevant performance information to support effective scrutiny by tenants of their landlord’s performance in a form which registered providers seek to agree with their tenants. Such provision must include the publication of an annual report which should include information on repair and maintenance budgets, and
- providing support to tenants to build their capacity to be more effectively engaged
2.2.2 Registered providers shall consult with tenants on the scope of local offers for service delivery. This shall include how performance will be monitored, reported to and scrutinised by tenants and arrangements for reviewing these on a periodic basis.
2.2.3 Where registered providers are proposing a change in landlord for one or more of their tenants or a significant change in their management arrangements, they shall consult with affected tenants in a fair, timely, appropriate and effective manner. Registered providers shall set out any actual or potential advantages and disadvantages (including costs) to tenants in the immediate and longer term. Registered providers must be able to demonstrate to affected tenants how they have taken the outcome of the consultation into account when reaching a decision.
2.2.4 Registered providers shall consult tenants at least once every three years on the best way of engaging tenants in the governance and scrutiny of the organisation’s housing management service.”
We aim to meet these regulatory requirements by the effective implementation of this policy.
An Equality Impact Screening Assessment was carried out on this policy in June 2014, and nothing has changed since.
It concluded the following:
- The policy is not directly or indirectly discriminatory
- The policy increases equality of opportunity by permitting or requiring positive action or action to redress disadvantages.
This policy will link into four of our five “Our Direction” main priorities, namely:
- Protecting Current Income
- Reducing Costs and Driving Efficiency
- Focussing our Resources
- Targeting our Resources and
- Working more flexible