At Sanctuary, we're committed to having an ongoing conversation with all our residents and making sure they play a key role in shaping and scrutinising our services.
Our National Resident Scrutiny Panel (NRSP) is central to that process – with members meeting regularly with our senior leaders, reviewing our services, and making sure we're meeting targets and delivering for our residents.
As part of their role, NRSP members met with Eddie Hughes MP, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, to talk about their work and why resident involvement is so important.
Graham Jones (pictured right), Chair of the NRSP, has written a blog talking about the experience:
Our meeting with Eddie Hughes MP was a chance to talk to him about the role of the NRSP, and some of the work that we're currently doing in response to the Government's social housing white paper – which aims to ensure that residents in social housing are safe, listened to and live in good-quality homes.
But before those discussions, the minister was keen to learn what had first inspired us to get involved in scrutiny and helping to examine the services that Sanctuary delivers. As you might expect from a panel representing residents of all ages and backgrounds from all over the country, each of our answers was very different.
One panel member, who lives on a supported living scheme, said Sanctuary had given him support during a difficult time, so he wanted to give something back. Another said that after leading a busy working life, they now wanted to do something both interesting and beneficial to others.
That diversity of background and focus is a huge strength of the NRSP, and something we are actively looking to build upon as resident involvement continues to grow.
Next on the agenda was providing an overview of the work the NRSP carries out and the ways we go about it. These include:
- Quarterly meetings to review figures and talk openly with Sanctuary's senior leaders and co-regulation team
- 'Communities of interest' to examine important issues such as sustainability and customer service in more depth
- Scheme inspections and resident-initiated investigations and reports
We're also each currently involved in examining individual chapters of the white paper in more depth and helping to shape Sanctuary's response.
Having established what we do, we then spoke to the minister about how we go about that work and the impact we have. We talked about:
- Increasing levels of resident involvement; broadening and diversifying NRSP membership is one of our top priorities. We're continually looking at how we can improve communication, using technology like apps and virtual meetings to engage more effectively with even more residents.
- The effectiveness of resident scrutiny; More active involvement requires increased knowledge, and therefore training to enable us to be effective in our roles. We spoke to the minister about Sanctuary's new Resident Academy, which provides an opportunity for residents to increase their knowledge of housing and how the scrutiny process works, while gaining a recognised qualification. He was enthusiastic to learn about this, saying that he hadn't previously thought of training in terms of residents rather than employees.
- Ensuring complaints are handled effectively; the minister was keen to learn about the type of complaints Sanctuary receives, which can range from repair issues to anti-social behaviour, and the NRSP's involvement in measuring how effectively these are dealt with. We're currently carrying out a review of complaint handling, involving 100 resident volunteers, while we also have direct links to the Ombudsman via a dedicated residents' reference group.
We also discussed various other matters of significance to the wider sector, including monitoring and regulation in care settings and the merits of initiatives like Shared Ownership and Right to Buy, which aim to provide residents with routes into homeownership. While supportive of these, we feel it's vital that residents are fully aware of the costs and responsibilities involved, and that new homes are built to replace those lost, so the overall stock of much-needed affordable homes is not reduced.
The minister complimented us on our knowledge and said that he was reassured by the way resident involvement is developing at Sanctuary.
Speaking directly to a member of Government was a new experience for us, but an interesting one and something that could certainly be valuable to repeat in the future – perhaps alongside opportunities to feed into other organisations such as the Regulator for Social Housing, Housing Ombudsman, Care Quality Commission (CQC), Housing Quality Network and Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).