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Lessons Learned Lectures – Scrutiny Reviews Recording

03 June 2021

Network’s new initiative – Lessons Learned Lectures is back with our second session on Scrutiny Reviews. These are a monthly set-piece presentation and open discussion on a specific experience or piece of work that is felt to offer wider lessons to the organisation.

In line with our commitment to being transparent by default, we are looking to maximise the openness in which we carry out this learning and will invite colleagues from across the organisation, board and committee members, and Resident Panel members to attend. Over time attendance will be open to all residents.

The theme of the latest session is Scrutiny Reviews hosted by Maria Moriarty, Head of Resident Engagement and Corporate Experience. You can now read the session outline, access the presentation slides, and watch the recording below!

Outline of what happened

A scrutiny review is where we ask residents to undertake an independent review of our service. We are regulated by the Regulator of Social Housing and must adhere to their consumer and economic standards.

One of the consumer standards is the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment standard which states we must "ensure that tenants are given a wide range of opportunities to influence and be involved in the scrutiny of their landlord's performance and the making of recommendations to the landlord about how performance might be improved."

We are obligated to do scrutiny but it's also the right thing to do. Residents are the ones receiving the service we provide so are best placed to tell us what's working well and what's not working well offering us solutions to help us improve. Scrutiny provides residents with a chance to independently challenge us on our performance.

Prior to 2016, we had two Scrutiny Panels – one in London and one in Hertford. When we collapsed our structure to become Network Homes in 2016, we decided to have one panel to represent all residents and asked members of the existing panels if they’d like to be a part of it. We had three residents sign up from the Hertford panel and four from the London panel.

To bring the new panel together the Resident Engagement team provided them with refresher training delivered by an external consultant. Following this training session, the newly formed panel began their first scrutiny review looking at all repairs complaints that had escalated from Stage 1 to Stage 2 over the period of a year.

The panel decided against scoping out the scrutiny review and did not set any objectives as they wanted to see how it went as they worked their way through the review. They did not want any Network Homes staff members to be involved in the review but did agree for a colleague from the Governance team to minute their meetings. At the beginning of the review, they agreed they would do any work required during the meeting only and arranged to meet every couple of months.

After 14 months the panel advised the Resident Engagement team that they were ready to do their report. By that time only two residents remained on the panel. It took so long to get to that point that some of the committed residents had run out of enthusiasm and given up! During that time there had also been many changes within Network. There had been a restructure to the RE Team and two staff left the team so the Resident Engagement Officer supporting the panel changed on several occasions. We had changed our Customer Relationship Management system (the system we use to log all interactions with residents) from 1View to CRM. Our main repairs contractor had changed. Many of the complaints the panel had reviewed would have related to a previous contractor.

When the final report was drafted some of the recommendations were no longer valid due to the changes I mentioned above or had already been addressed because of these changes and internal improvement mechanisms, such as better categorising the reason to log a complaint, had been put in place​.

The final report estimated the total cost of the review to be £11,770. This included staff costs, residents’ costs (in terms of them volunteering their time), resident expenses, printing, training, catering.

Lessons learned

The lessons we learned from the process is we need to improve our communication, set a clear structure for the scrutiny review & ensure residents understand what is expected from them when undertaking a review​, be honest about what residents can influence & explain why there are things they might not be able to change​ and establish a partnership between residents and staff with a common goal

What we will do as a result?

We’ve already made some changes that we hope will improve future scrutiny reviews. But before we made any changes, we brought in TPAS (the Tenant Participation Advisory Service) to provide us with training around scrutiny, give us ideas on what we could do differently, and train us to train others. We discussed the new process we were considering with them and incorporated their feedback.​

Following this session, we set up a new structure with two panels (one in Hertford and one in London) but rather than call them Scrutiny Panels, we now call them Continuous Improvement Panels. A couple of years ago we undertook a programme of delivering resident engagement workshops to all our colleagues. When we were explaining the importance of scrutiny during one session one of our colleagues asked us if we had to use this word because he thought it sounded quite negative.

So, when we started recruiting residents to these new panels, we asked them what they thought we should call the panel and one of them suggested the Continuous Improvement Panel. This sounds much more positive and encompasses the purpose of undertaking scrutiny which is to make sure we are continually improving our services to residents.​

The CIP is responsible for:​

  • Commissioning scrutiny​
  • Overseeing the groups who undertake the scrutiny​
  • Holding us to account to make sure we implement the recommendations that were agreed.​

The biggest change was to move away from the panel itself undertaking the scrutiny. The membership of each panel is only 12 residents, but we have 22,000 homes. So, to hear the voices of more residents we decided to recruit residents to each individual review. This should enable us to hear from many more residents and may encourage greater numbers of residents to get involved because it will require less of a time commitment from them, and it might be a topic that is of more interest to them.​

There will be two types of groups:​

  • Task & Finish Groups – who undertake scrutiny within 12-16 weeks​
  • Sprint Groups – who undertake scrutiny within two days​

We’ve produced very clear role profiles, code of conduct, and terms of reference for the panels. And we deliver training to all residents being very clear about what is expected from the role and how much time they will need to commit. We also ensure they know that we truly want their views to make a difference to our services and will work together with them to achieve this goal.​

After each scrutiny review, we'll make sure we report back to the CIP, the Local Panels, the Customer Services Committee, and to all other residents as well.

Recording

You can watch our Scruntiny Reviews session recording below and access the presentation slides here!

The next session Learning Lessons Lecture Anti-Social Behaviour will be held on 23 June and it will be hosted by Gabriel Codjoe, Director of Housing! Please keep an eye out for further info on our website!

We’ll also publish a video of the lecture, the slides, and key learning points on our website.