Social Housing providers look set to face increasing risks

In its seventh annual sector risk profile, the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH) advises that the sector faces a number of key risks and challenges, and the need for effective risk management and assurance is critical if social housing organisations are to keep pace with expectations in the months and years ahead.

It is clear from this report that the safety of all tenants, especially the most vulnerable in social homes, should be of primary importance to all providers. Critical to achieving this is a need for social housing providers to have a good understanding of their existing housing stock supported by up-to-date data which clearly evidences that they are meeting health and safety obligations.

Providers who do not have access to good quality data that demonstrates the condition and compliance position of their housing stock, risk failure to comply with statutory requirements whilst also placing their tenants in danger.

Safety – a true motivator for compliance

The safety of tenants’ homes is increasingly recognised as being more than simply complying with specific pieces of legislation. It is important for providers to engage with housing residents to understand their circumstances and their needs, as well as the stock they are responsible for. Continual investment and engagement, as well as a strategic approach to housing stock management, is critical to maintaining tenant safety.

Compliance and asset management must now be placed firmly at the top of social housing organisations’ agendas if they are not already. Boards must be able to prove that they are up-to-date with their statutory health & safety obligations including gas, electrical and fire safety, as well as the management of asbestos, legionella and lifts.

With many providers outsourcing this type of routine compliance work, the effective management of contractors and the work they are undertaking on behalf of the organisation must also be effectively managed and recorded.

Taking ownership

The sector is now at a turning point for accountability, further enforced by the findings of other notable reports such as the Hackitt Report and Social Housing Green Paper, which also conclude that the tenant is not being prioritised sufficiently.

As the social housing sector comes under increased scrutiny, now is the time for providers to review their current data capture and record processes, and if these are not performing as required, new processes should be put in place.

Investing in new technology is likely to alleviate some of the compliance burdens faced by providers, as well as increase productivity. Simple changes such as equipping field technicians, field workers and contractors with a mobile tool which enables them to carry out on-the-job surveys, complete forms and share the data collected in real-time with back-office teams, instantly overcomes the need for paperwork which is slow to complete and return.

Indeed, cloud-based technology such as Field Service Management software can reduce many manual processes relating to housing repairs and maintenance. Recurring compliance reviews can be automatically scheduled and booked in with tenants, who receive automated communications such as letters and text messages confirming their appointment details. In addition, a complete audit trail of the job is created and any related documents, or on-the-job information, is recorded against it. This can be accessed and downloaded in real-time giving providers the ability to confirm their compliance instantly.

Meeting increasing expectations

With expectations increasing and requirements evolving within the sector, social housing organisations must be prepared to adapt and change. Boards must put in place effective processes, measures and policies that are regularly managed and monitored to ensure they are consistently collecting good quality data.

In addition, Boards should also be prepared to invest in solutions that will ensure they are fulfilling their duties of keeping tenants safe in their homes. Whether that may be investing in existing stock to ensure the government’s Decent Home Standard is being achieved or investing in new technology to better fulfil compliance responsibilities as building safety requirements continue to evolve; now is the time to take action.

If you think investing in a field service management solution would benefit your organisation, please get in touch with Oneserve for a free demo.