Innovation Exchange

The SURE (Service User Review and Evaluation) Team and Tenant Led Scrutiny

Introduction

Key activities

Benefits and impacts

Learning

Further Information

The way tenants participate and engage with Perth and Kinross Council as their landlord has been transformed over the past two years.  This activity has moved from a small number of tenants attending monthly meetings, to groups of skilled and trained tenants delivering a programme of activities which scrutinise the work of their landlord. With the Council, they work together to improve areas of service that matter to tenants and other people who use housing services. The Service User Review and Evaluation (SURE) Team has carried out detailed scrutiny of two areas of Housing Service, the handling of Housing complaints and Communications within the Repairs Service.

 

They then presented a detailed report on each and provided a number of recommendations for improvement which were accepted by Housing Managers. The SURE Team has also assessed the performance of Housing Services in the ‘Annual Report to Tenants’ which was distributed to all 7,400 of the Council’s tenants, highlighting progress of Council Services on the Scottish Social Housing Charter Outcomes. Other tenant led scrutiny activities include Mystery Shopping and the Quality Panel which offered valuable customer insight through inspections of services and reviews of our information to tenants.

Theme: Housing and Regeneration

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The tenants and Council officers started this transformation by establishing a Scrutiny Steering Group, a Joint Tenant-Officer Steering Group of 13 tenants and 12 members of staff, facilitated by the Tenant Information Service (TIS).  The group’s first action was to prepare an Implementation Plan to develop tenant scrutiny.

 

The group reviewed all the existing tenant participation activity which revealed some excellent examples of partnership working with tenants and others who use housing services, but also highlighted that a lot of activities didn’t join up.  The group then looked further afield at good practice of tenant scrutiny across the UK and agreed a framework for tenant scrutiny.

 

The new arrangements emphasise that scrutiny activities are not just the responsibility of one group of people, but that there would be a range of opportunities for people to be involved which would lead to the improvement of services and policy development.  This included the work of Resident Inspection through the Quality Panel, Tenant Mystery Shopping and other tenant working groups and review projects. However, it was also agreed that the best way to progress this work was to create a tenant scrutiny panel which would hold the Council as landlord to account for its services and performance.

This has been ground breaking, innovative and exciting work.  We now have a team of trained, experienced and committed tenants who plan, deliver, present and scrutinise improvements across housing services.  As a result, we have a long list of evidence which demonstrates the positive impact our tenant-led scrutiny activities have had on improving housing services and therefore improving support and services to our tenants.

 

Mystery Shopping was carried out on our Customer Service Standards and the performance of staff working in the Local Area Housing Offices between November 2014 and March 2015. The Mystery Shoppers undertook an intensive programme of shops and prepared a report with their findings and over 20 recommendations, which were accepted.  These included delivering more opportunities for staff training, reviewing our telephone systems, reception areas and information to tenants about our services. These have either been put in place or are underway.

 

The SURE (Service User Review and Evaluation) Team have concluded scrutiny activities in how housing services handle complaints and communications within the repairs service. The SURE team undertook a thorough examination of the complaints policy and performance information as well as interviewing staff. A report was then produced with a number of recommendations for improvement, including further training of staff on handling complaints, reviewing private spaces available to tenants to make complaints and reviewing how complaints performance is reported to tenants. In relation to repair a number of recommendations, we will see changes to the way Repairs staff communicate with tenants and also gather tenant satisfaction data.  Managers have presented their improvement plan to the SURE Team and improvements are now underway as per the recommendations.

 

The Quality Panel supported and informed key service reviews, including the Council’s Sheltered Housing and Garage Site and Lock-Up Reviews, both of which are high profile, sensitive and extensive projects.  In recognition of the work needed to improve the time and process for re-letting our empty/void properties, the Quality Panel provided the critical tenant perspective undertaking quality checks of void properties.  The panel also checked the way the Council communicates with tenants by means of a ‘Customer Approved’ logo which is used across the service and is awarded to leaflets, standard letters etc.  This is approved by the panel to make sure they are jargon-free and easy for tenants to understand.

 

Homeless Services and Tenant Participation staff have engaged with people who have experienced their homelessness through a bespoke learning programme which has led to Resident Inspections of hostels and temporary accommodation and these have led to a range of improvements.

 

 Feedback from those taking part is extremely positive. Our staff are impressed at the commitment and professional approach given by the people involved and value the recommendations put forward to improve the customer experience. Our tenants have described the experience of getting involved as ‘empowering’ and ‘great’, ‘we are making good relationships with Council staff and really get to grips with helping to improve services’

 

Key to the sustainability of our tenant led scrutiny has been leadership and buy-in from tenants and staff which have helped overcome issues and problems.  A key consistent message from senior management that this is the future – this is how tenants should and will be involved in shaping and improving services.

 

There is real potential: we can work with people whether they are viewed as our customers, service users or tenants, to help us improve what we do by understanding and acting on their unique customer focus. We are scoping out the potential to use this model of scrutiny with Health and Social Care Services to help embed a quality assurance framework and build on service user involvement. There could also be possibilities to link with other community planning partners to employ this methodology in service improvement and we look forward to learning from the SURE (Service User Review and Evaluation) Team’s next scrutiny activity in relation to Anti-Social Behaviour policies.

 

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:

 

Suzie Bert

Team Leader – Customer and Community Engagement

Perth and Kinross Council

01738 476771

Case study added to site: June 2016

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