1. Executive Summary
1.1 The Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 introduced the Scottish Social Housing Charter. Ministers are required to set standards and outcomes that social landlords should achieve for tenants and other customers through their housing activities. The purpose of the Charter is to:
- give tenants, homeless people and other customers a clear understanding of what they should expect from a social landlord;
- give landlords a clear understanding of what they should be delivering through their housing activities;
- provide the basis for the Scottish Housing Regulator to monitor, assess and report on the performance of social landlords.
1.2 The Scottish Government wished to hear the views of stakeholders on the Charter to inform its first five-year review. It published a written consultation on 1 June 2016 and publicised this widely. A copy was sent to all local authorities, Registered Social Landlords ( RSLs), Registered Tenant Organisations ( RTOs) and other stakeholders. In addition to this formal consultation the Scottish Government held 12 events to seek the views of tenants and landlords across Scotland. The Scottish Government also commissioned the Tenant Participation Advisory Service and Tenants Information Service to undertake an 'Involving All' programme to review the Charter and assess its impacts with tenants who might normally be excluded or find it difficult to get involved. 'Involving All' entailed working with support agencies, specialist organisations and specific landlords to target, consult and collect the views of tenants and staff.
1.3 106 responses to the written consultation were received, 73 from organisations and 33 from individuals. Some of the organisations represented the views of their wider membership. Views on the current Charter were generally positive with the majority of respondents largely in favour of keeping the current outcomes and standards unchanged. More specific views are summarised below.
Impact of the current Charter
1.4 Most of those who provided a view considered that the quality of landlord services had improved because of the Charter. They identified six key ways in which the Charter had improved services: better communication between landlords and tenants; landlords are more accountable for their service quality; general quality improvements; greater focus on tenant priorities; encouragement of tenant-led scrutiny; and enabling landlords to plan their services more effectively.
Reporting of the Charter
1.5 Around half of those who provided a view considered that the way in which the Charter is reported on helped them to judge whether landlords are meeting the Charter outcomes and standards. A general view amongst them was that the way the Charter is reported enabled comparisons to be made across landlords, and provided landlords and tenants with the information required to challenge poor performance and identify areas for improvement.
Views on current outcomes and standards
1.6 Respondents were asked for their views on each of the current outcomes and standards and their supporting narratives.
Equalities (Charter outcome 1)
1.7 Most of those providing a view considered that this outcome should remain unchanged. The outcome was perceived as being clear, explicit and easy to understand by landlords and tenants alike. Suggestions were made for additional characteristics to be added to the supporting narrative: location; mental health; mental and physical ability; looked-after children and care-leavers; pregnancy and maternity; and minority groups.
Communication (Charter outcome 2)
1.8 Most of those providing a view considered that this outcome should remain unchanged. Whilst the vast majority of RSLs and their representative bodies and most local authorities were in favour of keeping the outcome, the views of Tenants' and Residents' Groups and their representative bodies ( TRGs) were more mixed.
1.9 Some respondents felt that the outcome as currently framed is too open and enables too much lee-way in interpretation; others considered that the supporting narrative should convey more explicitly what they felt was the importance of this outcome.
Participation (Charter outcome 3)
1.10 Around half of those providing a view considered that this outcome should remain unchanged. The majority of RSLs and local authorities were in favour of keeping the outcome unchanged; most of the TRGs recommended amending it.
1.11 The outcome was perceived by many to be clear and straightforward, working well and expressing commitment to participation without being overly prescriptive. Others, however, viewed the outcome as lacking in clarity over what constitutes "participation", and its relationship with "engagement" and "involvement". Some felt that the wording may raise tenants' expectations unduly as to the level of influence they could exert.
Quality of housing (Charter standard 4)
1.12 Just over half of those providing a view considered the standard should be changed. Most, however, did so on the basis that the standard should be revised to reflect the introduction of the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing ( EESH), rather than requesting broader changes. Several respondents highlighted that the reference to April 2015 for meeting the Scottish Housing Quality Standard ( SHQS) should be updated along with the supporting narrative to reflect the current position regarding SHQS and EESH.
Repairs, maintenance and improvements (Charter outcome 5)
1.13 Most of those providing a view considered that this outcome should remain unchanged. TRGs and local authorities in particular were supportive of the Charter outcome remaining as it is; RSLs had more mixed views.
1.14 Those in favour of keeping the outcome unchanged considered that it worked well and reflected a reasonable approach to giving tenants what they wanted. A prevailing theme amongst those recommending change was that tenants should be encouraged to be more pro-active in highlighting when preventative maintenance work should be done. Another recurring view was that the outcome should incorporate an aspect of customer satisfaction with the quality of service received.
Estate management, anti-social behaviour, neighbour nuisance and tenancy disputes (Charter outcome 6)
1.15 Views were mixed on whether this outcome should be amended. There were differences in view between categories of respondent, with most of the RSLs in favour of change but other categories being more evenly balanced in view.
1.16 Whilst some respondents welcomed what they perceived to be the outcome's emphasis on partnership working, others considered that the outcome does not acknowledge the inter-reliance on different partners and the influence this has on landlords achieving the outcome.
Housing options (Charter outcomes 7, 8 and 9)
1.17 Most of those providing a view considered that these outcomes should remain unchanged. They were perceived to be clear, easy to understand, and explained concisely a social landlord's responsibility.
1.18 Several respondents considered that there may be a better way of grouping the outcomes. Some respondents called for grouping them with outcome 10 on access to housing; others advocated combining them into one overarching outcome.
Access to housing (Charter outcome 10)
1.19 Most of those providing a view considered that this outcome should remain unchanged. The outcome was seen by many to represent common sense, be straightforward, concise, easy to understand and it appeared to be working in practice.
1.20 A recurring view was that the outcome could be broadened to provide an approach to empowering people looking for housing, by giving them full information on allocations and prospects of being housed. Another theme was that landlords should broaden the options for people seeking housing to include housing offered by other landlords, in order to find the most suitable housing in each case.
Tenancy sustainment (Charter outcome 11)
1.21 Most of those providing a view considered that this outcome should remain unchanged. Whilst most of the TRGs and local authorities were in favour of keeping the outcome as it is, only four out of 12 RSLs providing a view recommended keeping the outcome unchanged.
1.22 The most common issue raised, particularly amongst RSLs, was that they operate in a wider policy context and they are not able to "ensure" suitable support is available as this may be out of their control.
Homeless people (Charter outcome 12)
1.23 Most of those providing a view considered that this outcome should remain unchanged. The outcome was perceived to be relevant, clear, concise and easy to understand.
1.24 Amongst those suggesting change, a few thought that the outcome should not be limited to the statutory duties of councils, but be broadened to reflect the role all social landlords play in helping homeless households access permanent accommodation.
Value for money (Charter standard 13)
1.25 Most of those providing a view considered that this standard should remain unchanged. Whereas most of the TRGs perceived the standard to be acceptable as it is, less than half of RSLs agreed.
1.26 The standard was viewed by many to be straightforward and clear, reflect what social landlords and tenants want, and provide encouragement to landlords to be innovative.
1.27 One recurring view was that achieving "continual improvement" is impossible and reference to this may raise tenants' expectations unduly.
1.28 The most common suggestion relating to the supporting narrative was that it should include reference to tenants in their role in contributing to decisions on value for money.
Rents and service charges (Charter outcomes 14 and 15)
1.29 Just over half of those providing a view considered that these outcomes should remain unchanged. The issue of rents and services charges was perceived as being very important with these outcomes seen as detailed and clear.
1.30 Several TRGs, however, felt that landlords were not involving tenants sufficiently in consultation on rents and service charges in a meaningful way.
Gypsies/Travellers (Charter outcome 16)
1.31 Just over half of those who provided a view considered that this outcome should remain unchanged. Several respondents, however, questioned the need for this outcome, recommending that instead of standing alone, it should be incorporated into the outcome on equalities or simply addressed across all outcomes.