Ok, here's my somewhat-after-midnight interactive tweet-along of the Social Housing White Paper announcement today. Now called "The Charter For Social Housing Residents" 1/n #shwhitepaper https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/935872/CCS146_CCS1020406150-001_SHWP_Report_V09_FINAL.pdf
A couple of things before I get started on flicking through the detail of the piece. 2/n #shwhitepaper
Firstly, a bit of personal background. I could not have cared less about the various dramas of England/The UK's housing sector prior to about 2013 when the stupid #bedroomtax was introduced. That's what got me into all this. 3/n #shwhitepaper
To cut a relatively long story short, it became pretty obvious that the way to stop such corrosive policymaking was to advocate for more proper social-rent housing and less policy built on stigmatising ideologists. 4/n #shwhitepaper
To this purpose I ended up writing semi-regularly for the now departed 24housing magazine's website from my social housing tenant perspective. I got involved with the SHOUT campaign for social housing.... 5/n #shwhitepaper
I ended up sometimes attending conferences and working for @hqn_news's Resident's Network, specifically around getting tenants, staff and landlord orgs doing better at co-production and co-regulated stuff. Like Sisyphus but lazier. 6/n #shwhitepaper
I ended up as one of the Commissioners for @Shelter's post- #Grenfell commission on social housing, which took a robust look at what was going wrong at landlords and in the regulatory framework. 7/n #shwhitepaper
Then, this year, with covid throwing everything to the wind, I've mostly had nothing to do with any housing stuff, which when I've checked in on it from Twitter from time to time has just ended up mostly annoying me. 8/n #shwhitepaper
But I have still be involved in some of the stakeholder stuff around the White Paper which I guess I'll probably be able to talk a little more about later.. we'll see. 9/n #shwhitepaper.
Essentially, the disregard for tenants which was one of the factors in the Grenfell Tower fire is not rampant in the sector, but really good examples of resident-led stuff are equally rare. 10/n #shwhitepaper
One of the themes that kept coming up in the Shelter commission from tenants, which had appeared earlier in the ministerial roadshows that informed the Green Paper, was a sense of communication breakdown with landlords 11/n #shwhitepaper
Sometimes this took the form of a basic inability to keep tenants informed, but there was a wider sense that the ideals in the government "Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard" were not being upheld or policed. 12/n #shwhitepaper
This standard is available online and it covers some pretty basic stuff about landlords handling complaints in a prompt, polite and well-communicated way. Unfortunately a description many tenants would find unfamiliar. 13/n #shwhitepaper
It's not a bad set of standards as a starting point, but the feeling has been for a long time that there's nobody really there to uphold them. The Regulator has traditionally been focussed on the Financial Viability & Governance of orgs.. 14/n #shwhitepaper
And the Ombudsman has always only been accessible through various hoops. These have been brought a bit lower recently, but this comes alongside the Ombudsman's phonelines now being unavailable half the week due to resourcing problems. 15/n #shwhitepaper
In the days after Grenfell, Theresa May promised that this unaccountability would change for residents, so the expectations on the White Paper have been pretty high. 16/n
So, I know I'm still not stuck into it yet, but these are just my own views of this, and don't reflect those of any other people. For me, there's a systemic problem that reaches far, far beyond complaints handling. 17/n #shwhitepaper
I/we talk a lot about the 'culture change' needed within the sector, and this is a wide-ranging set of stuff from staff with bad attitudes to tenants to a reliance on voluntary compliance with the expectation landlords act on behalf of residents. 18/n
The systemic change is one part of it but it's personal for me too. After Grenfell it was clear that the whole system of co-regulation and co-production had failed, and would keep on failing without change. 19/n #shwhitepaper
This included what landlords do, and what the regulator and ombudsman did and does, but also people like me and a number of other services which tried to make all this stuff better. It just wasn't/isn't resilient enough. 20/n
Enough navel gazing, let's get to the #shwhitepaper bullet points. 21/n
I should probably mention that some of my take on it might be a bit sarcastic and sometimes potentially ill-tempered or darkly-humoured, but here goes 22/n #shwhitepaper
"1 To be safe in your home. We will work with industry and landlords to ensure every home is safe and secure."

It's a shame this has to be spelled out, really, but for a lot of this stuff we're working from a pretty low bar. There are some good points in this though. 23/n
Straight away the Charter talks about strengthening the Regulator for Social Housing @RSHEngland . We're going to return to this a lot, I suspect, because without a physical, funded new arm of the Regulator the Charter is pointless. 24/n #shwhitepaper
The very next safety point is about actual legislation to identify a 'nominated person' responsible ensuring each social landlord complies 'with their health and safety requirements' 25/n #shwhitepaper
This responsible person idea is a good sign because it echoes recommendations made in the Shelter report to copy the ideas that came through regulatory reform in the banking sector that makes humans accountable for corporate policies. 26/n #shwhitepaper
At one point I think the idea was to have a responsible person per tower-block, but we'll see if there's any more detail on that later or if that's a separate expectation. 27/n #shwhitepaper
The rest of the points on safety are pretty humdrum. A memorandum of understanding between the Regulator of Social Housing (I will just say Regulator for these guys from now) and the Health and Safety Executive. Bare minimum stuff. 28/n #shwhitepaper
Somebody has come up with this idea of a requirement for smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms but really this feels like something they've dreamt up for a headline. This should already be standard practise and it avoids talking about sprinklers. 29/n #shwhitepaper
Then "• Consult on measures to ensure that social housing
residents are protected from harm caused by poor
electrical safety. "

Seriously? 30/n #shwhitepaper
And "Continue to work with the Social Sector (Building
Safety) Engagement Best Practice Group and
the Building Safety Regulator to ensure resident
voices are heard"

This stuff is far from ready but at least there is scope for joined-up thinking and action. 31/n #shwhitepaper
Then on to part 2 of 7 (you don't have to stay awake for this) which is

"2. To know how your landlord is
performing, including on repairs, complaints
and safety, and how it spends its money, so you
can hold it to account" 32/n #shwhitepaper
There's a fair bit of detail about how this is going to be achieved, too...

"Create a set of tenant satisfaction measures for landlords on things that matter to tenants".

I'm not sure if there's detail later on what matters to tenants, I guess we'll see. 33/n #shwhitepaper
There's specific talk about a new 'access to information scheme', and reading between the lines this sounds like an attempt to offer something like Freedom Of Information requests for tenants of ostensibly private Housing Associations. 34/n #shwhitepaper
Then swiftly on to "Ensure landlords provide a clear breakdown of how their income is being spent." which honestly sounds like a recipe for larks but actually when you're the tenants paying for that spending only seems fair. 35/n #shwhitepaper
Then "Require landlords to identify a senior person in
their organisation who is responsible for ensuring
they comply with the consumer standards set by
the Regulator of Social Housing." 36/n #shwhitepaper
Again reminiscent of the 'split regulator' ideas in the Shelter proposals. Going to put a marker down here and suggest that this charter is not proposing a new regulator by the sounds of it, but this is still important.. 37/n #shwhitepaper
because previously not only were the consumer standards not proactively regulated, but there was no real requirement for landlords to be accountable if they weren't being followed. This could turn out to be a significant change. 38/n #shwhitepaper
One of the things @DavidPintoD talked about in shaking up the Regulator was to introduce people whose jobs, salaries and reputations rested on landlords carrying out their responsibilities, and this could mean a step towards accountability 39/n #shwhitepaper
No, the w in my hashtag is not silent. 40/n #shwhitepaper
On to major section 3

"To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly".

This has actually been a regulatory requirement of sorts even since the regulatory overhaul a decade ago that gutted proper accountability. That it has to be spelled out is a bit embarrassing 41/n
Here is the expected removal of the 'democratic filter, though. Previously as a tenant, in order to get your complaint to the ombudsman, there was an additional 8-week wait unless you could get an MP or council member to carry your complaint up the chain. 42/n #shwhitepaper
Good riddance, frankly. @Ed_Miliband noted during the Shelter commission that it wasn't like councillors or MPs were ever filtering out complaints anyway, it was just a pointless admin step that might have put some tenants off. 43/n #shwhitepaper
"Expanded the Housing Ombudsman service, and
increased its powers, so it will make decisions
more quickly and can take stronger action against
landlords where needed" 44/m #shwhitepaper
Judge for yourself, I guess. 45/n #shwhitepaper https://twitter.com/HousingOmbuds/status/1308345544390176770
Then the promise of an awareness campaign so that tenants know how to get to the Ombudsman and the Building Safety Regulator. Can understand on the one hand why this doesn't include the other Regulator but really feel their role should also be made clearer. 46/n #shwhitepaper
There is the promise of legislation to ensure the Regulator acts alongside the Ombudsman to hold landlords to account 'when things go wrong'. I am instinctively nervous about solid regulation and lawmaking but this still feels positive 47/n #shwhitepaper
48/n #shwhitepaper "Make landlords more accountable for their actions by publicising the details of cases determined and published by the Housing Ombudsman".

Good, there is a culture of silence and suppression when things go wrong at the moment which is unhealthy.
It's no secret that the Ombudsman, telephone line unavailability or not, has been naming and shaming cases of absolutely terrible landlord mismanagement. Perhaps jumping the gun on some of this #shwhitepaper stuff, but nothing wrong with that. 49/n
Going to have a break for a couple of minutes at Tweet 50/n #shwhitepaper before we move on to the thornier-than-it-should-be issue of tenants being treated with respect by their landlords. Bit of a loaded area, and a smidge hypocritical from govt, who are not exactly pro-tenant.
Going to be a few minutes more as I have a whisky and skip ahead to see if there's any specific mention of how the Regulator is going to be enhanced/additionally staffed-and-funded to meet these new tasks.
52/n #shwhitepaper - Still haven't found what the proposals for restructuring the Regulator are but notice there's a review of lifting the cap on fines for non-compliance. Might prompt action at landlords but ultimately fines met through rent payments, so not perfect.
Sorry, ended up down a bit of a rabbit-hole there trying to find specific mention of funding for this new structure for the consumer regulations, as it seems pretty key. On the one hand, it isn't in this doc... 53/n #shwhitepaper
.. but on the other hand there is a lot of really detailed stuff about the expectations the government would set out for the regulator in providing these new functions. It's pretty impressive but there's a really big hole where detailed funding should be. 54/n #shwhitepaper
In part, this is because the Charter makes it clear that there is quite a lot of primary legislation - new lawmaking in the House - required to repurpose the Regulator so that it doesn't just deal with its old tasks. 55/n #shwhitepaper
However, some detail is really, REALLY needed about how this new regulation of the consumer standards would take place. A lot of of positive talk about recruiting new people with the right skills but ultimately we need details of 56/n #shwhitepaper
how many new regulatory staff this would mean and how much it costs and where this cost would be met from. Current regulation is funded by tithe from landlords to the regulator (rent money again). Will the new arm be funded this way and is that a problem? 57/n #shwhitepaper
Anyway, back to the main narrative.

Part 4 of 7, "To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator for tenants"

This lack of respect from landlords came up repeatedly in ministerial roadshow events and ran through case studies in the Shelter commission. 58/n
To comment on this briefly, I think this is an attempt to deal with the stigmatisation of residents that gets talked about a lot but for which there probably aren't easy solutions. 59/n #shwhitepaper
One of the other things I've been quietly working on despite sulking about most things has been a project that is just getting started looking particularly at the problem of stigma from within landlords. A symptom of not having tenants at the heart, or even near the kidneys. 60/n
There's no real way around this stigmatisation from within orgs, it's going to have to be tackled head on, and it's surprising and pleasing to see govt will instruct the Regulator to police it, *but* 61/n #shwhitepaper
one of the other things that came up a lot in previous wide canvassing of residents was that govt itself adds a lot to stigma/denigration of people who happen to live in social housing. In policy and in prejudicial soundbites. 62/n #shwhitepaper
The ongoing debate about poverty, social security and whether people who aren't working are lazy scroungers has been brought into a different kind of focus by the pandemic, but govt departments sneering about scroungers has been harmful. 63/n #shwhitepaper
So a close eye will have to be kept on this 'treated with respect' stuff because it's going to mean different things for different orgs, and it risks letting govt off the hook.
Key points in part 4 are a more proactive style of regulation including the promise of inspections, which falls a little short of the fear-inspiring Ofsted regime but is still a potentially pleasant surprise. 64 and 65/n there, #shwhitepaper.
Honestly waning a little bit now 66/n #shwhitepaper
The 'serious detriment' test will be legislated away. This is great but could probably have been done years ago. It's always been an indistinct threshold for regulatory action when people's lives or health are at risk. 67/n #shwhitepaper.
The other stuff in Chapter 4 sounds great, a pretty detailed plan of triggering regulatory action through a number of much lower-threshold information, and a far cry from the 'dog that didn't bark' criticism the Regulator faced post-Grenfell. 68/n #shwhitepaper
The box-out for draft Tenant Satisfaction Measures is.. ok.. but a bit of a lack of imagination shown. A lot of people have suggested that the existing consumer standards should 'have teeth' in the past, and this is basically doing that. An Ok starting point. 69/n #shwhitepaper
This isn't bad, and really for me what it highlights is just how much further this Charter is aiming than rehashing previous, unpoliced expectations of landlords. I'm really going to have to get some sleep but some of this stuff is genuinely promising. 70/n #shwhitepaper.
The 'Charter' speaks openly about driving culture change at landlords, and that's a pleasant surprise, too. This suggests to me that all the civil servants and officials who helped collate this stuff have been listening to what residents said. 71/n #shwhitepaper
I haven't actually read the Johnson or Jenrick forewords to this, because I expect it's just expansive guff, but at the operational level some of the measures here are forward-looking and proactive 72/n #shwhitepaper
It's to the credit of the @mhclg & @RSHEngland staff and officials that some of this stuff is so cohesive and has been so well constructed. I'm going to rub my eyes and try and get some kip now but will pick up from this reassuring point in a bit. 73/n #shwhitepaper
Oh, but not before noting there's a little boxout that seems to suggest the regulator will expect CEO salaries to be tied to resident-led assessments of their landlords. It doesn't quite say that but, it hints at it. Box B. 74/n #shwhitepaper
The stuff I'll pick up later is parts 5, 6 & 7...

5 To have your voice heard by your landlord

6. To have a good quality home and
neighbourhood to live in


7. To be supported to take your first step
to ownership

7 being a total crock they have shoehorned in inappropriately.
In fact it feels really opportunistic to mention the government's drive for home ownership in the same breath as a lot of this stuff. I get that it's their thing but it is sideways-stigmatising in itself. 76/n #shwhitepaper
Might try and just grab a short kip and pick up on the 'have your voice heard' stuff. It really is a missed opportunity to address the absent national tenant voice, and although some of the measures suggested are tried and tested they may not be empowering. 77/n #shwhitepaper
Laters. o7
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