Social Housing Green Paper’s proposals on neighbourhood management and anti-social behaviour.

One area of interest contained in the recently published Social Housing Green Paper was the renewed focus on neighbourhood management and addressing anti-social behaviour as a core component of the ‘new deal’ between tenants and landlords.  This work has always been vital and respected as such by social housing providers, yet it was notable to see that alongside ensuring properties were in good repair and buildings were structurally safe was the announcement that the Government were considering introducing a key performance indicator (KPI) covering neighbourhood management “responsibilities” as well as a KPI that will “help tackle anti-social behaviour” (ASB).

The Social Housing Green Paper proposes separate KPI’s for ASB and neighbourhood management, both underpinned by obligations set out in the Neighbourhood and Community Standard.  Excluding ASB, the Standard requires registered providers to not just maintain but improve the neighbourhoods where their homes stand.   In keeping areas ‘clean and safe’, landlords should consult with tenants and work with partners in ‘promoting social, economic, and environmental wellbeing’. Landlords should work to appreciate their role in communities and outline the positive impact they can and will make.

A central tenet of the Neighbourhood and Community Standard is the landlord’s duty to prevent and tackle ASB.   There is again a strong emphasis on “local area cooperation” and working in partnership with various agencies.  Between stakeholders there is a clear need for a joint understanding on each other’s roles and responsibilities.  Within this eco-system though, it is the landlord that must demonstrate “strong leadership, commitment and accountability” in addressing ASB “promptly, appropriately, and decisively”.

It is in dealing with complaints where the Green Paper shows concern. “Some residents were concerned that their landlords were not taking appropriate action to tackle anti-social behaviour. Residents told us that they felt their concerns were not taken seriously or were resolved too slowly.”  Additionally, In the much-vaunted section addressing the stigma felt by social housing tenants, a good proportion of the Green Paper is dedicated to the stigma borne out of interactions with landlords themselves. “Too many residents felt they were treated with contempt by their landlord – that they were spoken down to, or treated as a nuisance.”

In thinking about how these KPI’s could be gathered and presented, the Green Paper puts forward the NHS ‘Friends and Family Test’ as a blueprint.  Operational since 2012, the test is based on the premise that patients (or tenants in this instance) have the right to participate in giving feedback as a standard part of their interaction with a service.  This feedback is gathered in as close to real time as possible and is a staple of every interaction; not a one-off survey or annual comms project.  Results are gathered by and published locally by NHS England for users to “inform their decision making” and for organisations to “highlight practices that lead to good experiences and where improvements could be made”.

In our ‘On the Day Briefing’ covering the Green Paper the Northern Housing Consortium queried whether KPI’s  and league tables could prove to be a too simplistic way of ranking services: “It is important that any measure doesn’t provide an incentive to make it difficult for tenants to register complaints if it means that those encouraging honest feedback find themselves languishing at the bottom of a league table.”  Indeed, and especially in relation to tackling ASB, landlords will be all too aware of the balance between resolving complaints swiftly, but also correctly and to the long-term benefit of their tenants and neighbourhoods.  The Government however does appear to appreciate these concerns, and as part of the consultative Green Paper outline they will need to “consider how [the KPI’s] could impact on areas, and whether it could lead to some people feeling more stigmatised.”

The NHC have invited members to a series of roundtables to help formulate a collective response to the Social Housing Green Paper, these meetings can be viewed and booked onto here.  The Neighbourhood Management and ASB specific questions, listed below, will be considered by the next meeting of the Safety in Neighbourhoods Network which will also be focussing on partnership working between housing associations, local authorities, and the emergency services.

  • What key performance indicator should be used to measure whether landlords are providing good neighbourhood management?
  • How are landlords working with local partners to tackle anti-social behaviour?
  • What key performance indicator could be used to measure this work?

The next Safety in Neighbourhoods Network will meet Monday 1st October 2018, 13.00 to 15.30, at Yorkshire Housing, Leeds.  The network is free to attend for NHC members,  follow this link to register your place.