Annual Report and Accounts 2019-2020

This report summarises our work during 2019/20. It includes our accounts for the financial year 2019/20 in accordance with the Accounts Direction given by Scottish Ministers and section 19(4) of the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000

Updated

28 October 2020

Welcome from our Chair & Chief Executive

We are pleased to welcome you to our new look annual report.  Like our new website www.housingregulator.gov.scot, we have designed it to meet new accessibility regulations. 

When we started to write this report, in March 2020, the Coronavirus Covid-19 had just hit and the challenges for social housing in Scotland changed dramatically and at pace. 

We recognised the unprecedented circumstances for social landlords and quickly aligned our regulatory approach to support them through the Coronavirus crisis.  This included postponing the publication of updated Engagement Plans planned for 31 March 2020 for all landlords including a regulatory status for RSLs, postponing all but the most critical regulatory engagements to allow landlords and us to focus on the most serious existing risks or those that emerged from the pandemic.  We also extended the timescales for submission of annual Charter returns and Five Year Financial Projections.

We helped to establish the Social Housing Resilience Group alongside the Scottish Government and landlord representative bodies to respond to the challenges which the social housing sector was experiencing.  

We are using notifiable events and a concise new monthly data return agreed with the Resilience Group to monitor changes to service levels provided by all RSLs and local authorities and the financial impact on RSLs as a consequence of the pandemic.  We report these to the Resilience Group and Scottish Government to help them develop policies and responses to emerging issues and serious risks to tenants, people who are experiencing homelessness and other service users.

While this was an intensive end to 2019/20, in this report we reflect on the other work we did during the year. 

At the start of the year we published our new Corporate Plan for 2019- 2022 setting out our priorities, and we implemented our new Regulatory Framework.  The support we have received from stakeholders during our Framework consultation shifted into real and meaningful self-assurance by all landlords and a key milestone was the submission of the first annual assurance statements for October 2019.  In early March 2020, we published lessons learned from the first year of assurance statements highlighting positive practice, drawn from visits to 10 landlords to hear about their experiences.     

Services to people who are homeless or who are experiencing homelessness remain a priority for us. We had engagement with 23 local authorities during the year, published a report on housing options and homelessness services in Dumfries & Galloway and started an inquiry into Glasgow City Council’s service for people who are homeless. We also used our National Panel to gain insight into people’s experience of using homelessness services and what makes the biggest positive difference to that experience.  

A strong tenant voice is important to us and this year we used the feedback from our National Panel of Tenants and Service Users and the RTO Regional Networks to inform our regulatory approach on safety, value for money, affordability and service quality.  We also published research with our National Panel of Tenants and Service Users on Gypsy/Traveller site standards and continued to engage with the community and Scottish Government on site standards.

In 2019/20 landlords have reported in their annual Scottish Social Housing Charter returns that nine out of ten of their social housing tenants are satisfied with the overall service. 

Landlords and tenants continue to benefit from competitive borrowing rates and investors in social housing in Scotland remained in close contact to understand how regulation was supporting the sector during the pandemic crisis.

We give human rights prominence in our new Regulatory Framework.  We plan to continue to shine a light on this as we work with social landlord representatives and the Scottish Human Rights Commission to provide guidance for landlords on human rights and build our own capacity on human rights.  

We welcomed three new Board members: Ewan Fraser, Colin Stewart and Helen Trouten Torres.  We would also like to thank and wish well Anne Jarvie CBE.  She stepped down on 31 March 2020 as our Deputy Chair.  We would like to thank all our Board members, our staff team and all the tenants and service users and stakeholders who have worked with us during the year.  We also thank those who served as statutory appointees to RSLs governing bodies; they are all volunteers drawn from the sector and are key to supporting organisations that are working to improve.

We would also pay tribute to the hard work by all those who work and volunteer in social housing in Scotland, particularly during these unprecedented times.

George Walker, Chair and Michael Cameron, Chief Executive 

Who we are and what we do

Who we are 

We are the independent regulator of social landlords in Scotland. Social landlords are made up of registered social landlords (RSLs) – housing associations and co-operatives – and local authorities (LAs) that provide housing and homelessness services.

What we do

We regulate to safeguard and promote the interests of current and future tenants of social landlords, people who are or may become homeless, and people who use housing services provided by RSLs and local authorities.

We regulate social landlords by:

  • keeping a register of social landlords and making this available for the public – all landlords on the register need to meet regulatory requirements
  • monitoring, assessing and reporting on how well social landlords are run and how they manage their money – we call this governance and financial health
  • taking action, where we need to, to protect the interests of tenants and other service users

We do this in a way that: 

  • is proportionate, accountable and transparent - this means we are open about how we work and we take responsibility for our decisions
  • is targeted – this means we only take action where it is needed
  • encourages treating people fairly and promotes equal opportunities law
  • is consistent with the Scottish Regulators’ Strategic Code of Practice

Who we are

Watch a video about who we are and what we do

Overview - Our work performance and achievements

We empowered tenants, people who are homeless, Gypsy/Travellers and others by:

  • promoting messages on tenant voice, affordability and safety
  • working with our tenant advisors on developing our website and meeting with our Registered Tenant Organisations liaison group
  • carrying out research with our national panel of tenants and service users on tenant participation, digital access, rent consultation,
    Gypsy/Traveller sites and the experience of people who are homeless, promoting the findings to our stakeholders and using the findings to inform out work
  • engaging with Gypsy/Traveller site providers on minimum site standards and safety
  • publishing a suite of performance information on landlords’ performance against the Scottish Social Housing Charter
  • publishing videos about our work and how to raise a concern about a social landlord
  • launching a modernised and accessible website
  • publishing a new guide for tenants and service users on our Regulatory Framework

We sought assurance by:

  • publishing and updating engagement plans for every LA and RSL from 1 April 2019
  • publishing our national analysis of landlords’ performance against the Scottish Social Housing Charter as well as refreshed landlord reports for every LA and RSL, data tables and comparison tool and new technical guidance for landlords
  • publishing FAQs on our new Regulatory Framework and working with sector representatives to provide a self-assurance toolkit for landlords
  • receiving and publishing the first annual assurance statements on regulatory requirement compliance for all councils and RSLs
  • carrying out a risk assessment of all landlords and publishing information about the risks that we are focusing on
  • analysing the financial health of the RSL sector
  • writing to all LAs seeking assurance around emergency arrangements for people at risk of sleeping rough over the winter
  • writing to landlords who provide sites for Gypsy/Travellers seeking assurance around fire safety
  • liaising closely with landlords and our stakeholders during the pandemic to understand the impact and to provide support

We took action to protect the interests of tenants and others when we:

  • continued the use of our statutory powers to intervene in Ruchazie, Thistle and Fairfield Housing Associations
  • completed our intervention at Wishaw & District Housing Association and Arklet Housing Associations
  • published accounts of our intervention at
    • Antonine Housing Association
    • Ferguslie Park Housing Association
    • Kincardine Housing Cooperative
    • Dalmuir Park Housing Association
  • published an information note for statutory appointees to RSL governing bodies
  • updated our list of people we appoint as statutory managers using an open selection process
  • published our inquiry into Dumfries and Galloway Council’s housing options and homeless service
  • started an inquiry into Glasgow City Council’s homelessness services as a continuation of our engagement with the Council
  • responded to whistleblowing concerns raised with us and reported on these

We raised awareness and shared positive practice by:

  • publishing a report on landlords’ experience of the first annual assurance statements to promote positive practice
  • promoting our national panel feedback as part of our conference presentations and in our discussions with stakeholders
  • providing advice to landlords on:
    • tenant and resident safety requirements such as management of asbestos and electrical safety
    • cyber security
    • fraud
    • Brexit
    • Coronavirus

We promoted equalities and human rights by:

  • giving it a high profile in our new Regulatory Framework
  • refreshing our own commitment and publishing a new equalities statement
  • working with the Scottish Human Rights Commission to build our capacity and inform how we regulate
  • funding development of guidance in collaboration with sector representative organisations
  • committing to the Scottish Government’s gender balance objective for public boards

We demonstrated we were an effective public body by:

  • achieving substantial assurance for our internal auditor and an unqualified audit opinion from our external auditor
  • giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee
  • maintaining high engagement scores in the 2019 Civil Service wide people survey and investing in our staff and Board development
  • ensuring our Management Team monitored our performance monthly and Board quarterly
  • publishing information and learning about any complaints about us
  • investing in our IT systems that support our work and launching a new accessible website that we continue to develop
  • achieving Cyber Essentials Plus certification for the second year
  • starting to work to achieve Carer Positive employee accreditation
  • submitting our climate change return and forging a partnership with Scottish Canals for our staff to contribute to biodiversity work
  • encouraging the formation and participating in the Scottish Social Housing Resilience Group to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic
  • keeping our stakeholders up to date through @shr_news and our SHR update ezine

Performance analysis

4.1 Empowering tenants & others

Our new website has a dedicated section for tenants to help them find the information they want. It links to our new guide for tenants on our regulatory framework. We have also published videos about us and on how to raise a concern about a social landlord. We are grateful for the input of our tenant advisors to this work. View the tenant section of our website and the videos here.

We continued to work with our National Panel of over 400 tenants and service users. It is one of the ways we find out what matters most to them. This helps us focus on the important things. This year we published four research reports on the Panel’s work. We promoted the Panel’s feedback widely, and the findings of each report informed our work and our dialogue with stakeholders.

Experience of homelessness services looked at what makes the biggest positive difference for people’s experiences. Common themes are suitable and safe accommodation, access to dedicated staff and support, and minimising the number of moves.

It also found the biggest challenges for people using homelessness services include the length of wait for settled accommodation, financial difficulties, equality and fair treatment and safety and condition of temporary accommodation.

The report highlighted the importance of accessing a settled home quickly.

Rent consultation found that over a third of panel members have experienced difficulties in affording their rent, over two thirds were concerned about the future affordability, rent increases and changes to income, particularly through changes in benefits.

Tenant participation and digital access showed widespread awareness and interest in tenant participation and an appetite for more opportunities. Benefits expressed by tenants, including a sense of community and a feeling that landlords are listening to them.

The report also presented views on digital access to services, with Panel members have a high level of digital engagement, access across all age groups to the internet at home and feeling confident in using it. More than half preferred getting online information from their landlord.

Gypsy/Travellers sites with most Gypsy/Travellers who took part expressing concerns about their site. Common concerns were around the overall condition and cleanliness of sites and a view that sites have suffered from a lack of investment.

Just over 1 in 10 of all those interviewed had heard of the minimum site standards and most felt that Gypsy/Travellers would benefit from access to information about them. Participants said that site location, the mix of residents and sense of community, and on-site wardens were the main positives for current site provision.

Find out how to join the National Panel and read the full reports here.

We also continued to engage with landlords who provide Gypsy/Traveller sites around safety standards and the Scottish Government’s minimum site standards. This work will continue into 2020/21 as the Scottish Government considers reviewing the standards for sites, which will be an important opportunity for Gypsy/Travellers to determine what is required for homes that genuinely meet their needs.

We continued to meet quarterly with our Registered Tenant Organisation liaison group. Discussions and feedback from it and the Regional Networks help inform our priorities and what we focus on. Our Chair George Walker participated in the RTO Regional Network conference in November 2019.

We used the research and feedback to inform our priorities and key messages. Read our speeches and blogs.

Chair George Walker and Board member Helen Trouten Torres highlighted that a strong tenant voice matters to SHR at the national Tenant Participation Advisory Service Scotland conference.

Chair George Walker emphasised the important role RSLs have in addressing homelessness and urged RSLs to maximise the number of lets to people who are homeless at the SFHA Chairs’ conference.

Chief Executive Michael Cameron underlined the need for landlords to keep rents affordable for tenants at a Tenant Information Service event and in a blog for an Inside Housing publication in September, which set out why landlords need to consider future affordability when increasing rents.

Director Ian Brennan highlighted that rent affordability continues to be a priority in how we monitor risks to tenants’ interests at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations Annual Finance conference.

We also highlighted the importance of landlords ensuring tenant and resident safety by writing to RSLs and local authorities. Read our letters.


4.2 Getting assurance

On 1 April 2019, as our new Regulatory Framework went live, we published engagement plans for every LA and RSL for the first time and we published a summary of the outcome of our risk assessment. Our engagement with RSLs was focussed around financial health, governance and delivery of services. We also set out our planned activity with LAs focussed on Gypsy/Travellers sites standards, services for people who are homeless and service quality in Audit Scotland’s National Scrutiny Plan.

During the year we updated engagement plans as we had gained or were seeking further assurance. Read more about engagement plans.

In August we published our sixth annual national analysis of landlords’ performance against the Charter. We reported that overall, landlords continue to perform well in the service areas that matter most to tenants. Tenant satisfaction remains high, with nine out of ten social housing tenants satisfied with their landlord’s overall service. We published a suite of performance information:

  • Our landlord reports and comparison tool let tenants find out about their landlord’s performance in the areas tenants said matter most: homes and rents, quality and maintenance, neighbourhoods, tenant satisfaction, and value for money.
  • Our data tables show how landlords performed against each Charter standard and outcome. Landlords can use them to benchmark their performance.

Later in the year we published updated Charter technical guidance and FAQs to help landlords completing their annual returns.

Read more about landlord performance and access landlord reports and our comparison tool here.

To support our FAQs on the Regulatory Framework and assurance statement we collaborated with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Glasgow West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations and the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers to publish a new self-assurance toolkit in July. The toolkit, hosted by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, provides guidance on
gathering evidence to demonstrate compliance in order to feed into LA and RSL self-assurances processes.

Read our FAQs and access the toolkit here.

In early November we published the first annual assurance statements submitted by LAs* and RSLs. These statements confirmed if landlords were assured that they meet regulatory requirements or set out which of the requirements they do not comply with.

*One body we regulate, Glasgow City Council submitted a draft annual assurance statement in October 2019.

Also in November we set out the risks that we would focus on in our risk assessment and that for the first time we would take account of annual assurance statements. The main risks we focused on were service quality, rent affordability, homelessness, quality and maintenance of homes, Tenant and resident safety, Gypsy/Travellers, financial health of RSLs and good governance of RSLs.

We wrote to all LAs seeking assurance around emergency arrangements for people at risk of sleeping rough over the winter.

In December we reported that our analysis showed lender and investor confidence continues to grow and the RSL sector was financially strong. We published our analysis of RSL annual loan portfolio returns at 31 March 2019. Total investment reached £6 billion, with the total owed by RSLs rising to more than £4 billion for the first time. 40% of all the new finance was from the capital markets with two new entrants to the field of investors. Continued growth in lender confidence and a financially strong sector is good news for tenants and service users.

We had planned to publish a summary of the outcome of our risk assessment and refreshed engagement plans for all LAs and RSLs in March 2020 with a regulatory status for RSLs. We paused this so that landlords could focus on the Coronavirus pandemic and will revisit the position later in 2020.

84% of LAs and RSLs reported that they have met Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH). We are working with landlords to develop indicators for EESSH2 which Scottish Government is planning to come into effect in January 2021.

4.3 Taking action when we need to

At 31 March 2020 we were using our statutory powers to intervene in Ruchazie, Thistle and Fairfield Housing Associations. We did not take any new statutory action during 2019/20.

During the year we completed intervention at Wishaw & District Housing Association and Arklet Housing Association.

“The board and staff all felt that the action taken and required by SHR was proportionate and always in the best interests of tenants. The turnaround and transfer were very difficult professionally and emotionally at many times but the hard and extensive work required was due to Arklet's failures of governance and management, not by the regulatory requirement to resolve them. We all believe that the actions now concluded will bring the best possible outcome for Arklet tenants and help to maintain the good overall reputation of the housing association sector; with one association helping another to secure good services to tenants for what we hope will be decades to come.”

Lynn McCulloch, Housing Services Manager Arklet Housing Association

We also published accounts of our intervention at:

“... Ferguslie Park has emerged from the experience with good governance structures, a strong management board and a new invigoratedstaff team, able to deliver quality services to our tenants..”
Ferguslie Park’s Chairperson Shona McIntyre

“..the transformation to DPHA today is incredible. All of the Committee and staff team have worked really hard. We all pass our sincere thanks to the team at the SHR and to our Statutory Manager for all their help and support over this period to help us achieve what we have and to set us on a strong course for the future to best serve our tenants and service users.”
Craig Edward, Vice Chair Dalmuir Park

“Regulatory intervention protected the interests of Antonine’s tenants during a difficult few years. Whilst initially this intervention was intended to address governance weaknesses, it quickly became obvious that the scale of the investment needed to deliver modern warm homes for tenants at an affordable rent was better delivered by joining with Caledonia. The merit of this proposal was tested in a ballot, and the overwhelming support from Antonine’s tenants was proof of its value. Despite the difficulties, this was a positive outcome for tenants and was made possible by the work of the appointees, the existing tenant committee members, the staff at Antonine and the Statutory Manager andInterim Director.”
Patrick McGrath, statutory appointee to Antonine Housing Association

We are very grateful for the input of all our statutory appointees – people we appoint to the governing body of an RSL. They are all volunteers drawn from the sector to help to protect the interests of tenants and others by sharing their knowledge and experience with organisations that need support. During 2019/20 31 statutory appointees worked across 5 organisations. In July 2019 we published an information note for voluntary statutory appointees, explaining what is involved in appointments.

Following an open selection process, in November we published an updated list of people with the necessary expertise to be appointed under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 as statutory managers. The list helps us be open and transparent about the people we will select and helps us control costs for landlords who, under legislation, pay for the statutory managers. The list will be in place for three years and we will keep it under review. Read more about the list and selection process.

In December 2019 we published a report on our inquiry into Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Housing Options and Homeless Service, finding the Council has significantly improved the service and is working more effectively with its Registered Social Landlord partners.

We also commenced an inquiry into the homelessness services provided by Glasgow City Council in December 2019. This was part of our continued engagement with the Council. We aim to report on our findings during 2020/21.

SHR is a prescribed person under whistleblowing legislation. Read more information for potential whistleblowers and also about how we deal with whistleblowing concerns about a social landlord.
During 2019/20 whistle-blowers contacted us 16 times, two of which were qualified disclosures.

We took no further action in seven cases for the following reasons:

  • in four cases there was insufficient information and evidence relating to the allegations to enable us to take it forward;
  • two cases related to employment grievances; and
  • in one case the allegations had already been investigated and we engaged with the landlord about the findings.

We worked with the landlords to establish the facts in nine cases:

  • we obtained assurance from one landlord and did not require any further action to be taken. We are continuing to engage with another landlord to seek assurance.
  • we engaged with two landlords who carried out internal investigations in three cases; and
  • we engaged with four landlords who commissioned independent investigations, two of which are ongoing as at 31 March 2020.

We introduced new requirement in our Regulatory Framework that as of 1st April 2020 all social landlords must have effective arrangements and a policy for whistleblowing by staff and governing body/elected members which it makes easily available and which it promotes.

4.4 Carrying out thematic work

We visited ten landlords to learn about their experience of the first annual assurance statements and published a report highlighting lessons learned and positive practice. We also gave every landlord specific feedback on their first statement to help inform their preparation for the next one.

 

George Walker, SHR Chair said, “We wanted to hear from landlords about their experience of producing their first Statement. This included visits to some landlords to find out more about their approach. Many told us the process had increased their level of selfassurance, especially in the areas of tenant and resident safety and rent affordability. We also heard how landlords had taken a
range of different approaches to reflect their own circumstances.

“We know that the vast majority of landlords prioritise getting feedback from tenants about their performance. Many of the landlords we visited said they will consider how tenants can be more involved in the self-assurance process”.

In response to emerging risks we provided direct advice to all councils and RSLs around:

4.5 Promoting equality and human rights

We are committed to promoting equality and human rights in how we regulate. Tenants, people who are homeless and Gypsy/Travellers as well as other service users of all backgrounds are at the heart of our work. Everyone should be treated fairly, with dignity and respect.

All RSLs and LAs must meet the requirements of relevant equalities and human rights legislation. This includes working to understand the individual needs of their tenants and service users, and to deliver services that recognise these needs. We have provided £15,000 to a collaboration project with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Glasgow West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations and the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers to develop guidance for landlords.

We re-affirmed our commitment to promoting equalities and human rights at work by refreshing and publishing our equalities statement, setting out what we have done and future objectives.

We give human rights prominence in our new Regulatory Framework and have work planned for early 2020/21 with the Scottish Human Rights Commission to build our own capacity and inform how we work.

We are also committed to the Scottish Government’s gender balance objective for public boards. We celebrated the contribution of our female Board members and staff on International Women’s day and have agreed a forward programme to help us input to the gender balance policy objective.

4.6 Our public body duties

In 2019/20 we achieved substantial assurance from our internal auditor and an unqualified audit opinion from Azets Audit Services on behalf of Audit Scotland.

In November 2019, we presented evidence in our 2018/19 annual report and accounts to the Scottish Parliament’s local Government and Communities Committee who are responsible for scrutinising our work. We kept the Committee updated on all our publication and news throughout the year.

In the 2019 Civil Service People Survey our staff scored amongst the highest engagement level of Scottish Public Bodies and in the top quartile for many indicators of all 102 UK public bodies who participated. We investing in our staff and Board’s learning and development including
governance training for entire Board and Management Team.

We spent our £4.2m budget. Around 75% of our revenue budget relates to 46 FTE staff. We retained Living Wage accreditation.

Our Board and Management Team monitor our performance against our Corporate and operational plans as well as published targets.

Type  Response time  Target    Performance 
General correspondence 8 working days 95% Met Except in Quarter three when we achieved 85%
FOI requests 20 working days 100% Met Except for one request that was one day late
FOI reviews 20 working days 100% Met   
Significant Performance Failures 5 working days 100% Met   
Invoice payment 10 working days 100% Met  Except for one invoice

We publish a summary of complaints about us and what we learned from them that is updated each quarter. We did not receive any formal complaints during 2019/20. Find out more about how to provide SHR with feedback and how to make a complaint here.

We invested in our IT systems implementing our new Regulatory Framework and on our new website, which we continue to develop to enhance the accessibility of our information. We invested £63,100.00 in the Scottish Government sponsored CivTech® challenge programme with the aim of making our data more accessible to tenants. We learned much from this initiative, including implications for our new website and the accessibility of our data and documents. Following rigorous testing of the proposed solution, however we decided not to implement the proposed product.

We achieved Cyber Essentials Plus certification for our business intelligence system for the second year. We also promoted the Cyber Essentials accreditation scheme to social landlords highlighting the importance of protecting against cyber fraud and of the need to ensure they protect tenants’ information. Read more here.

Our staff wellbeing is important to us and in 2020 we started work to achieve ‘Carer Positive ‘accreditation for the first time. Carer Positive employers support working carers in their workplace. We started by awareness raising on our staff intranet of support available for employees and surveying our staff to gain a better understanding of their caring responsibilities.

We submitted a report on our progress towards climate change targets in November. In October, we also participated in a volunteer day litter picking for Scottish Canals close to our office.

Join our 1480 twitter followers @shr_news and over 1400 SHR Update e-zine subscribers to keep up to date with our news.

Michael Cameron, Chief Executive
Date: 12 October 2020


 
 

Accountability report and financial statements

Read our accountability report and financial statements for the year end 31 March 2020. 

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