SHR and RTO Regional Network Liaison Group - Minutes - 28 October 2020


22 January 2021

Welcome and introductions

Kelda welcomed everyone to the meeting, including Colin and Helen from SHR’s board who were observing the meeting.

In attendance: Kelda McMichael (SHR), Stephen Lalley (SHR), Bruce Cuthbertson, Leonora Montgomery, Cameron Grant, Shona Gorman, John McKenzie, June Anderson

Observing: Colin Stewart (SHR board member), Helen Trouten Torres (SHR board member)

Apologies: John Duffy, Alasdair Mackenzie

Declaration of interests & minutes of last meeting

There were no declarations made which were relevant to the agenda items. The group confirmed that they had already provided comments on the minutes of the last meeting and so these were accepted.

1. SHR’s response to Covid-19

Stephen outlined that SHR had shifted its regulatory focus to monitoring the impact of the pandemic on social landlords. The consultation and subsequent temporary changes to the Regulatory Framework were outlined, including the Annual Assurance Statement deadline extension. Group members highlighted the importance of landlords getting in touch with the Regulator at the earliest opportunity if they are struggling to meet any of their statutory requirements. During discussions around SHR’s recently published restated Corporate Plan, the group reiterated its preference for the thematic work scheduled for 2021/22 to include tenant participation.

Stephen also described other recent publications to support RSLs during and post-pandemic, including guidance on business planning and advice for governing bodies. This generated some discussion among the group of their own experiences of attending virtual AGMs and similar events. Overall, members have had a positive experience, and were grateful that virtual meetings still meant that even those who were shielding could continue to participate. However, they acknowledged that virtual meetings provided less opportunity for informal discussions and social interaction, and that there may be some barriers to participation such as access to technology and digital skills.

The remit and work of the Social Housing Resilience Group was shared with the group; as was the latest headlines from the monthly dashboard published by SHR. This led to a discussion around the use of hostels by local authorities for people who may be experiencing homelessness, particularly during the winter months. SHR highlighted the Scottish Government’s recent announcement that the night shelters in Glasgow and Edinburgh would be replaced by rapid rehousing welcoming centres, having also recently accepted the recommendations from the latest HARSAG report.

The Scottish Government’s recent correspondence with social landlords about complying with SHQS and EESSH standards was also discussed. Some members of the group had expressed concern about the impact of the pandemic restrictions on landlords’ ability to carry out their capital programmes and therefore meet these standards. SHR highlighted the range of guidance and advice available for landlords during the pandemic, including those produced by the Social Housing Resilience Group and Health and Safety Executive; and also that some landlords have said that they will have to review the timing of their capital programme to enable them to comply with the necessary restrictions.

2. Other SHR updates

Kelda gave an update on the landlords where statutory action continues, and where statutory action has reduced or ended, since the last meeting. She also gave a brief overview of the engagement plans which have been updated since the last meeting.

Kelda mentioned that the National Report would be published this week, which will detail how landlords performed against the Scottish Social Housing Charter in 2019/20. Individual landlord reports will also be published, and Kelda gave a live demonstration of how to access these reports in the landlord directory on SHR’s website. Members of the group mentioned that they have used the directory to review their own and other landlords’ performance, and will continue to do so.

Kelda also summarised the findings from the latest National Panel report. One member said they were disappointed in the proportion of negative responses from participants to some of the questions. The group also discussed the wider issues which the gypsy/traveller community and landlords of gypsy/traveller sites were facing. There was concern that the number of pitches available on sites was being reduced to comply with fire safety standards which was, in turn, having a detrimental impact on both residents and landlords. Kelda described SHR’s role in monitoring landlords’ compliance with minimum site standards, and that SHR was liaising with landlords, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the Scottish Government and COSLA about the fire safety standards.

Kelda gave a brief overview of the annual risk assessment which SHR is currently considering, and of the recent and upcoming speaking events and publications by SHR. Colin told the group that SHR’s board has been meeting more regularly during the pandemic.

3. RTO network update

Region 1 – There has been a largely positive experience from the region in terms of landlords keeping in touch with their tenants during the pandemic. One of the representatives has been very impressed, with their landlord providing regular website and Facebook updates, newsletters, press releases and a weekly update from their senior officer. Some of the tenants’ groups are not meeting.

There was no update for region 2.

Region 3 – Some of the tenants’ groups are meeting, and those that have been able to have been busy supporting the relevant local authorities and local food banks, who were all praised for the efforts they are making to support tenants, service users and other residents. One of the groups has secured funding for new laptops for members to carry on their work from home. Bruce mentioned that rent setting will be taking place over the next few months by landlords in consultation with their tenants. He said that this has already generated discussion within his region about HRA ring fencing.

Region 4 – Representatives from region 4 praised their landlords’ efforts during the course of the pandemic, citing support being provided to food banks and one landlord’s welfare advice service being sought by other organisations. One of the groups has offered their services to the local authority to increase and improve tenant participation and scrutiny. One of the scrutiny panels will be doing a presentation at a TPAS event next month, and another scrutiny panel group will be attending the TIS rent setting event which is coming up. June mentioned that she has been invited to be the Community Health Champion in her local area, and is involved in the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee which is looking at recovery from the pandemic.

4. Any other business

Colin shared with the group that the regional networks’ website has now gone live. As a member of region 1, he has been involved in the development of this.

Date of next meeting: TBC – it was agreed that Bruce would liaise with other members and suggest some dates to SHR.