The Regional Network SHR Liaison Group meeting - Minutes - 25 April 2023


14 August 2023

Welcome and introductions

Kelda welcomed everyone to the meeting.

In attendance: Kelda McMichael (SHR), Stephen Lalley (SHR), Shona Gorman, Margaret Dymond, June Anderson, Liz Richardson, Bruce Cuthbertson, John Duffy, Linda Lennie, Alan Dalby, Michael Cameron (SHR; item 1 only), George Walker (SHR board; item 1 only)

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

Declaration of interests & minute of last meeting

Bruce declared that he is a Board Director at TIS.

The minute of the last meeting was accepted.

1.  Q&A with Michael Cameron and George Walker

The group welcomed Michael Cameron (SHR chief executive) and George Walker (SHR board chair) to the meeting. The group asked Michael and George questions covering a range of topics which generated discussion amongst the group. The main talking points were:

  • SHR is in the early stages of reviewing its Regulatory Framework, and Michael and George were keen to highlight the importance of tenants and other stakeholders informing this. There will be two rounds of consultation; a discussion paper will be published in June, which will lead to a series of discussions with groups of stakeholders, including the Liaison Group, followed by formal consultation in the autumn.
  • The forthcoming Human Rights Bill is still going through the Scottish Parliament and public consultation, and so the revised Regulatory Framework will not be able to reflect the specific elements of this. However, Michael highlighted that the current Framework does articulate the requirement for landlords to meet all their duties on human rights and this is expected to remain in the next iteration of the Framework.
  • The group raised concern about tenant participation across the sector and called for SHR to carry out a thematic on this. Michael and George emphasised the importance of tenant participation and said that the discussion paper on the Regulatory Framework review will reflect this. They agreed to take on board the group’s request to consider a thematic on this, recognising that the group has repeatedly called for this.
  • Asked about the importance of tenant voices on boards, George highlighted how valuable it is having Colin and Helen, who are social housing tenants, on SHR’s board. Michael explained that SHR cannot oblige landlords to have tenants on their boards (because this is dependent on each RSL’s constitution), but noted tenant board membership is one of a number of routes for tenants to have their voices heard. They both highlighted that the lived experience from tenants can be a real asset to RSL boards’ decision making and discussions.
  • The group acknowledged SHR’s recent thematic report on homelessness, and asked about other work SHR is doing to get assurance that local authorities are meeting their legal duties. Michael spoke about the outcome of the latest annual risk assessment, which confirmed that SHR will be engaging with all 32 local authorities once again. This engagement will have a particular focus on temporary accommodation. There will also be engagement with 17 local authorities on particular areas of their homelessness services. George mentioned that SHR will make sure that the issues and challenges discussed in the thematic report and annual risk assessment around homelessness are understood by the new housing minister.
  • Michael and George spoke about the importance of SHR engaging with its stakeholders to understand and discuss the impact of the cost of living crisis on the sector. They mentioned the three landlord groups that SHR meets with – rural and islands, urban and systemically important – as well as how they get the tenant perspective too, for example through the Liaison Group meetings, the National Panel and the Tenant Advisors. Balancing the cost of investing in new and existing homes (particularly in response to the net zero targets) and maintaining affordable rents was discussed as an example of an issue which is particularly challenging in the current economic context.
  • Damp and mould continue to be important topics for both tenants and landlords. Michael spoke about the letter which SHR sent out to all social landlords in December which emphasised the importance of them having effective systems in place to manage reports of damp and mould, and he also highlighted the jointly published briefing with ALACHO, SFHA and CIH Scotland. He also said that the Regulatory Framework review will include discussions with stakeholders about the possibility of new ARC indicators on how well landlords are performing and responding to cases of damp and mould.

Shona wanted to take the opportunity to update Michael and George on the regional networks, and she read out a statement on behalf of the four networks. The statement highlighted the difficulties which the networks have had, and are continuing to have, in recruiting members. As a result, after the 2022 AGMs, it was decided that instead of separate meetings, the four networks would have a joint meeting with breakout rooms for individual regions. There would also be no chairs and secretaries meetings, but the working groups would continue. The networks highlighted the importance of the Scottish Government’s tenant participation team to help the networks grow and sustain its memberships, and called for its full support with the upcoming recruitment drive. George offered SHR’s support to help raise the profile of both the networks and the upcoming recruitment campaign.

Michael and George thanked the group for inviting them and left the meeting. 

2.  Recent SHR updates

Stephen summarised the outcomes from SHR’s annual risk assessment, which culminated in new engagement plans for all social landlords, regulatory statuses for RSLs, and an outcomes report being published at the end of March. The profile of regulatory statuses for RSLs and reasons for engagement with all social landlords was shared with the group. Stephen explained that the outcomes summary report and engagement plans were all available on SHR’s website.  

Kelda told the group about the upcoming Annual Assurance Statement visits which SHR would be carrying out. SHR staff will visit 11 landlords, with a mix of size, type and geography, during May to talk to them about how they approached and prepared their most recent Annual Assurance Statement. A lessons learned report will be published later in the year.

Stephen told the group about Bob Gil’s retirement from the board, and the reappointment of Colin, Helen, and Ewan Fraser for another four years.

3.  Regular SHR updates

Kelda summarised the SHR publications since the group’s last meeting in January, including recommended practice on integrated asset management, the thematic review on homelessness, the jointly published briefing on damp and mould, the annual analysis of RSL finances for 2021/22, details of social landlords’ rent increases for 2022/23, the strategy on how SHR includes tenants and service users, and the 2023/24 corporate strategy and workplan.

Kelda also highlighted upcoming events for SHR in May, including an appearance at the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee to discuss damp and mould, and also the urban landlord group meeting.

The group asked if SHR would be attending the TPAS Conference this year, which Kelda agreed to check and respond via email after the meeting.

4.  Regional network update

The group had decided that the statement shared with Michael and George earlier in the meeting would act as the regional network update for this meeting.

June did also want to share that the demolition and redevelopment of the gypsy/traveller site in Clackmannanshire was under way, with both the Council and Scottish Government contributing to the costs of this. The tenants have been decanted, and they have been involved in designing the new site which will be ready in June 2024.

5.  Any other business

The group asked about the Tenant Advisors’ work. Kelda explained that the Tenant Advisors had just completed fieldwork on a tenant participation project, which was currently being assessed and analysed by SHR staff.

Kelda asked the group about their preference for using the next quarterly meeting in August as an opportunity for the group to share its thoughts on the Regulatory Framework discussion paper, and whether they wanted to do this virtually or in-person. The group agreed to discuss this after the meeting and then let Kelda know.

Kelda shared details of SHR’s new office in George House, and also that Stephen has moved teams within SHR and so will no longer be attending the Liaison Group meetings.

Date of next meeting

1 August 2023