The Regional Network SHR Liaison Group meeting - Minutes - 31 January 2023


25 April 2023

Welcome and introductions

Kelda welcomed everyone to the meeting.

In attendance: Kelda McMichael (SHR), Stephen Lalley (SHR), Shona Gorman, Margaret Dymond, Liz Richardson, Bruce Cuthbertson, Bill Campbell, John Duffy, Linda Lennie, Alan Dalby

Apologies: June Anderson

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.  Recent SHR updates

Kelda summarised the risks which SHR will be focusing on as part of the annual risk assessment, which will culminate in new engagement plans for all social landlords at the end of March.

Kelda explained that the Scottish Government had confirmed that it would not proceed with a rent cap or freeze beyond 31 March. In advance of the meeting, the group had asked how this would be monitored and what the impact would be on landlords and their service provision. Kelda highlighted that SHR had written to all landlords to ask them to confirm what rent increase they would be applying for 2023/24. In terms of impact on landlords, Kelda explained that many landlords have told SHR about how they are reviewing their investment plans in light of a below-inflation rent increase, and that it is for each organisation to consider this based on its own circumstances. The group expressed some concern that some services being provided by landlords may be impacted, especially if these were essential services.

The group had also asked in advance about SHR’s monitoring of incidences of damp and mould in social rented homes, following the letter issued by SHR to all social landlords in December. Kelda explained that SHR is working with CIH, SFHA and ALACHO on guidance and events for social landlords on managing cases of damp and mould in tenants’ homes. The group welcomed the news of guidance being issued, which would help with a consistent message being given to landlords and subsequently to tenants. Kelda also highlighted that SHR had written to all social landlords the previous day to set out steps being taken to monitor tenant and resident safety, including asking landlords to make an explicit statement in their Annual Assurance Statements about tenant and resident safety.

Kelda gave the group an update on the work of the Tenant Advisors (TAs). The TAs completed a review of SHR’s equalities strategy in October 2022, which will inform the refreshed strategy. It has been agreed that the TAs’ next exercise will focus on tenant participation. The plan is for TAs to carry out four exercises per year. The group welcomed the TAs’ next project and hoped that this would strengthen the case for a wider thematic study on tenant participation. Members expressed concern about tenant participation being less of a priority for some landlords during the pandemic and now cost of living crisis.

A draft version of the updated ‘how we involve tenants and service users in our work’ document was shared with members in advance, so that they could share any feedback during the meeting. The group agreed that it was well written, in plain English, and demonstrated that SHR is keen to hear what tenants and service users have to say.

2.  Regular SHR updates

Stephen summarised the latest engagement plan updates. This included City of Edinburgh Council, Cathcart District Housing Association and Hanover Housing Association; all of which have engagement with SHR around tenant and resident safety. Other recent engagement plan updates include Calvay Housing Association, which identified non-compliance in its Annual Assurance Statement; and Copperworks and Spire View Housing Associations, which are seeking to merge through a transfer of engagements.

Stephen also highlighted the de-registrations of Charing Cross Housing Association, Pentland Housing Association and Cube Housing Association. All these organisations’ homes and tenants had previously transferred to other RSLs.

Stephen summarised the items which the SHR board discussed at its December meeting, and reminded the group that George Walker, SHR board chair, and Michael Cameron, chief executive, would be attending the group’s next meeting in April.

Stephen summarised the publications since the group’s last meeting in October, including landlords’ Annual Assurance Statements, updated guidance for landlords on surveying their tenants, a report on the statutory intervention at Fairfield Housing Association, a report into the independent research on SHR’s communications with stakeholders, and a letter sent to all landlords following the Scottish Government’s updated Scottish Social Housing Charter.

Stephen also mentioned recent events, including SHR staff and board members’ speeches at the SHN Annual Gathering, Scottish Rural and Islands Housing Conference and SFHA Finance Conference. Michael Cameron will be speaking at the CIH Housing Festival in March.

3.  Region updates

Shona confirmed that the chairs of each of the four regional networks had met recently and, while membership across the regions has started to increase, they have decided that the four networks will not meet separately for the forthcoming year. Instead, they will have joint meetings, and within this they will use breakout rooms so that each region can carry out its own specific business, but they’ll then all come together to share updates. They will also have a combined AGM this year.

Some members wanted to highlight some specific work ongoing in their region. Bruce told the group that East Ayrshire would be welcoming Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants' Rights this week and so was very much looking forward to meeting with him. John shared some details of work being carried out by North Lanarkshire Council, including a seminar on damp and mould for tenants, and also upgrades to tower blocks which were originally due for demolition.

Date of next meeting

25 April 2023