Different voices, one goal

Stonewater’s Customer Scrutiny Panel Vice-Chair Steve Bladen and former Chair John Allen have been chosen to represent the views of social housing tenants around the country as members of the Housing Ombudsman’s Resident Panel.


Launched last month (March 2020), the Resident Panel aims to provide the Housing Ombudsman with feedback and advice on the formal process of investigating complaints about registered social housing providers.

Here, Steve and John outline their reasons for joining the panel, what this opportunity means to them and the difference they hope to both make.

Steve: Having joined Stonewater’s scrutiny panel two years ago and become vice-chair last October, I’m now thrilled to be joining the Housing Ombudsman’s new Resident Panel.
I’m even more delighted to be working alongside John, making sure our two voices and different perspectives are heard. John has been my mentor these last few years, so I am really excited we will be doing this together.

John: I’ve been a member of Stonewater’s scrutiny panel for five years, becoming vice-chair in 2017 and then chair in 2018 until last year. I previously chaired Raglan’s sheltered and supported committee before joining the repairs procurement panel during the merger which formed Stonewater.

I was surprised to be accepted on the Housing Ombudsman’s Resident Panel. I thought ‘Wow! My voice is going to be heard further and wider.’ I’m proud of the fact that, although I am just one voice, I will be speaking on behalf of thousands of people.

Steve: I was keen to join this new panel because it’s an opportunity for residents to share their varying experiences and, through their combined voices, to drive change. It’s so important for people to get involved like this. Communication is key – it’s vital to keep people in the loop and keep talking.

John and I have two different customer viewpoints to represent, and we are both very passionate and feel very confident in making sure everyone’s views and concerns are listened to on this national level.

John: For me, joining the panel is a way for residents to guide much-needed change. It’s a chance to improve people’s standard of living and erase the stigma often associated with social housing. That is a really important goal for me – we don’t want to be treated differently because of where we live.

I first joined the sheltered and supported committee because I like to help people and wanted to find something positive to do after retiring. It was a shock to learn how much my fellow residents needed someone to speak on their behalf and explain what they needed in order to live happily and comfortably.

Gradually, our voice is being heard. Not all housing associations are as transparent as they should be, so we need to change that for the benefit of everyone.

Steve: I’m looking forward to networking with other engaged residents from all over the country, so we can share our experiences and work together to resolve common issues.

John: This is a great opportunity to make sure social housing services are fit for purpose and tailored to the needs of residents. Through the new Resident Panel, we will be able to join forces and tackle this one common goal together.

You can read the full comment piece on Housing Quality Network.