Response to the Government's Social Housing White Paper

In response to the Government’s Social Housing White Paper, Sue Shirt Executive Director of Customer Experience at Stonewater, said:

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“When you read the words from the Prime Minster that: “We’re levelling up this country, making it fairer for everyone – and that includes making sure social housing tenants are treated with the respect they deserve,” I would challenge anyone in the sector not to say – “yes, absolutely”. For too long our customers have been widely judged by their tenure, as less able, less willing, less hard working and therefore having a voice that is somehow less relevant.

“The white paper has been a long time coming, but we’ve used that time to invest in ensuring that customers are at our heart. Our job is to do more, deliver better services directly and through our partners, provide greater accessibility and support through the use of technology, build more new homes. We recognise that knowing your customer and listening in the widest sense is essential to delivering this modern successful business; making a difference to the lives of communities is why many of us chose to work in the housing sector.

“Stonewater believes that strengthening regulation should demonstrate an expectation that landlords provide effective services, which customers are able to shape and influence, and that there is sufficient intervention where landlords fall short, which is why we welcome many of the reforms outlined in the Social Housing White Paper.”

Customer voice

“If the spirit in which the white paper is written is a catalyst for change it is to be welcomed.

“Stonewater recognises that ‘customer voice’ can always be strengthened within the sector, but the sector and those it serves are very diverse. We believe it’s important that housing providers therefore shape their involvement framework in a way that best suits their customers.

“Whilst Stonewater is not a community-based organisation, being geographically spread throughout the country, we have well established engagement channels with customers through our digital HUBB (Help Us Be Better) and national scrutiny panel which has existed as long as Stonewater have. Our scrutiny panel made up of customers independently review a range of information from performance to complaints, which feed into scrutiny reviews, they engage independently with customers and provide example of good practice straight into Board. It is a true partnership to help us improve – constantly.

“A customer voice is much more than forums or panels, it is about using a whole host of information that customers share with us about how they use services, it is about when we get it right and when we get it wrong – so we can better shape services.”

Having a good quality home

“A good quality home is about our partnerships with contractors, how we forward think our approach to the environmental agenda and fuel poverty and how we build homes fit for the emerging and future expecations of customers. In development for example, this is particularly important as we continue to build much-needed homes in high demand areas, whilst still maintaining green space, play areas and public art as well as providing space for families to work or study at home – all features that have become increasingly important since the coronavirus outbreak.”

Home ownership

“Stonewater is supportive of finding solutions for both new and existing customers to find a route into homeownership, and we are determined to remove the barriers that many shared owners face. So, we welcome the government’s inclusion in the white paper providing social housing residents with more opportunities to own their home through Right to Buy, a scheme many of our customers who lived in the Midlands pilot area took advantage of, and the new Right to Shared Ownership scheme for housing association tenants in new build grant funded homes.”

You can read the Social Housing White Paper here.