Why you should be talking Value for Money
It seems like you can’t move in the social housing sector in Wales without hearing talk of ‘value for money’…… and so it should be. Having an environment where people are talking VFM is a start to making delivery of VFM a reality.
Focusing on VFM is fundamental to sound business practice, particularly for social landlords whose main income comes from Tenants’ rent and service charges. Making this income go further should be resulting in social landlords achieving and even exceeding their objectives: quality services, providing more and better homes, investing in communities and keeping down costs for tenants.
For all the talk of VFM it’s often surprising that many in the sector struggle to define it! You try to now and complete this sentence: Value for money is……………………………. any luck? We all seem to think we know what it means but VFM is not straightforward in social housing: we might be using the same language, but meaning different things. There is a range of value perspectives held by different stakeholders including tenants.
We often think of VFM in terms of quantifiable, financial values, costs, efficiency savings made etc. and that might be enough to get our heads around right now. But when you are feeling brave should you also be talking about other values? Social value; skills; social networks; education; aspirations, wellbeing.
Whatever your definition of VFM have your tenants helped shape it? Have you given time for landlord staff, tenants and other stakeholders to define what value and VFM means locally?.
Tenants themselves have a role in helping social landlords to define, deliver and demonstrate value for money. Scrutiny Panels, Tenant Inspectors, service review groups and other engagement models can all play their part. There should also be role to play for tenants to be demanding and determined in securing transparency on VFM and to keep pressure on landlords to deliver better value for money.
Many landlords are looking at how tenants can be involved in VFM which is really positive. They are not just talking VFM but actually making it a reality and most importantly they are beginning to involve their tenants in it. I’ve heard some fantastic discussions when I have been out and about delivering our ‘Introduction to VFM’ training module. It was clear that tenants ‘get the VFM message’ and are keen to play their part. If you missed the training click here: http://bit.ly/2fLwpZT
Other landlords are yet to take the step to involving tenants in VFM so to help get you on that journey I’ve detailed below ‘5 things to think about’ when preparing to involve tenant in VFM……. hope it helps!.
1. VFM Strategy or Statement – tenants and staff need to have a clear understanding of what the organisation means by VFM, how it will be delivered and how it will demonstrate VFM has been achieved. The strategy should also explain the role of tenants and their remit in working with the landlord to deliver and evidence VFM.
2. Culture of openness and transparency – a strategy isn’t enough to make it work. Involving tenants in VFM work will require commitment at senior level and involves sharing information on costs, performance and comparison analysis with other landlords in the sector. Staff need to be empowered to share VFM data and arrangements need to be in place to respond to tenants’ work on VFM.
3. Communication – so now you’ve got your strategy and culture in place it’s time to think about transparency and how you will communicate what you are trying to achieve in terms of VFM and the role tenants will play. Also plan ongoing communication on VFM, this will instil confidence that VFM is being delivered and tenants have inputted into this.
4. Make a Plan – as part of your organisation’s VFM strategy include a more detailed plan outlining how tenants will be involved in VFM. Think about how tenants can: shape services to deliver better VFM; monitor VFM; scrutinise VFM; evidence and hold landlord to account on delivering VFM business objectives.
5. Support for tenants – working towards VFM may be new to tenants and the staff who will be supporting them. Identify what skills and training this involvement will need. Consider having an independent mentor in place to advise tenants and to support them in having a strong voice on VFM matters.