Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been out and about across Wales facilitating our regional Housing Association Regulation Seminars.
The events were really well attended and there was good mix of tenants, staff and board members all keen to hear an update on the Regulatory Framework for Housing Associations in Wales. OK, so Regulation doesn’t sound like the sexiest of topics but it was delivered in a punchy and informative style, and from the evaluation feedback the sessions certainly got delegates thinking about their Association and their own role. As someone said on Twitter – “you helped make a very dry topic interesting and really informative”. Having the Regulation Managers from Welsh Government speaking at each event enabled delegates to get a real insight to how regulation works in practice and hear about the general findings from regulation activity across Wales.
In a session about Regulation we couldn’t not talk about the risks facing Housing Associations in Wales. The economic downturn, cuts to government funding, welfare reform and now Brexit – the operating environment has never been so turbulent and will continue to be so for some time…..it’s enough to make you not want to get out of bed in the morning! However, risk management should not only be considered purely as all doom and gloom and discourage HA’s from undertaking certain actions. In the course of identifying risks, new opportunities can arise for HA’s to consider, with innovative solutions often emerging from a thorough understanding of risks facing the business and the communities it serves. HA’s will find new ways to support themselves and evolve to overcome risks, but they should always remain loyal to their core social mission: providing homes for people in need.
The function of risk management most often falls upon board members and the executive committee, but generally without the input of tenants, service users and residents. However, no one is better placed than those living in communities and HA homes to help identify community and service risks, which boards may well not pick up on. During our seminars delegates had an opportunity to identify local and sector wide risks. Yes the headline ones came out: welfare reform, the economy, but tenants identified other risks, many pertinent to their communities: break up in community cohesion, poor rural infrastructures, cuts to essential local support services, over reliance on digital services and general community decline.
When identifying and managing risks HA’s should explore ways to involve tenants, service users and residents. Of all stakeholders they have the greatest interest. Their homes, their services and the identity of their landlord may be at stake. By the time things go wrong, there is often very little opportunity for their voices to be heard.