How to Involve Underrepresented Groups (Agenda Edition 11)
Subjects for Tenant Groups to discuss with their landlord
Some tenant groups have asked us for topical agenda items/subject briefings for their tenant group to discuss with their landlord. TPAS Cymru have created a briefing series that we call ‘The Agenda’ which provides tenant groups with an overview of a subject and suggestions of questions you might want to ask in your engagement with your landlord. This briefing will focus on how you can involve underrepresented groups.
We know that it’s important for landlords and community groups to hear views from as wide or diverse range of their tenants as possible. Contacting tenants who are underrepresented or seldom heard is everyone’s responsibility! There’s no ‘magic wand’ to get everyone involved but there are some things that may help to hear from underrepresented groups.
To start, you need to be sure about who you’re not hearing from: don’t assume that you know who’s not getting involved! Is it young people, families with children, working people, people from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background? Once you know your tenant/resident profile, you’ll be able to establish who you’re not engaging with and start considering why: this in turn will help you think about how you can start to engage with them.
We then need to understand what issues are important to these tenants/underrepresented groups? Tenants may not respond to your events/questions if they don’t have any interest in or see any ‘point’ to the issues you’re focusing on. Asking underrepresented tenants about their priorities in relation to services and the management of their homes/communities can help the landlord plan activities, consultation, scrutiny around these themes.
All tenants, including those who are seldom heard, may be encouraged to ‘get involved’ if they can see the difference that involvement has made in the past. For example, if previous tenant involvement has resulted in all communication now being in plain language or an improvement in the standard of service given by contractors, it may convince tenants that participation can make a difference. You owe it to yourselves to ‘fly the flag’ for your community group / organisation and ‘shout’ about the difference tenant involvement activities have made!
Finally, if tenants don’t feel listened to, they will lose faith in the organisation. If ‘listening’ has been a problem in the past tenants need to be reassured that it will be different in the future! You need to emphasise that you won’t close your ears to things you don’t want to hear! The golden rule is…landlords/tenant’s groups must keep tenants informed of how they’ve listened to them, (and heard what they’ve said!) and, keep them updated on what they’ve done with that information!
Questions for tenants to ask:
Is your landlord’s tenant profiling information current and as accurate as possible? Ask your front-line staff, who work in the communities, to share their knowledge about who lives there and ask them for suggestions about how you could involve tenants who currently aren’t heard.
Is Tenant involvement at the heart and soul of your organisation? If you want to build trust and a relationship with ALL your tenants and encourage underrepresented groups to get more involved you need to make it clear that Tenant Involvement is embedded within your organisation and that tenants and their views are respected and valued by all staff.
What practical support does your landlord offer to underrepresented tenants? e.g. help with access to the internet, providing tablets/laptops, training, staff support
Does your landlord give enough background information to tenants about why they need their views and input and what they will/won’t do as a result? Landlords need to reassure tenants who they don’t regularly engage with why their input is valued and explain what will/won’t happen to any information they share with them. Reassuring tenants/residents about confidentiality and how any answers/suggestions may be used is essential as is managing expectations! Landlords need to be realistic and honest about the scope/potential of any consultation/group work.
5. How good is your feedback??
All tenants need to be given prompt and detailed feedback on what the landlord has done with the suggestions, opinions and input they’ve received from tenants. Be honest if this has been a weakness in the past and explain how you’re going to improve feedback in the future. Consider a regular feedback mechanism in …… newsletters, on-line, via video etc. so that tenants know where and when to look for your organisation’s feedback. Plan feedback into your consultation/event timetable so that it’s clear at the outset that feedback will be provided by a certain date! (If there’s going to be a delay you need to keep your tenants updated on that too!) Also don’t assume that e.g. everyone in your community knows that it’s your community group that is responsible for organising the repairs and maintenance surgery! You need to let them know.
We hope you have enjoyed reading this edition of the Agenda. We would love to hear about any conversations you’ve had with your landlord regarding this topic, so please email [email protected] with any feedback or further questions.