Risky business on the frontline01/02/17
We operate in an environment which is full of risk, with a housing sector that’s focussing on building more homes, and considering merging with other housing providers it’s easy to see why risk management will play a vital role in such big decisions. But perhaps one of the biggest risks of all would be to forget about the daily challenges and risks involved in managing homes and communities. This bulletin provides a snapshot of the risky business in managing Anti-Social Behaviour, Tenancy Fraud and Safeguarding.
It would be foolish to think that ASB can sort itself out. There are obligations on housing providers to tackle ASB effectively and in partnership with other agencies.
Why do landlords tackle ASB?
- It’s a legal requirement
- It’s a regulatory requirement – Consumer Standards
- Tenancy agreement and conditions of tenancy
- To keep a peaceful enjoyment of the home
- To create places where people want to live
What are the risks involved ?
Reputational risks: Poor tenant satisfaction, official complaints, ‘no-go’ areas, poor reputation from the partner agencies, bad press, poor court outcomes, not enforcing tenancy agreements, not following policy and procedure.
Financial Risks: Legal bills get higher, serious detriment/downgrade, legal challenges, loss in rent due to hard to let properties.
Regulatory Risks: HCA intervention due to a serious detriment, governance review, tenant scrutiny due to poor performance.
Physical Risks: Duty to protect and safeguard staff from abuse, time/resource intensive, staff sickness due to lack of training/resources/skills etc., residents at further risk of harm, things fester and escalate quickly into physical harm
With the introduction of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, landlords are compelled to tackle tenancy fraud.
Why do landlords tackle tenancy fraud?
- Misuse of stock
- Morally it’s the right thing to do
- We have a housing crisis
- It’s illegal!
- Big cost to the tax payer
- HCA regulatory requirement
- Value for money statement to regulator
- Protecting their assets
- Preparing for new types – pay to stay/RTB
What are the risks involved?
With the introduction of the voluntary Right to Buy, there will be many risks of tenancy fraud that need to be prevented. Misrepresenting circumstances to obtain greater discounts, exercising RTB when not entitled to, pressures on individuals to apply when they don’t wish to (loan sharks, safeguarding etc).
Other risks such as sub-letting, forged documents to obtain housing and key selling are all risks to the landlord. It’s estimated that 98,000 properties a year are unlawfully occupied, at a cost to Local Authorities and Housing Providers of circa £1.8 Billion per year. With these figures, it makes sense to focus on prevention, detection and enforcement.
The Care Act 2014 places obligations on landlords to manage safeguarding concerns within their homes and communities. Although it’s not just about compliance with legislation – it’s about preventing serious incidents and even tragedy – safeguarding is everyone’s business!
Why do housing providers manage safeguarding concerns?
- Care Act 2014 responsibilities
- Policy and Procedures
- Regulatory requirements – ‘serious detriment’
- Reputational risks
- Protecting the most vulnerable residents from harm and abuse
- Everyone’s responsibility
What are the risks involved?
Safeguarding is all about risk management. Vulnerable adults with care and support needs as well as children are more at risk of harmful behaviour and abuse. Therefore, professionals that work with residents must ensure that they are aware of the triggers and risks involved. Serious tragedies have been reported in the media, with high profile cases such as ‘Fiona Pilkington’ and ‘Steven Hoskin’ within the last decade. Lessons can and must be learned from previous failings, but prevention and effective partnership working must take place to reduce the risks of tragedy and serious harmful behaviour. Landlords must be mindful of the risks such as poor reputation in the media, review of governance, lack of training, regulatory, criminal and/or civil investigations, low morale, safe recruitment practices and harm being caused to residents and/or staff.
What can landlords do to minimise these frontline housing management risks?
Dealing with these issues can be very complicated, however if you have the right people managing these complex situations then the risks can be managed more effectively. There is no magic wand to make these risks disappear, but there are some key components that are a must have if you want to reduce these risks:
Leadership and accountability: Strong leadership and accountability which clearly set’s out the approaches in taking these issues seriously. Investing in staff training, and listening to staff about their concerns, challenges and ideas to improve services will empower staff to feel confident that their leaders understand the difficulties and will support them in their work.
Problem Solving: Effective policies and procedures need to allow for effective problem solving skills that staff members possess. Consistency is key, but not restrictive so that staff stop thinking and become too ‘robotic’.
Effective Communication: Communicating with partner agencies, residents and other staff members is a key component to reducing risk. Many stakeholders will have pieces of information, and it’s those pieces of information which build a full picture. Being able to communicate effectively will resolve many of these issues more swiftly and therefore reducing further risks.
Prevention:As the old saying goes – prevention is better than cure. Pre tenancy sign up meetings, information sharing protocols, effective questioning skills, and smart use of technology are all ways to prevent many of the risks highlighted above.
IT: One of the most common failings that we see is the poor use of IT systems in logging information. IT should be used to assist staff in handling such complex cases, and shouldn’t be a seen as a burden. However, far too often IT systems are either not up to the task, or used incorrectly.
Training: One of the most valuable assets in the business is the staff members who manage it. Making sure that staff are equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to deal with the problems that occur is a must. Staff need to be inspired by new ways of working, learning from good practice and avoiding the failings of the past.
How can Capsticks help?
Managing ASB, Tenancy Fraud and Safeguarding is what we do. We have trained thousands of housing professionals nationally, and provide specialist advice to assist landlords in improving their approaches. We receive excellent feedback, and get results for our clients. Please contact Chris Grose, Head of Housing Advisory Services to find out more about what we do, and how we could assist your organisation.