For anyone who has never worked in a regulated sector, the world of housing association governance and management must seem like an alien and maybe even scary place. While we have all the usual structures and safeguards of any well-run organisation, we are also subject to a whole sphere of regulation, legislation, inspection and scoring that other sectors might, on the surface, consider themselves grateful to be exempt from.
But I take a different view. While our day-to-day work as individuals may focus on balance sheets, rent collection, unblocking drains and construction plans, fundamentally everything we do is for the benefit of our customers. If we take away all the added extras such as training and support programmes, community events and tackling social issues, fundamentally our job is to provide safe, comfortable and affordable homes for thousands of people.
Someone’s home is precious to them, as is the security it should give them to function and build a happy and productive life. So what we do is a serious business with serious implications for our customers if we get it wrong. Looking at it through that lens it’s right and proper that what we do is subject to scrutiny and controls.
This year Futures has undergone its In-Depth Assessment by the Government’s Regulator of Social Housing. That’s a process that takes place for every larger housing association every three to four years. I won’t lie – there is a lot of work involved for many of us. It’s a probing process (as it should be) and having evidence that we are doing what we say we are doing is absolutely crucial.
People from across the organisation were involved – this time for example our Assets team as disrepair and quality are big issues for our sector at the moment. Next year the scope of these inspections is set to increase further with a third tranche of scrutiny – alongside the existing ones for governance and financial viability – to include checks against a new suite of customer-related measures.
We were delighted to achieve the top gradings of G1/V1 and we acknowledge that we’re in an increasingly small group of peers in this category - these are tough times for our sector. We’ve already started the process of preparing for the new consumer standards we will be judged against and also aiming for top scores when our turn comes around again.
We’ve just gone through our latest credit rating as well and again come out with a positive result. More hard work but the result is an essential tool for helping us secure good rates on our financing which ultimately helps us do more for less.
Striving for ‘good grades’ isn’t just about job satisfaction or organisational pride though. These rigorous and independent tests give our senior team, our Board, our customers, and our stakeholders such as investors a vital insight into our performance. Good scores create confidence. They help our customers to feel more secure knowing that the home they live in is in good hands. They help our investors know that we can be trusted. The process gives our senior teams valuable feedback that they are on the right track – or not. And knowing that we will be taken to task helps drive us to do more, and better for our customers – which is surely why we’re in this business in the first place.