Opinion: Challenging the status quo to drive change | News

The Residents' Network Strip

The Residents' Network

Opinion: Challenging the status quo to drive change

By Joan Swift, newly appointed member of the Housing Ombudsman’s Resident Panel and chair of PA Housing’s Resident Council.

I’ve been living at an independent living scheme in Surrey since 2010 and have been engaged in resident involvement work for the past ten years.

I’m chair of PA Housing’s Resident Council and I’ve recently heard that I’ve been appointed to the new Housing Ombudsman’s Resident Panel. It’s going to be a big body of people from all over the country, so I’m excited to be a part of it.

It’s an amazing opportunity for residents to be heard at a national level – it’s all about challenge, change, and influencing. I think it’s so important that residents have an input in this way. We can have our say and really be listened to about issues and decisions that directly affect us.

As well as a chance for us to listen to discussions about important decisions, it’s also an opportunity for us to be listened to and be part of coming up with solutions when things go wrong. As service users, we’ll have the chance to share our insight.

It’ll be interesting because it’ll give us a good balance of views and opinions from people across the country. As well as allowing us to see different perspectives, it’ll enable us to understand how other housing associations and councils operate, too.

This isn’t the only new responsibility I’ve taken on recently – along with my fellow PA Housing resident Val Knight, I’ve been appointed to TAROE Trust’s board. This is yet another opportunity to ensure a national body remains connected to the grassroots issues that most affect residents.

For me, my work for both the Housing Ombudsman and TAROE Trust is also about what I can take back to PA Housing. Being part of these organisations means we’ll hear about different problems faced by residents around the country and the different ways those problems can be solved.

All of us can become a bit bogged down with our own ideas, but they aren’t always the right ones – so this panel will help us see how things can be done in a different way to get the best deal possible for residents.

I’m not frightened of making comments or inputting into big decisions. It’s another way of vocalising and knowing we’re going to be listened to. It’ll allow customers like myself to have more of a say.

Social housing is surrounded by a lot of negative perceptions. There are still elements of stigma around being a social housing tenant and we get unfairly judged, so I hope this panel will be an opportunity to challenge those assumptions and change people’s perceptions of us for the better.  

I think, and hope, it’s just the beginning of change following the Social Housing White Paper. My aspiration is for us to drive change by challenging the way things are done in order to improve services.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s up to us, the Resident Panel members, to make sure that significant change really does happen. We have a long way to go, but this is a positive step in the right direction – and I’m looking forward to playing my part.


The Housing Ombudsman will be speaking at the HQN annual conference on the development of the new Resident Panel. Find out more and how to book on here.