By Simon Phillips, Community Engagement Officer

I’m going to start with three honest confessions.

Number one: I don’t like statistics at all! I much prefer to read or listen to the lived experiences of people, rather than analyse statistics. Okay, I’m an historical researcher by background who was never good at maths, but the point is that, in my view, qualitative research tells us much more about how satisfied or not social housing residents are.

Number two: I don’t like the words ‘satisfaction’ or ‘satisfied’. These two words conjure up the state of being okay, content, just fine, but nothing groundbreaking or warranting fireworks (which I also confess I’m not a big fan of!).

Number three: I prefer the term ‘resident’ to ‘tenant’ (and definitely to ‘customer’) as it evokes more of the “relationship of equals” referenced in the Housing Ombudsman’s recent Spotlight report.

Having said that, in this blog I’d like to take you on a journey of how LJHA has embedded resident engagement into our planning, implementation and analysis of tenant satisfaction measures over the last four years.

A bit about LJHA by way of background. We’re a small landlord, focusing predominantly on the needs of the local Jewish community. We own almost 550 properties in the LS17 postcode of Leeds. For me, this is relevant to tenant satisfaction because our small size enables us to cultivate a more personal relationship with residents.

However, in addition to this, our historical raison d’etre of providing affordable housing in the heart of the Jewish community means that issues of culture, belonging and convenience may compensate for any dissatisfaction around repairs, rent and service charges, or communication preferences.

Resident engagement at LJHA is broadly structured into three tiers:

  • The Resident Consultative Group (RCG) – our highest level of resident engagement, feeding into the LJHA board, operations sub-board, and finance, risk and audit sub-board
  • Hot topic groups – these allow residents to give their opinions to LJHA on services they’re receiving or where services have dropped
  • Resident ambassadors – representatives of different blocks or streets, providing a very much grassroots account of life.

However, we recognise that people like to get involved in different ways and at different times. Completing an ad hoc survey can, in many ways, be as valuable in improving things as regular and committed participation in one of the above structures.

The journey started in June 2020 when we formed our Satisfaction Survey Hot Topic Group ahead of the Autumn Tenant Satisfaction Survey. The group comprised a mixture of sheltered and general needs residents, advised on the question structure and promotion of the survey, had first sight of the summary report findings, and identified themes for the post-survey focus groups. Such was the success of the hot topic group in providing resident input that we continued to run the group into further tenant satisfaction surveys in 2021 and 2022.

In the last few years resident engagement with the Tenant Satisfaction Survey has become the remit of our RCG, partly because residents previously involved in the Hot Topic Group left but also because there was an overlap between members of the group and members of our RCG. As with the previous Hot Topic Group, our RCG has worked closely with us on all aspects of the survey. However, in the wake of our 2023 Satisfaction Survey, each of our follow-up focus groups included at least one RCG member to provide observations and report back to the rest of the RCG. The group also worked with LJHA on a collaborative ‘Listening to Residents’ Views’ Action Plan, something which we intend to reprise, as we currently analyse the results of our 2024 Tenant Satisfaction Measures Survey.

The importance of being accessible

Even before the publication of the draft, and now implemented, Transparency, Influence and Accountability Consumer Standard, and the Housing Ombudsman’s Spotlight Report on Attitudes, Respects and Rights, we were acutely aware of the importance of being accessible and respecting diverse needs, communication requirements and vulnerabilities. Our Communications Charter sets out our commitment to providing information in a range of formats, as well as allowing residents to contact us, and be contacted, in a variety of ways.

As in previous surveys, when we distributed our Tenant Satisfaction Measures Survey in January of this year, residents had a choice of completing it digitally (email and SMS), via post, or (in small numbers) via telephone.

To encourage completion of the survey, we used various means to proactively remind residents why they should complete it. This included our Resident WhatsApp Broadcast list, a YouTube video, a frequently asked questions booklet, and a ‘Did You Know?’ infographic on how the results of the previous survey led to real changes for residents at LJHA.

Hot off the press! TSM results

So, bringing us up to today, at the time of writing we’re analysing the results of our survey, but I’m pleased to say our response rate was better than required, and that one of the highest-scoring measures was TP08, with 74.7% agreeing that we treat tenants fairly and with respect, something which I feel is integral to the success of collaborative resident engagement.