Scrutiny Coordination Group

Scrutiny Coordination Group (SCG)

The main role for this group is to embed and make scrutiny a valued tool for monitoring, managing and developing our services.

The resident volunteers meet around six times a year to plan a rolling programme to scrutinise our services, then look at what the results show.

Scrutinising our services: residents’ voices at the heart of our lettings service

Our resident-led Scrutiny Coordination Group (SCG), along with resident scrutineers, spent months scrutinising our lettings service in the south, to find out why we weren’t achieving our targets.

The insight they gained meant they could pass on recommendations about what changes we could make to reshape the service.

SCG members Geoff and Sheila led the scrutiny – here, they tell us what happened, what they learned and why it’s important we put residents’ voices at the heart of what we do...

Geoff’s tired - his baby’s just a few months old and waking in the night. Sheila’s busy with her work in local government.

But as Sovereign residents who feel real pride in their homes, they both want to give something back and have found time in their lives to join Sovereign’s resident-led Scrutiny Coordination Group (SCG).

Why they’re involved

Sheila explains: ““The recent Social Housing Green Paper recommended that housing associations bring their residents to the heart of decision-making, making sure that we understand the way that housing associations are run and shine a spotlight to reveal the way things work, warts and all.

“I firmly believe that this is a good thing and Sovereign has already been working hard to achieve this with the SCG, which plans scrutinies to help develop and reshape its services.

Scrutinising Sovereign’s services from a resident perspective

“Our first scrutiny project was examining Sovereign’s lettings service in the South division. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) showed that things weren’t going well, with an average 26 day waiting time for re-lets, compared to an average of just 13 days in the East and West divisions.

“The SCG recruited residents as volunteer ‘scrutineers’, and they, on behalf of the other 130,000 people who live in Sovereign homes, carried out interviews, analysed statistics and researched its current practices and policies to help understand why let times were so long.

“It was an interesting learning experience for all of us and helped us appreciate the level of detail and care that goes into managing over 56,000 homes.

Geoff continues: “For me, the scrutiny was about understanding the broader societal picture, and how Sovereign’s influence can be so important.

What the scrutiny told them

“Scrutineers found that homes weren’t being relet fast enough in the South for a number of reasons – some things Sovereign could change quickly but others required more time because they were affected by outside influences:

  • Housing officers let homes alongside their other work - this isn’t the case in the East and West divisions - which meant lettings wasn’t always their top priority.
  • Applicants weren’t meeting the minimum criteria for affording even social rent prices. This might have been because of problems with their Universal Credit – the lag between applying for it and receiving it.
  • Many people didn’t fit other complicated requirements to do with the property itself and connections to the local area.

Their recommendations

“This led to a number of recommendations from the SCG:

  • The South should have dedicated lettings officers – this was actually done as we were scoping the scrutiny and has had a big impact on shortening relet times.
  • The SCG should revisit lettings at the end of the year, to see if the new lettings team is still working well.
  • Sovereign should continue to work hard to build relationships with local councils, increasing its influence around the nominations process to create shorter routes to lettings wherever possible.
  • It should also put together a plan of ways it can find residents when a property is taking longer to let and continue supporting residents with arrears or other financial issues.

What it means for future scrutinies

Sheila concludes: “It’s been a really useful experience and we learned a lot of lessons about how to prepare our scrutineers for future scrutinies. We’re now moving on to something more intense and in-depth: repeat repairs calls – why do they happen? This is an issue that’s certainly affected me in the past.”

Geoff is also keen to see this addressed, saying: “I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into this one, and really hoping that our outcomes can push through meaningful changes for all Sovereign residents.”  

Keep up to date

To find out more about the Scrutiny Coordination Group and Sovereign’s other involved residents, please visit www.sovereign.org.uk/involved

Repairs call scrutiny

The group, with help from resident Scrutineers, is currently reviewing why we have lots of repeat calls about repairs.

So far….

Resident Scrutineers have attended two welcome sessions - one in Woodlands, Newbury and one in Spectrum House, Christchurch.

The review is split into two parts because we have two repairs services. Scrutineers went through the project scope in detail and decided which employees and departments could answer all the questions they had.

They also received a presentation from the Customer Contact managers about how it works and its plans for the future, as well as a tour of both centres.

The SCG and Scrutineers have also held a number of scrutiny sessions:

  • Customer experience presentations: analysis of reasons for complaints and the geographic areas they come from.
  • Social media repairs contacts: investigating the numbers, patterns and themes/tone of contacts made through Twitter and Facebook.
  • Voice of the Customer Contact Advisor: focus group with employees who answer the phones, to get their take on the issue.
  • Voice of the Resolution team: focus group with employees who handle complaints, to find out what might trigger a complaint about multiple repairs contact.

Keep up to date with the scrutiny and its results by following our Facebook page.

The main objectives of the group are to:

  • Develop and establish a framework for our resident scrutiny.
  • Develop the role of scrutineers, including recruitment, training/personal development, support packages and succession.
  • Agree an 18-month scheduled rolling scrutiny programme that makes linkages across services.
  • Manage the scrutiny budget agreed with the Board and agree the budget/resource for each agreed scrutiny.
  • Agree the criteria and scope of each scrutiny, including who’s involved, making sure there’s consistency and appreciating that differing approaches may be necessary to meet local circumstances.
  • Analyse findings and recommendations from each scrutiny.
  • Ensure follow-through of recommendations from all scrutinies and follow up if recommendations aren't being delivered or fully implemented.
  • Regularly report progress and outcomes from the scrutiny programme to the Board and the Partnership.
  • Look at other businesses to identify good practice in scrutiny reviews.
  • Regularly communicate the outcomes and impact of scrutiny to other residents, through various communication channels.


Our Scrutiny Coordination Group members

  • Danny Lynch
  • Denise Cox
  • Don Byrom
  • Geoff Watkins (Vice Chair)
  • Patricia Colmer
  • Paula Grebot (Chair)
  • Sheila Hayward
  • Attendee - Jennifer Dykes (Resident Board member)

Read more about the key learning from the SCG's pilot scrutiny.