Compliance as we know it is under threat, writes Ryan Dempsey. If it is to survive, says The Compliance Workbook CEO, it must adapt…
Let us take a brief journey of discovery to try and understand why the word Compliance no longer holds any statue in UK Housing and why we need to start changing the term to ensure the output of our teams, our contractors, and service providers mirrors that of the service we want and feel we should provide to residents across the UK.
We have several ‘things’ happening in the industry now that are proving difficult to understand and manage.
The main thing to discuss is the Setting the Bar report, published following the Grenfell Tower disaster. This report has been compiled by a number of working groups who’ve produced the final version with 59 recommendations.
Now, naturally we have to review these and understand the impact each one has on our delivery process and quality assurance obligations. However, the fundamental and blatant faux pas in the previous sentence is the term quality assurance.
That’s different to what Setting the Bar is asking but – and it’s a big but – in housing we care, and the things we do we do to help our residents to ensure they live in their castles worry-free.
The Setting the Bar report has been developed by professionally registered people who operate in the same way those who live and work in London operate. Having letters after your name means something in the South more than it does in the North. That’s a fact.
Yet, we are collectively being told that a building safety manager needs to be appointed and assigned to a national register. We also have to have a lead engineer who is professionally registered because apparently this assures relevant competence. I assure you it doesn’t in all cases.
One of the things I’ve found in housing is that people who work across the board from Tenant Services to Construction, and who’ve been employed by the Housing Association or Authority for some time, understand the geographical issues within the organisation.
“Having letters after your name means something in the South more than it does in the North – that’s a fact”
Not only that, in some cases from a construction perspective, some members of staff understand the fabric, installation, and issues within a particular system better than any professionally registered person ever could.
So, how do we bridge that gap from knowing our assets to being pushed to employ people who do not?
The next challenge is the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH). At the moment, only obvious compliance issues are taken into account when the RSH pops its head through the door.
However, with industry screaming in the wrong direction, we have to accept that we will be judged on compliance to industry guidance with zero consideration taken for the decisions organisations make based on their own experience, knowledge, and skill.
Last, for this article, we have what I would consider the best guidance on safety with regards to assurance. The Housing Act and Fitness for Human Habitation Act give clear guidance on the things we should micromanage. I mean, with undeniable accountability from identification, raising repairs, and orders to carrying out the work and assessing it.
What’s important, and something that’s missed, is the ability to understand why at the begining; how and when in the middle; and, right at the end, the measurable result.
Let me explain…
Why are we doing it?
Compliance = Because we have identified something non-compliant. Needs fixing.
Assurance = Our duty to those impacted by this non-compliance means we want to help.
How and When?
Compliance = Raise an order with regards the work and assign to a competent person.
Assurance = Follow the company process but call the resident and explain fully what’s happening.
Compliance = Was it done within the Key Performance Indicator and was the contractor paid.
Assurance = Work is complete in someone’s home. Are they happy and do they feel safe?
Unfortunately, we measure ourselves on the compliance parts of the above. What about assurance; does no one care?
I’ve been in housing for many years, and I’ve been part of all aspects from consultant, contractor, client, and board. I’ve experienced the issues around just getting the job done and how that impacts people’s lives.
When I originally came up with the name of my company, I was convinced compliance was the right answer. Now I’m not so sure, which is why we’ve dropped the word from our logo.
It is obvious the world is changing, and we need to react.
Image: Ryan Dempsey, CEO, The Compliance Workbook
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