Scottish Housing Day 2021

By Michael McLaughliln, Digital Lead - on 15/09/2021

As HACT continues to support Scottish social housing organisations through our Social Insight Partnership with SFHA, the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow is a reminder that net zero goals are of increasing significance to Scotland, and our sector.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are said to be the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future. The Scottish Government’s wellbeing approach that has been developed from these in the National Performance Framework has been evidenced in our paper on the Impact of Social Housing, to be interoperable with the HACT Social Value methodology.  

Much of what social housing organisations do is based on their overarching social purpose. Increasingly, more and more of this is beyond their role in providing purely bricks and mortar for tenants.  We need to do more to support tenants and communities to create a more sustainable and successful Scotland.

From the UK Housing Data Standards initiative HACT have developed with the sector, including our recent work on Complaints and Resident feedback, with which we were delighted to welcome Kingdom HA as our first Scottish investor in the project group, we know that collecting information on properties and tenants is of increasing importance.  We collect more and more data, and the regulatory context in which we work particularly around building safety, environmental requirements, and tenant voice places a real emphasis on building more data led organisations.

Using new innovative technologies to collect environmental data will play a huge part in driving our sector's journey to net zero carbon, as well as increasing reliance on technology to create operational efficiencies; as we have seen through remote, mobile working, digital inclusion programmes are better enabling tenants to report repairs, make complaints, and pay rents online.

HACT will be co-hosting SFHA’s IT and Digital Forum beginning at the end of this month and will be viewing this through the prism of providing a better understanding of the need and outcomes organisations and the wider sector wish to improve.  We will look at ways in which improving data and digital maturity allows more effective ways of working that can genuinely benefit the future of social housing organisation and tenants across Scotland.

As we have done in our Learning Labs data governance programme where we have already has delegates from Eildon, Hillcrest, West of Scotland HA, and SFHA staff members complete, we aim to build internal capacity across the Scottish housing sector. This will improve the sector's ability to better use technology to collect and analyse data, but also ensure that robust data governance, digital transformation and tenant focused processes are prioritised.

In our recent whitepaper on Connected Technologies, we have been looking at how using tech directly improves outcomes for tenants such as increased independence, wellbeing and safety and security of their properties.   We showcased further evidence showing that technology also better equips housing organisations to deliver better safer more sustainable homes through improved management and use of that data.

We looked at real examples that showed the importance that data had in this decision-making process, one of which was framed around a solution that helped them measure and improve EPC ratings for an organisation, improving outcomes such as reduced emissions and fuel bills in the process.  Improving the use of environmental data is a key part of our forthcoming Data Standards initiative, and this will support social housing organisations to improve the process of upgrading homes, showing which ones are poor performers and need addressing first, evidencing improvements in carbon footprint, whilst also helping to advise customers on the average cost to heat their home and suggest lifestyle changes to help them save money and reduce their impact on the environment.

We know that fuel poverty continues to disproportionately affect social housing tenants in Scotland, and it is exactly this type of outcome that should drive change into our focus and service delivery, and only through better understanding the social value and impact this has on tenants – can we best align internal capability and efficiencies with increased tenant focused results.

Having worked directly with over 50 social housing organisations in Scotland over the past year, through our projects for both the Energy Redress Scheme and Scottish Government’s Fuel Support Fund, HACT managed c. £500k support for Fuel poverty that assisted more than 2,500 households across the country.  As massively significant as the net zero requirements, our move towards this must have improved wellbeing and outcomes for tenants as a key focus in this journey.  We have recently added more datasets to our Community Insight platform to ensure that we include an understanding of the external indicators and outcomes that link energy efficient homes and fuel poverty statistics.  We must appreciate the local context in which we exist as landlords and allow this to inform our engagement and focus on our tenants.

At the CIH Conference last week, I saw Housemark present findings that showed those in the sector who increased investment in enabling digital transformation in their organisation during the past year have then evidenced far more significant improvements in both organisational efficiencies and wellbeing of those involved.

For HACT, as we celebrate Scottish Housing Day, we pledge to continue to work closely with the social housing sector and key suppliers in Scotland.  We will do this by ensuring we support solutions around societal issues such as environmental outcomes to help the sector meet net zero targets whilst centring resident outcomes and keep Sustainable Development Goals and a social value approach at the forefront of all strategic thinking.

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