Consumer regulation pilot organisations

CT Directors, Catherine Little, Ceri Victory-Rowe, and Jon Slade, share insight from a recent roundtable with senior leaders and councils who took part in the consumer inspection pilots being run by the Regulator for Social Housing. During the session, colleagues discussed their experiences of the pilots and lessons learnt. 

In June 2023, Campbell Tickell convened a round table of senior leaders from housing associations and councils that had taken part in the consumer inspection pilots being run by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH).

The RSH currently takes an active approach to regulating compliance with the ‘economic’ regulatory standards (which cover governance, financial viability and value for money) but is constrained in the approach it is able to take to compliance with the ‘consumer’ standards (which cover service delivery, safe homes, and tenant involvement). This will change from April 2024 under the forthcoming Social Housing Regulation Bill, and so the RSH is running pilots to develop its approach to assessing the extent of social landlords’ compliance with new consumer standards which will be published later this year. By their nature, pilot methodologies will adapt, develop and change. But we think that, with that caveat, there are a number of interesting lessons for the sector to be drawn from the experiences of those who took part.

Experience of the pilots

Overall, the experience of the pilot organisations has been positive: the shared view is that the pilots are very much being used to develop an approach capable of covering the breadth of the consumer standards to a depth appropriate to the risk profile of each subject.

Pilot organisations had different experiences in terms of the level of detail that was requested. Alll reported the need for some interpretation of the document request, though it was recognised that this may have been in part because the RSH is still feeling its way towards what it will need to see. However the need to interpret the request was felt particularly by local authorities, where terminology and structures are often different from the housing association sector – and across the council housing sector itself.

There were differential experiences in terms of the triangulation that pilot organisations saw play out. The intention, of course, is that the RSH should be able to learn from the pilot inspections and we would expect the methodology to continue to develop before settling into a more uniform approach.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a strong theme throughout the pilots was safety and data integrity: around health and safety compliance, more broadly around stock condition information, damp and mould, and also safeguarding.

The Regulator has been testing different ways of hearing from tenants. Some pilot organisations commented they would like to see much more of this form part of the settled methodology – both with involved tenants, and through hearing from those who are not involved.

Finally, we heard a strong message that there is a focus on the assurance received by Boards and Councillors, rather than on the services and homes themselves. This chimes with the co-regulatory approach taken by the Regulator, which expects organisations to be well run and to understand – and report where necessary – any gaps in assurance.

Lessons for the sector

Although inspection methods will continue to evolve, there are some broad messages for the sector about preparing for proactive consumer regulation, and about taking a good look at homes and services to check they are fit for purpose.

Know your tenants:

  • Customer insight and equality data is important in showing you understand how people experience their homes, neighbourhoods and services;
  • Those organisations with strong engagement in place were clear that tenants are their biggest advocates. Those developing engagement strategies and structures emphasised the importance of having a good plan in place. All agreed that it has got to be about more than having the ideal structure, group or strategy in place – you need to demonstrate a culture of listening to tenants and showing how their voices are heard through the governance of the organisation.
  • The TSMs are here to stay – and it was felt they are at their most useful when used as an opportunity to start a conversation. What insight is there from the people who are least satisfied? Are there patterns around particular neighbourhoods, tenures or demographic groups? Would people who are less satisfied be able to provide any further feedback – one organisation shared that people who have made complaints are the best place to recruit to tenant engagement opportunities.
  • Co-produce your approach to engagement – we heard a strong message that ‘scrutiny’ does not need to look the same in every organisation.
  • Involved tenants provide hugely valuable insight, but they are unlikely to represent the full customer base – Keep a close eye on who you are NOT hearing from and think through how the Board hears about complaints, compliments and other feedback. Think about other stakeholders too – how would local partners and organisations describe you?

Have an honest look in the mirror

  • This was a strongly shared message – organisations need to make robust, evidenced self-assessment against the new consumer standards part of ‘business as usual’. Attendees felt that, “It can’t just be about the senior team and Board / Councillors,” but must involve heads of service in understanding regulatory requirements, assessing against them and providing clarity where there are gaps -and where they are being exceeded.
  • And when the inspectors call – be honest. It is about the journey you are on, so demonstrating you have the understanding and building blocks in place is key. There is not an expectation that everyone will be in the same place, but pilot organisations felt they were expected to have a level of self-knowledge and insight. “You know where your problems are and have plans to address any weaknesses – they took assurance from that”.

Good quality data and robust assurance matter

  • There was a level of surprise at the inspection focus on Board / Council papers and information, rather than testing out services directly. This demonstrates the Regulator’s consistent focus on the responsibility of senior leaders within organisations to obtain assurance that key things are happening as they should be. In particular, the RSH wants to see that the governing body is seeing the same picture as that told through the various sources of tenant insight (e.g. TSMs, complaints data and other feedback).
  • Pilot organisations noted the importance to the Regulator of ‘external assurance’ (i.e. independent checks and advice) in demonstrating openness to challenge and a continually developing understanding of what ‘good’ looks like.
  • Assembling a simple, coherent, comprehensive assurance framework spanning all your activities, and having clear and realistic plans in place to address any gaps in assurance and drive improvements, may provide the shortest route to a good inspection outcome.

And finally – Don’t take the experience of the pilots as a forensic definition of the way inspection will go! The process will continue to evolve as the Regulator learns and develops its approach. However, we feel the lessons described above will remain relevant as the consumer standards and the inspection methodology change and evolve.

To discuss further, feel free to contact: Catherine Little on: or Ceri Victory-Rowe on or Jon Slade on or call us on+44 (0)208 830 6777  

Further reading

Campbell Tickell is an established multi-disciplinary management and recruitment consultancy, operating across the UK and Ireland, focusing on the housing, social care, local government, sport, leisure, charity and voluntary sectors. We are a values-based business and firmly place the positioning of our support and challenge on helping organisations to attain change that is well thought through, planned and sustainable. At CT, we want to help organisations create the landscape within which we ourselves would like to exist: fair, inclusive, diverse, engaged and transparent. We build from our values in how we approach all our work as a practice.

Find out more about CT’s Services


Consumer regulation pilot organisations

CT Directors, Catherine Little, Ceri Victory-Rowe, and Jon Slade, share insight from a recent roundtable with senior leaders and councils who took part in the consumer inspection pilots being run by the Regulator for Social Housing. During the session, colleagues discussed their experiences of the pilots and lessons learnt.

[stm_about_vacancy css=".vc_custom_1453112586637{margin-bottom: 60px !important;}"]