An update on Abri's Resident Scrutiny Group

Find out more about RSG's three latest reviews

Kevin Williamson, Chair of the Scrutiny Group recently published the group’s annual report. Keep reading for a taster of what they’ve been up to.

What does the group do?

RSG is an independent body of residents. It scrutinises the services that Abri provides. Think of what we do as providing constructive criticism. Working together in project teams we review Abri’s services and policies, generate insights and make recommendations for improvement.

RSG carried out three reviews last financial year

Last financial year the RSG produced three scrutiny review reports focused on what residents told us were their priorities:

  1. Repairs - this considered time to carry out a repair; the efficiency of the repairs service; the use of subcontractors; and communications with residents.

  2. Sustainability - this considered fuel poverty; short-term fixes; and longer-term cost implications for residents.

  3. Anti-social behaviour – this looked at Abri’s policy, customers experience in seeking help and information on handling ASB, referral services and follow up activities

Our recommendations were accepted and the lead directors at Abri will be responsible for delivery. RSG’s attention in these areas will now turn to monitoring progress against the agreed timetables for implementing improvements.

Repairs review

The RSG’s project lead reviewed the topics:

  • Allocations of works and wait times

  • How efficient the services are

  • Use of sub-contractors

  • Communicating with customers

The RSG recommends that:

  • The group identified that timescales of works are longer than they should be because of the pandemic. They will continue to monitor the timescales of works to determine if they are reducing as the pandemic eases

  • Action should be taken to reduce the number of jobs being assigned to sub-contractors as this costs Abri a lot

  • There needs to be better data to understand if we’re getting repairs right first time

Abri is working on the recommendations and will share updates with RSG each month. RSG will continue working with our repairs team to monitor performance and keep making improvements.

Sustainability review

The RSG’s project lead reviewed the topics:

  • Abri’s documented approach to sustainability

  • Compared Abri’s approach with those from other Housing Associations

  • Met with colleagues to discuss each element of sustainability at Abri

The RSG recommends that:

  • Abri creates a fuel poverty action plan to know which customers are fuel poor or are likely to become fuel poor

  • Abri looks at short-term fixes like providing water butts and installing LED lights in communal areas

  • Abri should switch empty properties to green energy tariffs

What are Abri doing to fix this?

  • We have a new asset management strategy that will target fuel poverty

  • We will remove the most inefficient heating systems from our homes. Homes need to be EPC band C by 2030, we plan to do this by 2028.

  • We’re looking at areas with high damp and mould rates to see if fuel poverty is the problem

  • We’ll reviewing green energy tariffs to see if they’re possible and affordable for our homes

Anti-social behaviour review

The RSG’s project lead reviewed the topics:

  • Abri’s ASB policy

  • Customers’ experience of the policies and procedures in practice

  • Referral services and follow up activities

  • Future plans post COVID restrictions

The RSG recommends that:

  • Abri updates their websites with clear information on what is and isn’t ASB, how to report an ASB issue, the process of reporting it and signposting to support agencies

  • Increase the frequency of customer contact in the initial stages of an investigation

  • Consider an ASB helpline for customers to use outside of standard working hours with advice on steps customers should take

  • Consider regular ASB refresher training for all customer-facing colleagues

  • Consider a tracking system for all ASB cases that have included a referral to another agency, to monitor trends related to the support required in different areas

  • Introduce a pro-active response plan that supports areas with high levels of one or more type of ASB or support needed

What else have RSG been up to?

RSG meets monthly and this provides an opportunity for residents to discuss Abri’s performance in key areas with responsible directors and managers. In the past year we have considered complaints handling, where there was a need for urgent action to improve performance of the service. And we have looked into all aspects of resident safety. The Chair of RSG has a seat on two of Abri’s most important governance bodies - the Audit and Risk Committee (ARC) and the Customer Services and Performance Committee (CSPC). This provides an opportunity for RSG to ensure its views are regularly transmitted to members of the Board. In the coming year we will look to strengthen the links between these important committees and RSG.

What’s in store for this financial year?

Many residents are facing a challenge to their living standards that is without recent precedent. As a ‘critical friend’, RSG will continue to provide customers with real influence over how Abri develops, delivers, learns and improves; so that where it can, it can lean into these headwinds together. Our reviews and scrutiny activity are led and delivered by residents. Every spring we consult with all Abri customers about what they want their scrutiny group to review in the coming year.

We had around 800 customer responses, which identified Abri customers’ three top priorities:

  1. Programmed maintenance

  2. Value-for-money

  3. Communications and complaints handling Watch this space, because we’ll be sharing our full plan for 2022-23 shortly, as well as regular progress reports in the coming months.

Watch this space, because we’ll be sharing our full plan for 2022-23 shortly, as well as regular progress reports in the coming months.

We’re looking for customers to join our sounding board

As well as the ‘core’ RSG team, we also have other residents involved in scrutiny activity at Abri. Some people might only be able to offer a limited amount of time, might want to work flexibly or even just focus on a specific topic they are passionate about. The Scrutiny Sounding Board (SSB) provides this opportunity for over 100 people. We want to strengthen how we engage with and develop SSB in the coming year. Over the next month we will be bringing more residents onto RSG and the SSB as we reach out to those who in our recent consultation, expressed an interest in getting involved.

There’s an open door – so give Abri a call or drop us a message at if you’d like to find out more.