ETF Housing Blog

Update from ETF Housing Student Placement


My name is Cath O’Shea and I was a Housing Studies student from Stirling University who recently finished a placement with ETF.  I would like to share with you some of my experiences and issues that I have encountered during my time at Stirling University and whilst on placement with ETF.

In June, along with other ETF staff and tenants, I attended the Silent Vigil for Grenfell victims. This was a really powerful event which moved me to tears. We stood at the side of Princes Street in the rush hour holding up 72 placards showing individual images of the children and adults who died in the fire at Grenfell. This silent vigil spoke volumes about the importance of ETF’s work.

It was great to meet lots of tenants by carrying out ETF surveys alongside tenant volunteers. Sheltered Housing Tenants from around the city were being asked about their experiences of living in sheltered housing including their thoughts on the service provided by wardens.

The second survey in Citadel and Persevere high rises in Leith involved asking tenants about their experience of the recent improvement works. The results of both these surveys will be analysed in September.

I learnt about what tenant customer scrutiny panels can achieve at Dunedin Canmore Housing Association. The tenants’ group there looked into and are influencing how Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) cases are dealt with.  It’s really important for ETF to maintain links with HAs to share good ideas.

I reviewed Manor Estates website. They can definitely make it more welcoming to tenants and encourage increased tenant participation by making a few changes.  At Manor Estates I was involved in analysing their tenant satisfaction survey. My main learning point is about just how misleading data can be.  Manor Estates are working really hard to try to improve tenant satisfaction and to deliver a quality service. However, their tenant satisfaction level look like it has dropped this year from last by about 20%. The cause of this drop is actually because data was collected very differently this year. Data was collected by text message rather than face-to-face and more importantly the results are based on 150 responses rather than approx. 600 responses collected last year.  Watch out if you’re ever comparing survey responses from year to year or between organisations as the figures you see may not be comparable unless you have the full picture of how they were collected!

I contributed to ETF’s consultation response work writing draft responses for the Social Housing Charter review, the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing post 2020 consultation and an update for tenants on Scotland’s new Social Security Bill.  This is all fairly dry stuff but the devil is in the detail and responding to consultations is a key way to get tenant’s views to shape future services.

When I reflect on my time with ETF and Manor Estates, it’s obvious that Power dynamics are at the heart of issues between landlords and tenants.  There is a need to hold landlords like Councils and Housing Associations to account. Without this, standards will slip. The Human Rights Based Approach that ETF are leading on provides a fresh route to try to balance the power levels between tenants and landlords.

Finally a big highlight for me has been meeting so many nice people, as well as learning a lot about housing and particularly how tenants can get involved to influence and lead on improvements. ETF staff and tenant volunteers are doing amazing work with very limited resources.  I want to say thank you and good luck to all and I hope ETF take on another Housing Studies student next year!

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