Building and retaining trust in the services of housing organisations is more important than ever in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, says Judy Wayne, Director at Altair.
Governance after Grenfell was the title of the annual Altair/Devonshires seminar, which took place in January at the National Museum in Cardiff.
Away from the seminar, and continuing until September, the museum has an exhibition of art and artefacts, Who Decides? curated by service users from The Wallich – well worth a visit.
Hearing from Altair and Devonshires speakers, Welsh Government and the chief executive of Aster Group, over 40 sector leaders came together to discuss a diverse range of topics from board pay, to data protection, modern methods of construction, assurance and risk, to dealing with major incidents. Each of these is a weighty topic in its own right, and it was a packed afternoon.
It was the contributions of three of the speakers who have been personally involved in the aftermath of the tragedy – Chris Wood, Mark London and Andrew Cowan – which touched the audience and made us all very thoughtful.
Chris, a member of the independent Grenfell recovery taskforce, introduced us to the concept of ‘thoughtful now’ referring to how Kensington and Chelsea Council had to balance the need for speedy action with time to reflect on what needs to be done.
He also recited a poem written by one of the residents who survived the fire. Every line started ‘you don’t know’ and, as we listened, it felt to me that there were parallels with the experience of people living and surviving in war zones, as what he had been through was so far outside our comfortable, everyday existence.
Nine months on from the fire, there are no easy answers as to why the tragedy happened. New evidence keeps coming out, such as the news that tests showed that doors resisted fire for half the time expected. Where does the responsibility for this, and other failings lie?
There’s little doubt that across the sector, it has caused housing professionals and board members to reflect on what needs to change, from gaining assurance about construction methods and cost, to really listening to resident concerns, and acting upon them.
The CHC governance conference in March launched the consultation draft of the new code of governance. One of the guiding principles in the code, integrity, refers to boards being aware of the importance of the public’s confidence and trust in organisations.
In many areas of society, confidence and trust is fragile. Building and retaining trust in the services of housing organisations, treating people kindly and thoughtfully is as important as ever.
This article was originally published in WHQ in April 2018
Contact Judy on 07880 606067 and firstname.lastname@example.org