Headlines: June 20th, 2008

The Audit Commission is introducing short notice inspections for housing associations following a successful pilot programme. The shorterinspections will take less time to complete than the conventional inspections,as they will specifically target weaker services. This new approach will helpto drive through improvements in services to tenants and leaseholders and also reducethe regulatory burden.

The adoption of spot check follows a successful pilot programme where the normalwarning several months in advance was replaced by five days notice. Theprogramme involved 12 volunteer housing associations. Each inspection team spent three days on site, focusing on the three weakest performing services. With less time for housing associations to prepare, inspectors couldget a true picture of how the services operate. Each pilot inspection was completed in around six weeks from beginning to end compared to approximately six months for a traditional inspection, which looks at all of the housingmanagement services.

In parallel with the pilots, the Commission carried out a comprehensive evaluation exercise which involved housing association tenants, board members, senior officers and staff in interviews, focus groups and workshops.

Shortnotice inspections will focus on the quality of services provided to tenants and leaseholders. In future the housing inspectors can home in on just one or two services, for example, emergency repairs to tenants’ homes or the responses to complaints about anti-social behaviour. The first short notice inspections should be launched in the Autumn after the Audit Commission has consulted with local authorities and arms’ length management organisations.

The Audit Commission and the Housing Corporation will jointly decide which housing associations and services will be subject to a short notice inspection. Inspectors’ reports will continue to be published, but the inspection programme will not be disclosed.