Headlines: October 21st, 2008

The Audit Commission is likely to extend new style short notice inspections to council housing services and Arms Length Management Associations. The extension is also likely to include other services such as homelessness. The Commission has already decided to introduce short notice inspection for Housing Associations.

The new style inspections will be risk-based and tailored to local circumstances so that administrative burdens can be reduced and the drawn out preparation associated with planned or cyclical inspections can be eliminated. In addition, this type of inspection helps to drive continuous improvement by encouraging inspected bodies to review their performance regularly, given that an inspection could potentially happen at any time.

Inspections could be triggered by declining or unsatisfactory performance or where people who use the service are at significant risk. It is also likely that citizens could trigger inspections, particularly landlord’s tenants.

It is planned that short notice inspections would vary in their scope and duration. The scope of the inspections could vary from a single service area, such as tenancy management, to the full range of the landlord services in a geographical area, such as a particular neighbourhood or the whole of the landlord service for tenants and leaseholders.

The pilot programme for Housing Associations, which was completed in April 2008, showed that inspections could be successfully delivered at short notice, with robust judgments and using fewer resources. Both the inspected associations and the Commission reported a considerable reduction in time and cost.

Consultation on the proposals ends on 1 December 2008 and this will be followed by a pilot programme. Councils and ALMOs are invited to volunteer for the pilot.