28 April 2022

Why governance professionals need to come together to share learning and establish a collective voice.

Since the publication of the social housing white paper a mere 18 months ago, we have seen a marked change in the language and expectations of our governance arrangements, those on our decision making bodies, and the regulatory regime.

This has been specific to the social housing sector and led by the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH). It’s also been sector cross-cutting, evidencing that existing governance arrangements have not necessarily provided sufficient transparency and accountability, and as a result, there has been a loss of trust.

The government’s Consultation on Restoring Trust in Audit and Corporate Governance deliberately sets out significant and targeted proposals to overhaul the responsibilities of and reporting by directors, alongside a new regime for audit committees and the audit function. Although focused on ‘larger’ Public Interest Entities (an annual income of at least £100m is given as an example), it is probable that the outcomes of this consultation will set a standard to inform and instruct all corporate bodies.

The publication of the RSH’s Reshaping Consumer Regulation: Our principles and approach in November 2021 and The Introduction of Tenant Satisfaction Measures in December 2021 heralds continuation of wide reaching reform in social housing. And this, in my view, is most welcome. Ensuring our homes are safe and suitable for the people who live in them is our single greatest responsibility as landlords and property developers. The expectations of our regulators, Ombudsman, investors and consumers have increased and it is only through continuing to review, reflect on and improve our governance structures that we will be able to respond efficiently and effectively to the valid demands.

The last 18 months has also seen a continuation of the need to have embedded responsive risk management, such that the role of the governance professional and framework has never been more important.

Although coronavirus represented the most extreme global stress test, we continue to be faced by ever changing and emerging risks. Numerous risks were recognised historically: contractor failure, escalating cost of supplies and services, high staff turnaround, new ways of working, and the need to be able to contract with third parties who operate in a different regulatory regime. However, the extent to which these risks are now being simultaneously realised provides an unprecedented pressure on organisational response. All while the sector is having to respond to a wide range of remedial work and defects within the housing stock.

That is why the forthcoming Housing Governance Conference is such a good opportunity for governance professionals and board members to take stock, come together and share best practices. Under the new social housing regulatory regime, social housing providers must be more transparent in their arrangements, demonstrate how they are taking action to protect their residents and that they are being successful in doing so. It is therefore imperative that we come together, as we will on Thursday 23 June, to share learning and collectively shape our voice so that we can highlight issues but also shape change.

I am particularly excited and honoured to be joined at the conference by Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman and Kate Dodsworth, Director of Consumer Regulation at the RSH, who are just two of the many exemplary confirmed speakers. We will be hearing the latest on the proposed consumer-focused regulatory system, but also have an opportunity to debate and determine how successful we have been in embedding the 2020 NHF Code of Governance.

In addition to the much missed and overdue face to face networking opportunities, there will be a number of break-out sessions. This will be an opportunity to share tips on how our governance arrangements have helped provide assurance on our building safety compliance, on EDI targets, and on what the ‘G’ in ESG really does look like.

Of all the sectors I have worked in (which has included the public, private and charitable), the social housing space continues to inspire me the most. People look actively to share ideas and solutions. So this is not just a call for my peers to join me at the conference in London or virtually, but an invitation to get in touch regardless to share advice and ideas.

Tabitha Kassem is Executive Director of Governance, Technology and Transformation, Network Homes. She will be chairing our Housing Governance conference at the Royal College of Physicians and virtually on Thursday 23 June.

Tabitha Kassem

Tabitha Kassem is Executive Director of Governance, Technology and Transformation, Network Homes. She will be chairing our Housing Governance conference on Thursday 23 June.

Tabitha is Executive Director of Governance, Technology and Transformation at Network Homes, a G15 housing association with over 22,000 properties in London and the South East. Tabitha is qualified solicitor with over 13 years post qualification experience, as well as professional and voluntary experience in company secretary and data protection matters in the private, charitable and public sectors. She is also a trustee for NACRO, a social justice charity providing housing, education, and support to reintegrate people in custody and the community into society.

As company secretary of the Network Homes group, she services 15 legal entities of varying legal status. She is responsible for ensuring regulatory and legislative requirements are met for the business, with approximately 550 staff and over 50,000 residents. She oversees all legal, insurance, data protection and company secretariat arrangements in the Group and recently took over responsibility for Information Technology and Transformation matters. Tabitha is not your typical solicitor or company secretary; she seeks to use her knowledge, understanding and varying experience to identify and deliver improvements across the business and sector.

The ever changing governance landscape in 2022