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Steve Southwell, Chair of the Resident Panel at Worthing Homes, and Joanna Charlton, PlaceShapers Communications Lead, blog about CIH Housing Brighton. 


The wind was blowing, the waves were rolling but something was missing. It dawned on me that there wasn’t the usual murmur of delegate conversation outside the hotel. 

It further dawned on me that I had arrived at the wrong hotel. Yes, I was half a mile west of where I needed to be to meet my colleague for the day, Joanna. A good start. 

A very nice cup of coffee later, and fast forward to the entrance lobby of the Hilton Metropole Hotel (the place to be), home to the conference. Joanna and I climb the stairs to be joined by Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, who on introduction mentioned my recent article in Inside Housing

The conference starts with “Shaping the Future – Regulation, complaints and service delivery”. Great subject matter provoking numerous Q&A opportunities, well responded to by a professional and knowledgeable panel. 

Then it’s our turn. Our Chair is James Prestwich, CIH Director of Policy and External Affairs, along with Alan Strickland from Optivo. We present and discuss “The future of resident involvement” to a great audience, who had equally great questions and observations. Lunch was served and we rejoin to learn of “The future of customer service” from a great panel of Jonathan Cowie from VIVID, Denise Fowler from Phoenix Community Housing and Jo Causon from ICS, chaired by CIH’s Caroline Lester. 

Some very thought-provoking sessions which raised many questions on my journey home. What is the future of engagement? What does it look like? How can we meet, nay exceed both regulation and resident expectations? How real are those expectations and are they achievable given the current climate? One thing for sure, I look forward to being part of the discussion and culture change both locally and wider afield. 


As PlaceShapers we always try to share any speaking platform with a resident – so Steve and I focused on showing how what happens locally creates national impact. 

Questions prompted much discussion - how do we listen well, have the right conversations, create peer-to-peer relationships, build and maintain trust? I had examples from more than 100 members to draw on - and it was good to show how PlaceShapers works with this to influence policy.   

Throughout the conference, the questions were zingers. Naturally, being the CIH, the importance of professional standards was a constant theme. I've just heard Michael Gove talking about it on Radio 4. 

In a session on attracting and retaining staff, I liked this one from former CIH president Alison Inman. Why is customer services is so often seen as a stepping stone to something else? How do we make it the most important job in the organisation? 

Front line staff with the right values and great communication skills make a huge difference - of course backed up with the right systems and processes. 

Residents tell us this time and again - get the communication right and a lot else follows. It’s here in our resident-led guide to consumer regulation report.

We ended with a tour de force on the future of work by futurist Matthew Griffin, balanced by Jake Jooshandeh from the Royal Society of Arts. Jake prompted discussion on making sure tenants are winners in the new jobs’ world. Never more needed than now as the cost of living crisis deepens.  

And then trainers on and hats off to Jo Richardson. Jo, the new CIH president, is walking 630 miles to help end youth homelessness. I joined a group walking a blustery seafront behind a (very) billowing Homeful banner to continue my conference conversations. If you’re able to support this campaign, please do.

Steve Southwell and Joanna Charlton 

Issued 12/05/22