New initiative set to change the face of safeguarding in housing for good

Riverside has teamed up with fellow leading housing providers to set the direction of safeguarding in the sector.

Safeguarding Peer Review Group logo

Safeguarding customers is paramount to Riverside as we believe that everyone has the right to live without fear or abuse in their own homes and communities.

Which is why we have partnered with Home Group, Peabody and Optivo to form a Safeguarding Peer Review Group.

The group, founded in early 2021, is the first of its kind, created having identified a gap in safeguarding best practice sharing in the housing industry.

Riverside, Home Group, Peabody and Optivo set out to review and compare our organisations’ approaches to safeguarding and supporting our customers to live free from harm, abuse, and neglect.

The four partners meet regularly, providing a safe space to talk openly and honestly, to discuss topics and concerns, and find solutions that make a difference, help someone or improve practices.

Forming this network of safeguarding professionals has been a positive experience. Each organisation has come away with assurance that our processes are similar and effective in working to keep customers and colleagues safe.

But through comparisons made, there were also some key areas for improvement identified for each provider.

Julie Coffey, Policy Manager at Home Group said: “Something that really stood out to us as good practice was the dedicated safeguarding lead role in other organisations. We saw the value this can bring by maintaining a spotlight on safeguarding as well as making more efficient use of resources. As a result, we have recently established a similar role in Home Group and already seeing significant benefits for our customers and colleagues.”

Housing association logosMore than a year on, the four housing providers are celebrating developing a beneficial way to discuss, refine and have confidence in safeguarding processes, all while learning from and supporting each other regularly.

Now the Safeguarding Peer Review Group is encouraging other organisations to focus on safeguarding, to form further networks across the housing sector, with the hope of increasing opportunities to better understand and keep those at risk safe.

Riverside and partners have pledged to be on hand to provide support and advice to those looking to build their own group.

Cheryle Fox, Safeguarding Officer at Riverside, said: “It’s not time-consuming to achieve – once you’ve identified your partners, set up meetings around some key topics to discuss and review. We chose areas such as policies and procedures, recording systems, DBS processes, managing anti-social behaviour cases, training for staff and communication to colleagues and customers.

“Reviewing all processes across four organisations only took a year to conduct and document but will have long-lasting impact!”

Since the initial lockdown in March 2020, Riverside, Home Group, Peabody and Optivo have witnessed increases in safeguarding and welfare calls coming in from customers and neighbours – particularly since educating residents more regularly on safeguarding.

Riverside have also seen a rise in concerns raised by customer facing teams and operators having worked to ensure colleagues make safeguarding a focus – including through enhancing our training offer and running internal awareness campaigns.

Riverside’s Cheryle Fox added: “Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility, no matter who you are, where you work or what sector you’re in. Housing associations such as us are especially important in recognising concerns and supporting people in our communities to stay safe. So knowing approaches we have in place to help are suitable through the Safeguarding Peer Review Group has been beneficial and we feel it is a useful learning tool for other housing organisations to adapt.

“We’ve been able to establish that we are in good standing in terms of safeguarding when we look at other prominent organisations. As a result, we’ve started the process of making our policies and procedures at Riverside broader and richer, particularly when describing the different abuse types.

“And if it wasn’t for being part of creating the group, I wouldn’t have learnt about Level 5 safeguarding training from other members, which has been great for my personal development and the value it brings to Riverside.

“I’d highly recommend other housing organisations partner up to form their own Safeguarding Peer Review Groups. When you’re in a specialist role such as safeguarding, you don’t always feel confident that what you’re doing is right, but for us, it was very useful to know we were all on the right page.”

Danny Cordiner, Peabody’s Assistant Head of Tenant & Family Services, shared: “Being a founding member of this best-practice sharing group – the first of its kind in the sector – is an invaluable resource for us. Customers are at the heart of everything we do, and by sharing what we know with other housing providers we can make changes that will help our customers in the long run.

“Some changes we have implemented at Peabody include developing a safeguarding communication strategy to ensure our messaging is clear and consistent for colleagues and customers, and we have also began looking at our safeguarding training offer.

“We’re looking forward to working with others in the sector to talk about shared trends, highlight any concerns, and regularly review our processes, including the ways we report safeguarding issues.”

Kiera Chapman, Safeguarding Co-ordinator, from Optivo commented: “For us, we feel that building up these connections has proven invaluable – especially due to the increasing importance of housing associations being aware and responding effectively to safeguarding concerns.

“The biggest takeaway for us at Optivo was receiving great ideas and knowledge that we can use to make reporting safeguarding more accessible to our residents, such as using a form on our website.

“Partnership working and best practice sharing like this is vital to the success of all organisations, but particularly in keeping our customers safe and well. So we’re looking forward to our ongoing involvement in the Safeguarding Peer Review Group and would encourage other providers in the sector look to form their own.”

Speaking from Home Group, Julie Coffey, Policy Manager, added: “We have very much appreciated the opportunity to be involved in this Safeguarding Peer Review Group. The process has greatly enhanced our understanding of safeguarding best practice in social housing and provided much food for thought in terms of identifying further improvements.

“We were often left buzzing with ideas, and have been working on plans that will take us to the next level to deliver on our promise to customers to care about them and provide a safe place to live.

“We look forward to continuing a productive and supportive relationship with other members of the group – learning from each other and developing excellence in safeguarding policy and practice across the sector.”

Having formed the Safeguarding Peer Review Group, the social housing providers feel more confident in having consistent and robust policies in place to protect those at risk, customers, colleagues, stakeholders and their organisations.

Want to find out more or interested in setting up a group in your area? Please contact Cheryle from Riverside at [email protected]

Or to view our peer review report summary, click here