Walter McFarlene, Tenant Chair of the Conference Planning Group shares his experience of the Riverside Tenants and Federation Conference 2015 in Chester.
Almost two hundred and fifty tenants, residents and board members gathered from all over the country. High on the agenda was how best tenants, residents and Riverside can work together to face the challenges that government politicians have created for the social housing sector.
We chose ‘One Riverside and One Federation for All’ as the theme of this conference. The day lived up to this. Tenants and residents from across the country came together to ensure that they were able to speak with one voice in the face of the many issues we face today.
The day was co-hosted by Patrick Rice, Chair of Riverside Tenants’ and Residents’ Federation, and Anna Bishop, Riverside Director of Customer Service and Community Engagement.
In keynote speeches Riverside’s Group Board Chair, Max Steinberg and Chief Executive, Carol Matthews, spelt out the consequences for Riverside of the recent government announcement of a rent cut of 1% per cent for the next four years, the introduction of the Right to Buy and continuing welfare and benefit changes. Both speakers emphasised that they intend to stand firm in their commitment to the organisation’s core values. Riverside will continue to provide affordable homes to those who need them and work closely with its tenants and residents to improve the services it delivers.
Following this Riverside’s Executive Director of Housing Services, John Wood, posed a series of questions to tenants and residents about the actions Riverside should take in the light of the current challenges. Delegates used hand held audience response keypads to tell Riverside what they thought in an interactive and on the spot consultation.
The keypads also came in handy during a fun filled “Have I got news for you” style quiz and the feedback on the conference itself.
The workshops were buzzing. They were all based on suggestions from tenants and residents and ranged from practical tips on health, money and employment through to lively debates on how on improve communications between Riverside and its customers and how to ensure that policies for Equality and Diversity are put into practice.
A moving speech by a former serviceman, Sean Percival-Scott, revealed the many problems that veterans face, including homelessness and post-traumatic stress disorder and the role that Riverside play in helping people cope. Sean is directly involved in providing support as a locum worker at the Beacon in Catterick, a Riverside scheme for veterans. Sean’s speech was a real highlight of the event.
Walter Macfarlane wrapped up the conference, drawing special attention to the initiatives the Federation Executive (the Fed) has taken this year to get more tenants involved. Walter urged everyone to make use of “Chin Wag”, the Fed’s very own battle bus, as a means of engaging with thousands of tenants in their communities.
All delegates got a Chin Wag mug to remind them of our message – the Federation was there for everyone and everyone was welcome to get involved.
The conference was a great start in getting the Fed’s rallying cry heard – 62% of the delegates were at a Federation event for the first time. The delegates, went away reassured that Riverside is committed to listening to its tenants and residents and working in partnership with them.
For more information please contact the Riverside Tenants and Residents Federation: [email protected]