It’s easy to lose sight of the challenge embedded in the new approach to VFM. No self-assessment to sweat over and a set of regulatory metrics that the sector finds uncontentious because housing associations pretty much dreamt them up as part of the Sector Scorecard.
So where’s the catch? It’s all to do with the requirement to express targets for achieving VFM in delivering your strategic objectives. These will sit alongside the regulatory metrics when you report your VFM performance in the accounts. You are also expected to set out measurable plans to address areas of underperformance.
It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it really does ‘personalise’ the achievement of VFM to the achievement of your association’s mission: a deft expression of co-regulation because it’s exactly what you’d want to do anyway. No one can argue that the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH) is passporting a government VFM perspective on to the sector. It also quite cleverly ties the notion of VFM gains with the measurable movement of both your own and the regulatory metrics. Quantifying VFM gains (particularly forward-looking targets) has been patchy at best in the past.
On the other hand, it exposes boards in a way the previous approach didn’t. Together with the Executive, they need to think carefully about:
- the metrics which best represent the value or outcomes they are looking to deliver
- targets set for each metric – will the regulator question the ambition of these in future?
- how best to meet the targets
- the monitoring and oversight required to ensure delivery stays on track
- what is said about underperformance – remember, you’ll be reviewing whether targets were achieved or not next year
The thinking here is that the increased transparency makes boards more accountable which in turn makes continuous improvement far more likely.
As this is the first year of the new approach, the RSH recognises that associations will need time to fine-tune their reporting, so its expectations are likely to be a little lower.
However, as always, most of the people I talk to want to get it right. So by popular demand, Acuity is again running half-day workshops on the VFM standard and its requirements implications in London, West Midlands and Manchester in late May and early June.
I really hope to see you there, help everyone to get it right in this new system and answer any questions you have.
Want to talk about any of this? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org