TPAS Scotland Conference 28 June 2023

This year’s TPAS Scotland Annual conference focused on how we, as a sector, can address ‘New Challenges, New Conversations’.  

The conference was opened by Elaine Scoular, TPAS Scotland’s Managing Director who launched our new business plan – setting out the goals and ambitions for TPAS Scotland over the next 12 months.  Elaine called for the TPAS Scotland membership to help shape the organisation, and feed into the strategy going forward.  

Scottish Housing Minister Paul McLennan MSP spoke about the Scottish Government’s drive towards supporting the social housing sector in Scotland.  Mr McLennan highlighted the importance of tenants and residents’ groups going forward. He said, “Good tenant participation can drive real change.  One of the best parts of my job is visiting new developments and meeting with tenants and residents’ groups, I can see the great work and outcomes happening across our Scottish communities.  We want to ensure tenants get involved with their landlord and are supported to shapethe agenda going forward.  

Issues differ from region to region, but the Scottish Government is focused on ensuring affordable housing is accessible to all. The Government has delivered122,000 social houses across Scotland and are committed to offering over 110,000 additional social houses, with a focus over the next 12 months on rural communities.

Another key focus for the Government is around the standard of housing.  Mr McLennan was adamant thatnobody should live in sub-standard housing.  The quality of housing has improved over the last few years and providing access to good quality housing is part of theirHousing to 2040 strategy.  This strategy outlines what we want homes to look like and where the priorities lie.   Scotland is aiming to become Net Zero by 2045 and social housing will be a significant contributor to achieving that goal.

The Scottish Government are also working with landlords to improve energy efficiency in our homes. The costofliving crisis and tackling poverty has had a huge impact on individuals Tackling poverty and keeping people safe is a major focus area of the Government They have committed to invest in childcare payments, which will lift 50,000 children out of child poverty. 

The Government has also launched their cash first programme which has set goals towards ending the need for food banks in Scotland.  This charter sets out our human rights approach to tackling food insecurity and outlines nine collaborative actions the Governmentwill take over the next three years to improve the response to financial hardship and start to reduce the need for emergency food parcels.

Many people need discretionary housing payments to ensure they can stay in their homes and avoid homelessness.  A working group has been established which will be rolled out over the summer so housing groups will have the ability to have their say.

Mr McLennan finished his talk by saying, “When we all work together in partnership, huge things can happen!”

The conference also heard from Professor John McKendrick from Glasgow Caledonian University, who explored how communities and government should work together to tackle poverty in Scotland.

People view poverty differently.  We either see it as a problem, or not a problem.  We all have the means to make a difference if we (as individuals or organisations) do things differently. 

1.1million people in Scotland live in poverty.  Poverty is something that need addressed in every part of Scotland. What’s surprising is that 57% of these people are living in a household where someone is in paid work, however the lack of access to work and/or sufficient benefit payments are some of the drivers that result in poverty.

There’s a strategic vision in Scotland (and a local strategy) around tackling child poverty; by 2030 our aim is that we will reduce child poverty to levels we haven’t seen previously.  

What do we need to focus on?

o Income from employment
o Improving Cost of Living
o Income from Security Benefits

Tenant and community groups and housing associations have a significant contribution to help reduce poverty.  We need to consider what changes need to be made to enable people living in poverty and increase their chance of living a poverty free life.  

Research being carried out by Glasgow Caledonian University is encouraging tenant and community groups,as well as housing associations who are tackling poverty, to have their say and be part of their SPIRU (Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit)directory, which will launch in the Summer of 2023.

Another conference speaker, Mareta Greig from Forth Housing Association, talked about how their organisation is starting to get back on track. Forth HAhas worked through a governance improvement plan.  They are a people driven organisation and love to get out and about talking and engaging with their tenants and ensuring their thoughts and opinions are being considered throughout the work they do.  Mareta said, “If you are thinking of new ways of getting your organisation where it needs to be, the Scottish Housing Regulator are there to guide your organisation through the process We speak to the Regulator regularly and we communicate that the job in hand is being done.

Our final keynote speaker on day one was Julie Cosgrove, CEO of Caledonia Housing Association. Caledonia’s purpose is to provide homes and services that make life better.

They have 5500 tenanted properties in 8 local authority areas, with over 2000 factored, shared ownership properties and their growth has resulted from adding new homes and creating partnerships with associations to join the Caledonia Group.

They focus on controlling their costs and limiting rent increases, which has been challenging in light of the costofliving crisis and the impact it has on tenants.

What makes Caledonia a strong, resilient business? Julie commented, “People and Culture – our people are crucial to the success of the organisation.  IT underpins a lot of the work we have  undertaken to digitalise and automate services and support flexible, mobile support for staff.  This process also promoted new ways of tenant engagement and we have a strong focus on finance, to ensure we can provide the best service possible alongside good Governance.


Day 2 brought a wealth of engaging, interactive workshops covering everything from tenant engagement to the Scottish Social Housing Charter update and promoting new ways of thinking.  It was great to have such a wide range of workshop hosts from across the UK.  Copies of the presentations will be available on the TPAS Scotland website.


Day 3 kicked off with a keynote session from Helen Shaw – Director of Regulation at the Scottish Housing Regulator. The role of the regulator is to protect the interests of tenants, people who are homeless, and others who use social landlords’ services. Helen spoke about the national discussion which the regulator had recently published on the future of social housing regulation in Scotland.


Helen also highlighted the latest research which it had published that morning from its National Panel of Tenants and Service Users. The report highlighted the worsening financial difficulties being faced by tenants. It found that many are not managing well financially and feel they are worse off now than they were 12 months ago. Increasing food and energy costs were cited as the biggest contributor to financial difficulties.


A copy of Helen’s speech is available here and Helen encouraged anyone with any views on the proposed changes to regulation to submit their feedback by 11 August.


Kirsty Wells from Housemark Scotland highlighted the data and trends that they capture that dovetailed the findings of the Regulator.


Day 3 concluded with a panel hosted by Jimmy Black of Shelligoe Media and Kieran Findlay from Scottish Housing News.  Jimmy and Kieran were joined by Anne-Marie Brown from Dalmuir Park Housing Association and David Bookbinder from Glasgow and West of Scotland Forums.  The panel explored some of the key issues and challenges identified as part of the conference.  This session has been made into a podcast for Scottish Housing News which you can view here.


The conference was an excellent 3 days where tenants, housing officers and stakeholders were able to come together to discuss, debate and agree on the new challenges and new conversations facing the social housing sector in Scotland.