Asbestos fears prompt action at troubled housing association

Cropasbestos

The Scottish Housing Regulator has increased its role at Thistle Housing Association after inaccurate information was provided about asbestos

22nd October 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

A regulator has stepped up its control of an embattled housing association amid concerns over asbestos.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has served a Statutory Improvement Notice on Thistle Housing Association in relation to its management of the hazardous substance.

The Scottish Housing Regulator was forced to step in at the association around a year ago after it identified serious and widespread failures in relation to finances and governance at Thistle.

A manager and five board members were appointed to the Toryglen based charity after it failed to meet regulatory standards.

And now serious concerns have been raised about how asbestos is managed at the association, prompting further action from regulators.

Last month, the HSE decided Thistle had failed to comply with Regulations on the Control of Asbestos. It was contacted by the Scottish Housing Regulator after it was established that Thistle had provided inaccurate information about its management of asbestos to tenants and residents and to the regulator.

Thistle is required to comply with the Improvement Notice by 15 November and has appointed expert consultants to help it. A further four members have been appointed to Thistle’s board by the housing regulator.

Ian Brennan, director of regulation at the housing regulator, said: “Tenant and resident safety is a key priority for us. In June 2019, we established that Thistle had provided inaccurate information to tenants, residents and ourselves about its management of asbestos. As a result we required Thistle to immediately independently review the quality of information provided, including its asbestos management systems. We considered that the reviews showed serious weaknesses in and failures in Thistle’s approach.  

“Thistle must comply with the improvement notice (issued by the HSE). With support from the statutory manager and appointees it will develop plans to address the weaknesses and failures and we will closely monitor its progress. We also require Thistle to provide appropriate information to its tenants and residents about the steps it is taking.”

The action was revealed in an updated engagement plan in which the Scottish Housing Regulator detailed progress of its statutory intervention at Thistle.

The report said: “Thistle has provided its asbestos management improvement plan to us and the HSE. The statutory manager has instructed surveys and air tests of the properties affected and Thistle will report the results of these to us and to tenants and residents as soon as possible.

“In August 2019 with support from the statutory manager, Thistle commissioned expert independent reviews into its compliance arrangements for asbestos, electrical, fire, gas, lift and water safety. The review identified substantial systemic weaknesses in Thistle’s approach to fulfilling its landlord compliance obligations for all six areas. Thistle will develop a plan to address these failures with support from the appointees.”

The association is responsible for hundreds of homes in Glasgow, but regulators were contacted after concerns about health and safety. The charity appealed the regulator’s intervention in November of last year, but this was rejected by an appeal panel. The regulator said it had been forced to take action after Thistle was unable to assure that it had the governance and leadership capacity to address its failures.

An independent review of the information provided to the regulator by Thistle about the performance of its services to tenants and residents, identified major shortcomings in Thistle’s approach. The review was only able to verify three of the 30 Scottish Social Housing Charter Indicators.

The regulator has said its statutory appointees and manager will address the weaknesses and failings in Thistle’s management of health and safety issues and ensure it is complying with its legal obligations, and ensure that tenants and other stakeholders are kept up to date.