The scoping review of HHSRS is under way

06 February 2019, Stephen Battersby, Vice President of CIEH

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Last year the Government announced a review of the HHSRS.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has now commissioned RHE to identify the extent to which the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) needs to be updated and revised, including exploring the scope for setting minimum standards as part of the HHSRS framework.

Wide range of views sought

The work in this scoping study will include a number of workshops for environmental health practitioners and there is also an online questionnaire for EHPs, so the views of those who cannot get to the workshops can still be captured. There will be meetings with representatives of the First-tier Tribunal, landlord organisations, and the project team will also be writing to a wide range of professional and advice organisations to get their views. Given that tenants are those most directly affected by housing conditions, an online survey for tenants and tenant organisations is also open. It will be greatly appreciated if colleagues could draw this to the attention of tenants and any local tenant organisations or advice agencies.

The HHSRS can sometimes be shorthand for both the risk assessment process and the provisions of Part 1 - matters of enforcement. This main focus of this scoping study is the HHSRS methodology, which in essence is the Operating Guidance. However, issues relating to enforcement that are raised will also be fed back to the Ministry. Participants in the workshops and respondents to the online survey may find it useful to have a look at the Operating Guidance and recent Addendum.

The Ministry have also asked RHE to ascertain views on whether the HHSRS should be scrapped. As the system is focused on protecting the health and safety of occupiers, we would like to hear your ideas as to what could replace it. As the CIEH has said in the report HHSRS - 11 years on (2017) environmental health professionals "play an essential role in intervening to protect people from the effects of poor housing conditions and the impact these might have on their health." Any new system will need to allow risks from the wide range of housing conditions to be addressed.

The engagement workshops for EHPs will be held in:

  • Bristol - Monday 18 February 2019 (PM), Premier Inn Cribbs Causeway
  • London - Monday 18 February 2019 (PM), Royal Society for Public Health
  • York - Monday 18 February 2019 (PM), Priory Street Centre
  • Nottingham - Wednesday 20 February 2019 (PM), The Nottingham Mechanics
  • Chester - Thursday 21 February 2019 (PM), Holiday Inn Chester South

You can book on to these workshops on the RHE website.

Details of the project

To help readers think about this in advance the aims of the project, as set out in the MHCLG project specification, are to:

  1. identify which parts of the HHSRS are out of date and need to be revised;
  2. demonstrate whether there would be scope for introducing a sampling and cloning approach - and where this approach might be appropriate;
  3. indicate whether the current penalties for non-compliance are appropriate and proportionate;
  4. show whether there is a need for additional worked examples in the guidance;
  5. help establish the feasibility of using digital technology to develop an app for the HHSRS and;
  6. consider whether minimum standards should be included in the framework.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee also recommended the HHSRS should be revised and updated and suggested that consideration should be given to introducing minimum standards. It will be helpful to receive comments on how colleagues think this could work, and suggest how these can be formulated, especially as we have seen with some licensing cases that minimum standards can also have their problems.

Finally, the history of the development of the HHSRS is often forgotten and sometimes answers to queries as to why we are where we are, can be found there. There is an HHSRS archive on my website where you can find some documents detailing the stages in the development that are probably not available anywhere else.

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