Three times a year, we hold a national network meeting for Technical Officer. These network meetings aim to support good practice and provide an opportunity for TOs discuss what they are doing in their day-to-day work.

Our last meeting, held in January, focused on the Construction, Design, and Management (CDM) Regulations (2015). The regional advisors receive queries regularly about CDM and how they apply to adaptations. As a result of these queries, Foundations will shortly publish guidance on the regulations. The document will provide a definitive guide to how the regulations apply to the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) and adaptations.

Paul Smith, Director of Foundations, provided an overview of the new guidance during the network meeting. Paul discussed the roles and responsibilities of the key people covered by the regulations, the client, designer, and contractor. We were reminded that the ‘client’ is the local authority, if they are organising the work for the DFG applicant. Also, the designer is the person or persons who prepare and modify the design. So, at different stages of the DFG process, the ‘designer’ might be a different person. If this is the case, it is important that those people are aware of their responsibility.

The new CDM guidance will also include several useful templates. The templates will help TOs manage the different phases of the adaptations process, including:

  • Pre-construction templates
  • Construction templates
  • Contractor templates
  • Health and safety templates

To support the implementation of the regulation, the CITB have also designed a useful web-based resource, which is free to access: https://cdmwizard.citb.co.uk/user/login.

In the second part of the meeting, the attendees separated into four smaller groups. In these groups, TO’s had the opportunity to network and discuss issues they were experiencing in their local authority. In particular, we wanted to hear how Foundations can continue to support TOs. The three learning points we got from those who attended were:

Learning point 1: With the recruitment challenges in the sector, there are a significant number of new TOs joining local authorities and HIAs. Foundations need to look at the learning needs of these new members of staff and ensure that we provide access and signposting to appropriate training courses, as well as having access to relevant online learning resources on the Foundations website.

Learning point 2: Keeping up to date with changes in legislation and guidance is challenging. As with learning point 1, Foundations plays a vital role in providing learning resources for TO and keeping them updated on any changes. Of particular interest for those attending were learning resources around:

  • Third-party agreements
  • Gas and electric regs
  • CDM regs

Learning point 3: Understanding the environmental impact of adaptations was raised as an important issue by several attendees. This issue is linked to the carbon reduction agenda, and there is an opportunity for Foundations to support the sector to look at the environmental impact and opportunities adaptations can have when improving the accessibility of people’s homes.

Our new regional advisor, Andrew Brown, is a surveyor/technical officer by background and part of his role will be supporting the community of TOs across local authorities. Andrew will be looking at the learning points we identified at the network meeting, and he will be considering how we can address the issues discussed.

The next Technical Officer Network meeting is planned for the end of May 2022.