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Professionalising the social housing sector

We know that the government has been reviewing the issue of professionalisation in the social housing sector since January 2022 and they have focused on four options:

  1. Make housing a fully professionally-regulated sector similar to professions such as social work, medicine and the law. This would be based on mandatory qualifications, continuing professional development (CPD) and a register of licensed practitioners. Whilst it might be the best option, it doesn’t seem to me to fit with conservative ideals of letting the market do its own thing (laissez faire).

  2. Strengthen the remit and powers of the Regulator (RSH) to hold landlords to account for the professional development of their staff. The Regulator had its wings clipped with the massive cut in government budgets in 2008 which saw the end of inspection of landlords in the social housing sector, but the penny seems to have dropped that a regulator actually does need funding and sufficient powers to regulate.

  3. A voluntary opt-in model – government working with professional and trade bodies to set out and encourage landlords to adopt good practice – forgive me for suggesting this seems to me to be the same as option 4…

  4. Do nothing – leave responsibility for developing professionalisation entirely to the sector – which is what we’ve been doing for ever. You might think that’s ok and that a qualification won’t make staff more empathic, or you might point out that the people who clad Grenfell Tower were qualified professionals.

I’ve seen debates online where some longstanding unqualified managers are railing against the impertinence that they should now have to do some formal learning – they seem to me to imply they know it all and don’t see the need for evidence of this. You’ll have to forgive me when I tell you that I think we all have something to learn in this life; no one is perfect and everyone should be open to new ideas. The Level 4 qualification for maintenance managers that we offer at Upkeep includes a module on change – the resistors could at the very least benefit from that.

The qualification offered by Upkeep also includes modules on legal and regulatory requirements, as well as customer service and I struggle to comprehend why anyone at any level would think improving their knowledge and challenging their established (entrenched?) views is not a Really Good Thing. The culture of an organisation is set from the top down and I really worry about the example a manager who scoffs at the need for qualifications communicates to their staff.

Our qualification also includes a module on professional practice – you know, thinking about ethics, diversity, reflecting on your own performance, how you can improve yourself – all those things the nay-sayers likely don’t give time to.

With the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill moving closer to enactment, and the professionalism proposals passing unopposed, we will have (in 2024, but you can get ahead of the game by signing up for training now!) a blend of options 1 and 2:

  • There will be a mandatory requirement for qualification at managerial and senior levels, but there won’t be specific requirements for CPD or having a register of licensed practitioners.

  • Staff at levels below this will have option 2 apply.

Surely the residents who lost their lives and loved ones, deserve for us in the social housing sector to give some time to ensuring we are well qualified, with empathy and a strong sense of ethics, and that we should welcome this with open arms. It’s the least we can do.

Lynda Hance

Director, Upkeep Training Ltd

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