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What does Welsh housing think about qualifications?

What are the implications for Wales of legislation in England mandating qualifications for housing management staff? Matt Dicks reveals the results of a sector survey.

In February, the Westminster Government started an eight-week consultation on its Competence and Conduct Standard for social housing. This is the result of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act which received Royal Assent last year and we await the outcome.

It was the Act that mandated qualifications for specified social housing management positions, as well as wider requirements on housing organisations to demonstrate continued professional development of staff.

In short, this is the Westminster Government’s response to the much-publicised issues around disrepair, damp and mould in particular, and specifically, the tragic death of Awaab Ishak in Rochdale.

Competency of the workforce and the reassertion of the importance of the role of the housing officer/manager, was a key theme that also emerged from the Better Social Housing Review, a report from an independent panel of housing experts appointed by CIH and the National Housing Federation.

Around the same period, CIH Cymru and Community Housing Cymru (CHC) jointly wrote to the Welsh Government minister with responsibility for housing. Noting that the context is different in Wales, we proposed to work with stakeholders to consider how in Wales we can learn from the report and its recommendations.

Additionally, following the UK Government’s amendment to the Social Housing Act seeking to make qualifications mandatory for some housing management roles in the English social housing sector, the Welsh minister noted the stakeholder group should also consider the nature of the social housing workforce in Wales and the support which may be needed to ensure services are the best they can be.

CIH Cymru, together with CHC and Welsh Government, established a sector stakeholder group to look at the wider issues surrounding disrepair. Together we identified several themes that needed consideration, including one around a competent workforce and how assurance is provided through governance mechanicalness across tenures.

That work is ongoing, and the group is about to make some recommendations to the minister. The minister has publicly ruled out mandating qualifications at this stage. However, at CIH Cymru we decided to undertake a snapshot sector survey to provide a better understanding of where the sector currently sits in terms of its commitment to continued professional development, including knowledge through qualifications.

The response wasn’t as wide as we had hoped, with only 26 per cent of housing associations and stock-retaining local authorities filling in the survey, but nonetheless it threw up some interesting data.

The survey identified that the majority of relevant housing managers were employed in the role of head of housing as shown in figure below.

Respondents also highlighted that even though neighbourhood managers or area housing officers would be the officers who have day to day management of the organisation’s properties, they are not always part of the senior management team. This led to some uncertainty as to whether they would be covered by the English legislation.

The data also revealed that 171 individuals held housing qualifications, but for 75 per cent of organisations less than half of those colleagues with a housing qualification were in roles that met the definition of a relevant housing manager.

Over half of those currently in one of those housing management roles identified in the English legislation is currently undertaking a qualification, with 58 per cent undertaking a housing qualification all are undertaking a CIH-accredited qualification at level three, four or five.

Another strand that came through strongly from the data was support for apprenticeships with 90 per cent of respondents highlighted the fact that there is a need for higher level apprenticeships in Wales, but that there’s a lack of pan-Wales provision as only one centre in Wales is offering them.

So, in conclusion:

  • Overall, there is support for qualifications in Wales
  • Barriers include capacity constraints, and a lack of learning centres pan-Wales
  • Lack of clarity around what roles fit the definition of a relevant housing manager
  • If we in Wales were to move towards mandated qualifications, we need to ensure the right level of funding is made available.

Matt Dicks is director of CIH Cymru

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