New requirements brought in after failings in social housing sector

New professionalisation standards brought in to address failings in social housing management could cost councils tens of millions of pounds in the coming years. 

A late amendment to the Social Housing Act, which received royal assent last month, requires social housing managers to gain professional qualifications

Awaab Ishak -3

The measure is the latest by the government aimed at improving standards in social housing properties following the high-profile death of toddler Awaab Ishak

The measure was dubbed Awaab’s Law after Awaab Ishak, a two-year-old boy who died in December 2020 after prolonged exposure to mould at his family’s home, which was managed by housing association Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.

Local councils and housing associations will now be required to retrain affected staff or be hit with fines by the Social Housing Regulator. 

According to research by the Local Government Association (LGA), the changes are likely to cost councils £17.9m in the first two years and £3.7m annually in the subsequent years. 

The LGA, which represents councils, has urged the government to pick up the bill to prevent costs falling on over-stretched housing revenue accounts. 

It also asked the government to work with the LGA and qualifications bodies to develop a comprehensive strategy for the implementation of the new rules, with a “realistic” timetable. 

Cllr Linda Taylor, the LGA’s housing spokesperson, said councils were “fully committed” to improving social housing quality but pointed out that they were already facing “unsustainable financial pressures”. 

“This would be an additional burden which risks impacting on councils’ ability to fulfil their roles effectively as housing authorities,” she said. 

“Councils need more time to plan and implement these new requirements that are being imposed on them.  

“This is why it is vital government works with us, and that these changes are carefully and properly managed, while being mindful of the significant workforce challenges housing teams are facing right now including recruitment and retention concerns.” 

Two-thirds of senior housing managers at councils that responded to the survey were not sufficiently qualified to meet the new requirements and 54% of senior housing executives will also require further qualifications. 

Roughly 62% said they would not feasibly be able to ensure full compliance with the required level of qualifications within a two-year period, given their current resources, while 68% anticipated disruption to their service provision.