Social housing managers will require qualifications in professionalism drive

Thousands of social housing managers will be required to study for qualifications as part of a drive to professionalise the sector in the wake of a two-year-old’s death in a mouldy flat.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove has announced the changes after recognising that social housing residents were being “inexcusably let down”.

The Cabinet minister said the shift would “drive up standards” across the board after Awaab Ishak’s tragic death.

Awaab died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould at his home in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

In response to his death, ministers have proposed that landlords will have to investigate and fix damp and mould in social housing within strict time limits under what would be known as Awaab’s Law.

On top of those reforms, Mr Gove on Sunday announced new rules that will mean around 25,000 managers across the sector will be required to have an appropriate level housing management qualification.

Managers must have a qualification that comes from a provider regulated by exams watchdog Ofqual and that is equivalent to a level 4 or 5 certificate or diploma in housing.

Alternatively, they can have a foundation degree from the Chartered Institute of Housing.

The changes will be made through amendments to the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, according to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Awaab Ishak inquest
Two-year-old Awaab Ishak died in December 2020 in a mouldy flat in Rochdale (Family handout/PA)

Officials said the new requirements will professionalise and drive the “culture change needed” in the sector.

They said ensuring managers have appropriate qualifications will bring social housing more closely into line with other sectors providing frontline services, including social work, teaching, and health and care services.

Any landlord who fails to meet the new standards requirements could eventually receive an unlimited fine from the Regulator of Social Housing, the department said.

Mr Gove said: “The Grenfell Tower tragedy and, more recently, the death of Awaab Ishak showed the devastating consequences of residents inexcusably being let down by poor performing landlords who consistently failed to listen to them.

“We know that many social housing residents are not receiving the service or respect they deserve.

Aerial views of the London skyline
Social housing managers will require qualifications under new rules announced by the Housing Secretary (Victoria Jones/PA)

“The changes we are delivering today will make sure social housing managers across the country have the right skills and experience to deliver an excellent service and drive up standards across the board.”

The Bill is the latest step in response to the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, with the Fire Safety Act enacted and the Building Safety Act passed last year.

As already announced by Mr Gove’s department, the draft law will give the social housing regulator tough new powers, allowing it to enter properties with only 48 hours’ notice and make emergency repairs with landlords footing the bill.

The legislation is expected to return to Parliament on March 1.

Gavin Smart, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “We welcome the Government’s focus on and support for professionalism in housing.

“We believe housing professionals should do all they can to ensure that tenants and residents have access to good quality, affordable homes; that they are treated with dignity and respect; and that their voices and views are heard and taken account of in decisions that affect them.

“We look forward to working with Government to support organisations and individuals in achieving the qualifications needed under these new requirements.”

Grenfell United, a group of survivors and bereaved family members of the victims of the west London tower blaze that took 72 lives, said: “For six years we have worked relentlessly to hold the Government to account to change social housing for tenants across the country.

“We never gave up. We pushed for professionalisation and for robust regulation to ensure residents are treated with respect and humanity.

“Whilst there is a long way to go, we welcome the amendment.

“We believe this will play a part in the legacy of positive change and make a significant difference to social housing tenants.”

Matthew Pennycook, Labour’s shadow housing minister, said: “We know from the circumstances leading up to the fire at Grenfell and those surrounding the death of Awaab Ishak that poorly managed social housing can literally kill.

“It is therefore essential that those managing the homes of social tenants have the necessary qualifications and training to ensure that all tenants are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “Thanks to tireless campaigning, and relentless efforts of Grenfell United, this amendment will ensure that social housing landlords are professionally qualified to do the job.”