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How to fix safety with social housing?

An English man’s house is his castle, so much like a lot with the country at the minute its falling down and the mortgage is through the roof. However, one story that was particularly depressing was the story of Awaab Ishak a 2-year-old killed by the mould in his social housing house which his father repeatedly complained about but was ignored. However, don’t worry Michael Gove has put his underpants on outside of his trousers and is rushing to the rescue…. Or is he?

The government has announced that social housing managers must gain professional qualifications under new rules to protect residents and raise standards in the sector. Around 25,000 managers across the sector will now be required to have an appropriate level housing management qualification regulated by Ofqual, equivalent to a Level 4 or 5 Certificate or Diploma in Housing, or a foundation degree from the Chartered Institute of Housing.

The changes will be made through amendments to the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill which will drive up standards in the sector and hold landlords to account over the service they provide to their tenants. The Bill will also give the Regulator tough new powers – allowing them to enter properties with only 48 hours’ notice and make emergency repairs with landlords footing the bill.

It follows Awaab’s Law, introduced earlier this year in the wake of the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, which will force social landlords to fix damp and mould within strict time limits.

These new requirements will professionalise and drive the culture change needed in the sector, ensuring residents receive a high level of service and are treated with respect at all times. While many managers already provide a high-quality professional service, not all do. This will ensure that all managers have the skills and qualifications they need.

This will bring social housing more closely into line with other sectors providing front line services, including social work, teaching, and health and care services. Any landlord who fails to meet the requirements of the new standards could receive an unlimited fine from the regulator.

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael 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”.

“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.”

Don’t get me wrong all of the above is very good and will hopefully stop the aforementioned tragedies from happening again. However where is Health and Safety in all of this? Why do we need new laws and regulations when you could expand the Health and Safety at work act to cover housing tenants as they are by very definition the output of a Health and Safety Management system for a social housing provider?

My point is this, why do we need new laws to say look after people when the Health and Safety at work act says you can’t endanger people by your acts or omissions? E.g. failing to clear up damp and mould is a clear breach of the Health and Safety at work act. Normally the Health and Safety at work act doesn’t apply to “in the Home” however, if you are a housing provider then I would argue that the Act extends to you due to the Home now being a product and the tenant paying you for a service?

Whichever way the government decides to act, be it with new regulations or expanding existing regulations and law, Health and Safety needs to be part of the solution. There also needs to be a shift in attitudes to stop looking at people as commodities as in this tragic case as a 2-year old with his whole life ahead of him.

Housing Safety