Why do we need housing professionals?
Why do we need housing professionals? In today's guest blog, Annalisa Howson, service improvement manager at Waverley Borough Council Housing and CIHSE board member and end point assessor talks about why she feels the professionalism of the housing sector is extremely important.
It seems ridiculous that we have to justify the need for housing professionals. But all professions have been undermined and challenged in recent years – including the police, teachers and doctors - resulting in a lack of respect or recognition of the core services provided by professionals for all in society.
I believe the best way to respond is by acting professionally. Accept the challenge, share and promote your knowledge, skills and behaviours and focus on the positive outcomes of your profession. Encourage professionalism within yourself, team, organisation and sector.
The Housing Green paper in August 2018 positively recognised housing as the ‘third pillar” of the welfare state. Identifying the key role social housing has in providing safe secure homes from which we can thrive, meet aspirations and fulfil potential.
However the paper also challenged the sector on the way services are delivered and the lack of respect some tenants felt when contacting their landlord. The paper aims to rebalance the relationship between tenants and landlords.
What better way to do this than to have professionally qualified staff delivering services? Organisations wouldn’t run without qualified accountants, HR or architects but too often the teams delivering the core business of managing and maintaining homes are not provided with the training and support to work professionally.
Over recent years the focus has been on customer service but this should not be at the expense of professionalism. Our customers want to us to be polite and respond within timescales but they also want us to be knowledgeable and demonstrate integrity. The consequences of getting it wrong can be far reaching and have significant cost implications. There are a wide range of pitfalls in tenancy management. The end of a tenancy can be straight forward but will quickly become complex when belongings or family members are found. All too often issues arise when teams think they are doing the right thing but fail to follow legislation and/or organisational policies. Failure to adhere to the right to repair, pre-action protocol for possession, succession rights, allocation policy etc open you to legal challenge and fundamentally undermine your service and reputation.
Investing in your teams’ professionalism demonstrates your commitment to your customers and employees. Providing employees with the knowledge, skills and supporting behaviours to be professional gives the message that you value and respect them and your residents.
Investing in training will also improve an organisations performance. The John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership model promotes three mutually dependent elements for success: task, team and individuals. For optimal performance the task needs to be clear, the team cohesive and individuals developed.
CIH has built an apprenticeships programme around the apprenticeship professional standards providing a comprehensive list of knowledge, skills and behaviours which anyone can use to review and develop their team (even if not currently a CIH member).
At Waverley Borough Council we have a commitment that 50% of our c100 housing team are to be professionally qualified by 2023. We are well on the way by supporting individuals with CIH qualifications and NEBOSH. Everyone studying is encouraged to share knowledge and good practice across the service, thus raising knowledge and skills across the whole team. We also encourage professional curiosity and want individuals and teams to ask why, how, when and what if?
To me personally professionalism equates to competence, respect, trust and integrity. I am proud to be a housing professional and to promote professionalism in the sector.