Professionalism

The House of Lords has passed an amendment that will give the Regulator of Social Housing powers to “set regulatory standards on the competence and conduct of all staff delivering services in connection with the management of social housing”.

Social housing providers will have to ensure that all their staff – from neighbourhood housing officers to senior management – have the right skills, experience and knowledge to deliver a high-quality service for residents.

Minister for Housing, Andrew Stephenson, said: “Social housing tenants deserve a high-quality service and to be treated with respect. This Bill marks a revolution in the way we regulate social housing, making sure landlords put things right when they go wrong.

“For the first time there will be a professional standard that social landlords have to meet, along with increased inspections on the biggest providers. This is a vital step as we deliver on our mission to half the number of poor-quality rented homes by 2030 and level up the nation.”

Setting out the amendment in the Lords, Baroness Scott said: “The Government support the professionalisation of the sector. We strongly agree that there is a need to improve the behaviours, skills and capabilities of staff in the sector.

“The amendments give the Secretary of State a power to direct the regulator to set regulatory standards on the competence and conduct of all staff delivering services in connection with the management of social housing.

“A competence and conduct standard will require landlords to ensure that their staff have the skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours they need to deliver professional services.”

Mentioning the Professionalisation Review carried out by government, Baroness Scott said findings would be out shortly but they have influenced the decision to bring forward this amendment.

Expanding further, she said: “Our review has led us to conclude that directing the Regulator of Social Housing to set regulatory standards on staff competence and conduct is the best way to professionalise the sector.

“Our amendments offer a way forward which will drive up professional standards while maintaining landlords’ flexibility to determine the right mix of qualifications, training and development for their staff. Throughout our review we have heard how important flexibility is, given the wide range of organisational structures, operating models and role types which exist in the sector.

“Landlords need to be able to tailor their staff development to meet the particular needs of their tenants, staff and operational circumstances.

“It is important to note that regulatory standards will apply to employees at all levels of seniority. This will ensure that changes happen across organisations and that professionalism is embedded into organisational cultures from top to bottom. That is the real prize here.”

Acknowledging that this will take time due to consultations and draft regulations being agreed with the sector, Baroness Scott said it expects the regulator will use similar tools as set out in its consumer regulation such as planned inspections and reactive engagement.

On the punishment for this, she concluded: “If the regulator finds evidence of a breach of its competence and conduct standards, it will be able to require the provider to produce and implement a performance improvement plan. Failure by the landlord to implement an improvement plan would result in an enforcement notice, which, if breached, would be sanctionable by an unlimited fine.”