Black’s Blog: Back to housing school?

Black’s Blog: Back to housing school?

Jimmy Black ponders mandatory housing education.

I support the idea of professional education, but I can’t claim to have had much. I have no housing qualifications at all, although I did teach welfare rights on the housing courses in Stirling and Heriot-Watt. My impression is that nowadays, I would get nowhere near any of my previous jobs in public relations and campaigning without relevant professional qualifications.

As our guests from SHARE and CIH Scotland told us in our Back to School feature, many people come into housing from other disciplines. Some come in through the trades, and work their way into management. Customer service assistants may have come from retail or local government, or the NHS. Accountants may find themselves grappling with the weird world of housing finance, then going on to lead RSLs. IT and Comms jobs will attract people with no background in housing.

Potentially the only people working for social landlords who have a truly informed, and visceral understanding of housing are the housing officers themselves, and people who have been on the front line before climbing up the management structure. Here’s where professional education can help at every level, whether it’s training in the causes and cures for dampness or some kind of sociological investigation of the relationship between poverty and housing.

It behoves everyone working for a social landlord to understand the ethos of social housing and how that applies to the work they do. As I’ve said before, we’re not there to administer social housing to the poor, because that attitude just gives us an excuse for low standards. We can’t use poverty and deprivation as our justification for delivering poor outcomes.

Looking at the fourteen jobs advertised on one randomly chosen day in Scottish Housing News, five either required or desired a housing qualification. Unsurprisingly, they were all ‘housing’ jobs. Others required accountancy or membership of other professional bodies. My hope is that when people come into the sector, they see the advantage of looking beyond their own function and find their way onto training courses and higher level housing studies which will build a complete understanding of the work of RSLs. I also hope that bosses are supportive.

Our other guest in Back to School was Evie Copland, an enthusiastic participant in CIH Scotland who we profiled in our Housing Champions feature. I liked what she said here… “I think part of it for me is about time out, reflective work, working on ourselves as advocates or leaders on behalf of the people we are serving across communities in Scotland.”

So, do I think that mandatory qualifications are required for housing professionals? Well, no, because I don’t think we want the government micro managing our recruitment. But should RSLs insist on all their staff pursuing relevant professional qualifications? Yes, absolutely. Because working in any aspect of social housing is much more than just a job, and you need to know what you’re doing.

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