Social housing managers to need qualifications to 'drive up standards'

Thousands of social housing managers will require qualifications to ‘drive up standards’ after death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak who died in mould-infested flat

  • Awaab Ishak died in 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by black mould
  • Michael Gove had already announced plans to enforce repair time limits
  • He now plans to professionalise the housing sector to help social tenants 

Thousands of social housing managers will be required to study for qualifications as part of a drive to improve standards in 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’.

He said the shift would ‘drive up standards’ across the board after the tragic death of Awaab Ishak in December 2020, and the Grenfell fire disaster in 2017.

Awaab died from a respiratory condition caused by black 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.

Two-year-old Awaab died from a respiratory condition caused by black mould at his home in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, in 2020

New legislation will ensure that social housing bosses have appropriate qualifications, as well as set strict time limits on solving mould and damp (Pictured: black mould in Awaab’s family home in Rochdale)

On top of those reforms, on Sunday Mr Gove 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.

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.

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove announced the qualification plans today in an effort to ‘professionalise’ the sector in the same way as teaching and healthcare

Social housing managers will require qualifications under new rules announced by the Housing Secretary

This latest Bill is another step in response to the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed 72 lives

Read more: Mother shares upsetting footage of her four-year-old son struggling to breathe and covered in sores as she fears he ‘may die’ in ‘black mould-infested flat’ 

‘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.’

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

The fire claimed the lives of at least 72 people, and it was later found cladding on the outside of the building did not meet fire-safety standards. 

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.

Speaking in the wake of Awaab’s death, Mr Gove said: ‘The tragic death of Awaab Ishak should never have happened.

‘He was inexcusably let down and his family repeatedly ignored. I want to pay tribute to Awaab’s family for their tireless fight for justice over the last two years.

‘Today we have announced tough new laws to force social landlords to fix their homes within strict new time limits.

‘Those landlords who continue to drag their feet over dangerous damp and mould will face the full force of the law.

‘Our Social Housing Bill will enshrine tenants’ rights in law and strengthen the Housing Ombudsman and Regulator’s powers so that poor social landlords have nowhere to hide.

‘Awaab’s Law will help to ensure that homes across the country are safe, decent and warm.’

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.’

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