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Mandatory professional qualifications required for social housing managers

The last days of February bought a rather shocking announcement for the sector; an amendment to the Social Housing (Regulations) Bill which will make professional qualifications mandatory for social housing managers. The information is relatively sparse at the moment, but here’s what we know:

Who will it apply to?

The Government announced it would affect 25,000 managers across the sector. It would appear, however, from the wording of the draft amendment that the managers are those in relatively senior positions.

A relevant manager must be a senior housing executive or a senior housing manager (Amendment 13 (4) (a) and (b)).

A senior housing executive is an employee or officer of the registered provider; has the responsibility for the day-to-day management of the provision of services in connection with the management of social housing by the provider and is part of the provider’s senior management. 

A senior housing manager is an employee who is a senior housing and property manager as determined by reference to the description of the occupation of senior housing and property management published by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IATE).   

This last description of senior housing manager covers a wide range of roles. It can include roles such as a neighbourhood housing manager, supported housing manager etc. IATE refer to it as 'managing housing or property related services, leading a team and taking responsibility for the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of their business area'.

What qualifications will be needed?

A senior housing executive would need to have (or be working towards) a foundation degree from the Chartered Institute of Housing or a Level 5 diploma in housing.

A senior housing manager would need to have (or be working towards) a Level 4 certificate in housing.

What is the time frame?

The Bill (introduced in June 2022) has already been through the House of Lords (it started there as was sponsored by a peer) and is at its final reading stage in the House of Commons. So, while these amendments are rather last-minute changes, they are part of the thrust of the Bill to drive up standards in the housing sector. We do not know how the changes will be introduced and whether we will receive draft regulations for consultation. Importantly, neither do we know what the transition period will be and whether it will have a retrospective effect. Given that a level 4 qualification takes between 18-24 months to complete (according to the IATE website) we would hope this transition period would take account of this. We understand that the Government is due to consult the sector and qualification bodies about the transition period. 

What should we do?

Given what we do and don’t know, we would advise that you embark on an audit of staff to discover the following:

  • Those who will come under the definition of a senior housing manager or senior housing executive.
  • What qualifications those employees currently have.
  • Identify any gaps which would mean they do not meet the proposed professional qualifications relevant for their roles.
  • Initiate planning as to what it would look like financially and operationally to train the relevant people.
  • Address current recruitment practices; what qualifications are currently required for these specified roles and what impact on recruitment pools would it have to change the required qualifications. Bearing in mind the managers must be 'working towards' the qualifications, applicants could be recruited without the qualification provided they would be 'working towards' the qualification once employed.

One issue that has not been addressed is age discrimination. Could there be potential age discrimination arguments if staff are dismissed for not having the relevant qualifications because they are 'too old' to have obtained the qualification? It is a situation not dissimilar to the O Level/GCSE requirements. The amendment refers to 'a qualification or type of qualification…which is of a level not exceeding level 4'. This does give room for alternatives to be taken into consideration to avoid any potential age discrimination. Of course, age discrimination both direct and indirect can be objectively justified although the tests are slightly different. But that is a whole complex topic and whilst we don’t want to linger too long on it in this article, it may be something to address in more detail once we have more flesh on the bones of these changes. 

As we finish this blog it is rather disappointing not to have more information to give – we don’t know whether funding will be provided for providers to train staff – we imagine not! We don’t know whether those individuals in relevant jobs but without the necessary qualifications could be fairly dismissed if they fail to obtain their qualification. Without any retrospective impact, it is difficult to envisage how the sector could improve its standards in alignment with the spirit of Bill. We will, however, keep you informed through these blogs and our ebriefings once more information emerges. 

“Social housing managers must gain professional qualifications under new rules to protect residents and raise standards in the sector”

Tags

discrimination, education, employment, employment and pensions, housing, pensions, tribunal claims, tupe