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Consultation on mandatory qualifications for housing managers released – it’s finally here but what do we learn?

In February 2023 Michael Gove announced that mandatory qualifications would be introduced for senior social housing managers and executives. The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 introducing this received royal assent in July 2023 but many questions remained unanswered.

A year later we finally have some more information on what this will look like courtesy of a consultation document and some accompanying draft documentation. The paperwork is long and detailed and beyond the scope of this blog post. With that in mind, we have produced a more detailed briefing paper together with comments as to the application of the consultation can be found here

The purpose of this blog is to look briefly at:

  • What do we learn?
  • Can we affect the final outcome?

What do we learn?

  • The Regulator will be required to set a Standard “relating to the competence and conduct of relevant individuals”.  This will require registered providers to specifically ensure relevant staff have the relevant qualifications as outlined in the Policy Statement (published alongside the consultation document) and more generally to provide a policy of their commitment to upholding these standards and an outline of how they will do that.   
  • Relevant Persons who need Relevant Qualifications are further defined. Senior housing managers and senior housing executives whose substantive role is the delivery of housing management services and have been in post for 6 months (9 months if a probationary period exists) are deemed Relevant Persons who will need the relevant qualifications.  This we knew when the announcement was made 12 months ago.  What we have now are further details as to what those roles involve which will assist registered providers assess which staff need to meet the new Standard.  For example, a senior housing manager “will usually manage the direct delivery of housing management services to tenants…” and a senior housing executive “will usually be Heads of Services and Directors providing strategic direction…”.  The Government notes that all organisations are different and there is no one set management structure hence the guidance as to what these management roles involve and not more prescriptive rules.  More details can be found on the nature of the roles in the briefing note.
  • Service Providers will be in the scope of the Standardthis is a new development but not a necessarily surprising one.  The Standard’s qualification requirement will extend to relevant persons employed by service providers who carry out housing management services on the registered provider’s behalf.  The registered provider will be required to take some responsibility for ensuring that the service providers they engage meet the Standard with regard to the necessary qualifications.
  • Relevant Qualifications must contain certain areas of study.  The requirement of a level 4 qualification for senior housing managers and a level 5 qualification or foundation degree for senior housing executives is confirmed.  However, we now have more detail as to what these qualifications must contain.  To summarise Level 4 must be in housing management and be relevant to delivery of services within social housing.  Level 5 must be housing management and include, as a minimum, areas of study including ethical practices, professional skills etc. We also have clarification on higher levels of qualifications, equivalent qualifications, and apprenticeships. More details are in our briefing note.
  • What does “working towards” mean? The original paper noted that senior housing managers and executives must be working towards the relevant qualification – no further clarification. We now know that working towards this means that a Relevant Person must be enrolled on a relevant qualification and working towards it within 6 months of being identified as a Relevant Person.  There is no precise time frame for qualification although a time frame of two years from enrolment is proposed.  There are the necessary caveats for staff on statutory leave or sick leave. 
  • The transition period is 24 months from the Standard coming into force so April 2027. Registered providers must ensure at least half of all Registered Persons are working towards or have achieved their Relevant Qualification within the first 12 months of the Transition period.  It is extended out to 48 months for providers with fewer than 50 units of stock.
  • How much will it cost and who will pay is something upon which not surprisingly we still lack clarity!  There is no mention of financial assistance for registered providers and the impact assessment alarmingly refers to some costings of £63.6m in nominal terms for the qualification element of the Standard.  It’s not clear whether that includes the cost of covering staff while they are absent gaining necessary qualifications nor does it address how standards will be maintained during these periods of staff absence. 

Can we affect the outcome?

This is a consultation document, and the accompanying documentation is in draft so there is scope for affecting the outcome.

The consultation is now open until 2 April 2024. Here’s the link. The Government is asking for views on all the aspects outlined in this blog so we would advise all registered providers to respond.  Whilst the Standard will be introduced, that is not up for debate and consultation, what it looks like, how it will be introduced, and the relevant definitions can still be changed and tweaked to make the implementation more practically palatable. 

What next?

Tags

housing, qualifications, hr, employment law, consultation, mandatory qualifications