G15's response to the consultation on Competence and Conduct Standard for social housing

The Competence and Conduct Standard will require senior managers and executives to have, or be working towards, a relevant professional qualification as part of new social housing regulatory standards.

Given the number of workers potentially falling under its scope, this will be the biggest change to registered provider workforce planning in a generation.

We welcome the opportunity to provide feedback on the standard and the intentions behind these proposals. There is much to be gained from a new focus on professionalisation, particularly in ensuring our people have the right skills and behaviours to carry out their jobs to the best of their ability.

Like the government, we hope that ‘professionalising’ social housing will bolster our reputation as an industry and career choice, helping us to attract talented and committed staff who can deliver better homes and services for residents.

However, in the rush to gain qualifications, we must make sure all the ingredients are in place for us to deliver meaningful improvements for our residents.

In response to the competence and conduct standard consultation, G15 members are asking the government to consider the following recommendations.

We need clearer guidance on which roles should be included. G15 members have reached a wide range of estimates for the number of roles in scope, even accounting for differing organisational sizes and structures. Where member’s estimates are at the upper end, there is a danger that this could limit the ability of teams to provide quality services to residents – the opposite of the Government’s intentions. Based on revised guidance, we may support introducing measures to mitigate the negative impacts of reduced capacity and higher financial costs. For example, by recommending that qualifications are not applied retrospectively or favouring an experienced assessment route.

We ask that the final standard shifts from a one-size-fits-all offer to a more tailored approach. If the sector is about to spend millions on qualifications – it’s essential that they are the right ones. Housing associations are large and complex organisations made up of an array of technical specialisms that fall outside of housing management. We are asking the government to give us greater freedom to deliver professionalisation in a way that ensures everyone gets the right training for their role.

We encourage government to consider whether deterring candidates who don’t have a background in housing is always the correct approach. We need subject matter experts, and experiences counts. However, mandating qualifications could hinder recruitment to senior roles from talent outside of sector, something that is vital for introducing fresh ideas and thinking.

G15 members would also like to share the following takeaways:

We must recruit people who have genuine empathy with our residents and a real affinity to our social purpose. In housing, qualifications are one thing, but attitudes are something else. Respect and emotional intelligence can’t always be taught in a classroom – but they are absolutely fundamental to the job. We want qualifications to be used to ensure staff show care and compassion to residents at all times.

We must avoid the risk of undermining diversity. There is a risk of losing experienced and capable colleagues for whom months or years of studying is not possible. The sector has made progress in recent years in supporting colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds into senior roles and we need to tread carefully to avoid throwing diversity into reverse.

View our full response to the consultation on Competence and Conduct Standard for social housing here