The long awaited social housing white paper—The Charter for Social Housing Residents—(“the Charter”) was published yesterday (17 November 2020). This white paper sets out reforms under seven key chapters which all aim to improve services to tenants and give them a stronger voice. We summarise the sixth chapter, and what this means for landlords below.

Chapter 6: To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in

  • Reviewing the Decent Homes Standard to consider if it should be updated, including how it can better support the decarbonisation and energy efficiency of social homes, and improve communal and green spaces.
  • Continuing to engage with the latest evidence on the impact of housing conditions on health, including COVID-19 transmission, and actively consider options to mitigate these impacts.
  • Reviewing professionalisation to consider how well housing staff are equipped to work with people with mental health needs and encourage best practice for landlords working with those with mental health needs.
  • Clarifying the roles of agencies involved in tackling anti-social behaviour and signpost tenants to those agencies who can give them the most appropriate support and assistance when faced with anti-social behaviour.
  • Considering the results of the allocations evidence collection exercise findings to ensure that housing is allocated in the fairest way possible and achieves the best outcomes for local places and communities.

This chapter highlights the seemingly ever growing challenge of frontline housing professionals working with and identifying people living with mental health conditions. The Government is committed to expanding access to mental health services through the NHS Long Term Plan. Investment of at least a further £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24 will ensure that the NHS provides high quality, evidence-based mental health services to an additional 2 million people.

Often one of the barriers that housing professionals face is being able to refer tenants suffering with a mental health issue to mental health services, as the service is often under resourced. This white paper recognises some of these issues, and hopefully will address them.

It’s clear that there is an expectation for front line professionals to have an awareness of mental health issues and vulnerabilities, and landlords will need to equip them with the tools in order to manage these complex situations. It’s highly likely that investment in training will be a priority.

Tackling ASB is clearly set out within the white paper, and a recognition that tenants should be given information about which agency is responsible for dealing with issues within their community. It makes reference to the ASB, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and the use of Community Triggers whereby tenants can request a case review.

Government will continue to work with sector experts and trade bodies to refine how landlords tackle ASB, including the increased issues around county lines and cuckooing. This will be in conjunctions with the review of tenant satisfaction measures. It’s highly likely that tackling ASB will be a key feature of any desktop review or proactive inspection from the regulator.

Tackling domestic abuse and reviewing the consumer standards to include that all housing providers have a domestic abuse policy is also clearly highlighted within the Charter. Many landlords have signed up to the Make a Stand pledge and/or going through DAHA (Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance) Accreditation. Making it a regulatory commitment to ensure that all landlords have a domestic abuse policy is a testament to the various individuals and organisations campaigning to tackle domestic abuse, which will no doubt support many victims and survivors in the future.

Other highlights from the white paper

We’ve taken a look at the various proposals under the seven chapters, and have highlighted some particular areas of interest for landlords, which are available below:

Register for our upcoming webinar

We wait with interest for the new consumer standards, but in the meantime we will be holding a webinar to discuss the white paper and what it means for registered providers on 1 December 2020Learn more and register here.