Frontline housing professionals believe they will need to work more closely with residents and more creatively in the future according to new research.
The Frontline Futures study found that people who work in social housing think doing things with residents, rather than doing things to or for them, is the way forward, and also that following set procedures should become less important because it is not the most effective way of getting the best results.
The UK-wide research, commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and Wheatley Group, will be launched on Wednesday 25 June at Housing 2014, CIH’s annual conference and exhibition in Manchester. De Montfort University’s Centre for Comparative Housing Research (CCHR) carried out the study, which saw 1,054 housing professionals and tenants responding to online surveys.
As reported in the interim findings in March, welfare reform, lack of housing supply and the increasing gap between income and housing costs are having the biggest impact on frontline housing roles. Many people who live in social housing need increasing levels of support, and in many cases housing professionals are expected to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of other services.
Dr Jo Richardson of CCHR said: “There are many positive stories of organisations adapting to the new circumstances their customers find themselves in. However, it is important to recognise that ‘crisis’ can now be a daily part of frontline workers’ lives and this has a significant emotional impact on them. Resilience is a word that emerged time and again as being important in the future.”
The research found that frontline workers want their employers to provide education and training, but also wellbeing support to help them cope with fear, distress and suicide threats from tenants under increasing pressure.
It also found that housing professionals expect being commercially-minded to become increasingly important in the future, with the most effective frontline workers having a social heart and a commercial head. Working with professionals from other areas, such as care and support, is expected to become increasingly critical too.
In housing education, the study found that housing employers are increasingly demanding more flexible and bespoke courses, while professionals feel that more needs to be done to promote the value of housing education and of housing as a career.
CIH director of membership and education Judy Waugh said: “This report is a timely reminder of just how valuable frontline housing workers are – they are changing and in some cases saving lives. But they are also under huge pressure from welfare reform and the housing crisis, and the diverse range of skills they need to master is changing along with customers’ expectations.
“For CIH, this research gives us invaluable evidence on what we must do to make sure that our support, qualifications and education are fit for the future. It also throws up a range of challenges. What can we do to showcase the enormous value of people who live and work in social housing? How can we promote careers in housing more effectively? And how can we help housing professionals connect with their counterparts in health and social care? We are determined to tackle these challenges head on.”
Martin Armstrong, chief executive of Wheatley Group, said: “This important research confirms and outlines what today’s housing providers and frontline professionals must do to match and exceed customers’ needs and expectations.
“The remit of today’s housing professionals is wider, deeper and more challenging than it has ever been, with staff tasked to add greater value to individuals, families and communities. Housing and care groups throughout the UK, such as Wheatley, are rising daily to this challenge.”
Frontline Futures will be discussed at Housing 2014 on Tuesday 24 June in The housing workforce: transforming or floundering? It will be launched on Wednesday 25 June at the CIH stand (E32). Copies will be available on the stand and on www.cih.org