Housing and social care can achieve a lot together but when it comes to funding the sectors have to compete, new Chartered Institute of Housing president Janet Hale tells Simeon Brody
Janet Hale is keen to impress upon the social care world the important contribution housing can make.
It may have been given scant coverage in the Children Act 2004, despite the key role housing plays in children’s lives, and last year’s social care green paper – although this was corrected to some extent in the health and social care white paper – but Hale believes social care and housing are closely linked.
“We want to be able to build and sustain communities. We can’t do that on our own, but no other profession can do it on its own either,” she says.
One area where housing and social care may need to find some common ground is antisocial behaviour, where housing has been seen as taking a more hardline approach.
Last year, the Social Landlords Crime and Nuisance Group accused social workers of failing to embrace the new agenda of “tackling, not tolerating” antisocial behaviour (‘Social workers fail to tackle nuisance’). But Hale, who works with the organisation, denies that housing professionals think social workers are soft on antisocial behaviour.
She says the group supports mediation and diversionary activities, but she admits it achieves most publicity with “statements on the punitive end of the spectrum”. She emphasises that antisocial behaviour covers a wide range of activity, and “you have to step up your action” if someone persistently causes a severe nuisance.
The Supporting People programme is another obvious area of convergence between housing and social care. Ministers are working on a new strategy for the programme, while the civil servant in charge of it, Jane Everton, told the institute’s conference last month the government was keen to look at how Supporting People could be put on a statutory footing (Ministers ponder ways to bolster Supporting People with legislation).
Hale says, however, that the programme can be difficult for housing providers to work with and the strategy must look at “simplification and increased consistency”.
And because the national Supporting People budget has been frozen for several years and faced a £30m cut last year (Supporting People loses further funding), she says staff employed to provide services funded by the programme are paid less than other workers by some organisations.
“When you’re trying to value your staff, that’s very difficult to deal with,” she points out.
If any more money is to be found for Supporting People, it will have to be negotiated in next year’s comprehensive spending review. And ahead of the review the institute is being very proactive in “making the case for housing” – the title of a campaign it launched at the conference.
Hale says: “Housing impacts on other areas, like education, health and employment. As you invest in housing, you invest in them.”
But despite its impact on other areas, Hale says housing will still have to “fight its corner” to avoid losing out to more popular issues such as health and education, in what is likely to be one of the tightest spending reviews in recent years.
Hale also admits that “inevitably” it will be competing against social care. “It’s a shame we can’t make a combined case,” she adds.
The president and the institute
Janet Hale is a director of housing and regeneration consultancy RDHS and has worked in housing for 25 years. She was elected president of the institute last month.
The institute is the professional body for people who work in housing in the UK and has 19,000 members, including housing officers, directors of housing and tenant participation officers.
The organisation has its roots in the Association of Women Housing Workers, formed in 1916, and has 2,200 members from Asia Pacific, mainly Hong Kong, because the former colony organised its housing along similar lines to the UK.