Housing debate hots up

Trainee social workers may have to study housing legislation
Cathy Cooper reports.

Housing could become an element of the Diploma in Social

The government’s community care steering group is considering
making a basic knowledge of housing issues and legislation
obligatory for social workers, and the Chartered Institute of
Housing may have to include a social work element in its equivalent

Steering group member Alan Haggar, who is also principal adviser
on supported housing for Hampshire social services, said: ‘Social
workers need to be more aware of housing issues.’ This view was
echoed at a conference last week organised by the National
Federation of Housing Associations.

Delegates agreed that while social workers were well informed of
clients’ social care needs, they took little account of their
housing requirements.

Lynn Watson, an independent researcher in housing and community
care, said little information about housing needs could be gleaned
from care management assessments.

Delegates said this was unacceptable. Social services inspector
Linda Goldsmith said: ‘Care management is supposed to assess
people’s needs and housing is a fundamental need.’

Watson called for more information on housing needs to be
included in social services’ assessment forms.

But Haggar said: ‘Social workers don’t go round assessing
housing need, and they’re right not to – it is the housing
department’s job.

‘Rather than look at care management packages, it would be
better to look at complementary systems where there are separate,
but better co-ordinated, assessment processes.’ Everyone agreed the
two sectors should work closer together and that social workers and
housing staff needed to be better informed about their separate
work remits, but how to bring the two professions together was a
more difficult matter.

A survey by the National Federation of Housing Associations (see
box) revealed housing shortages and a lack of accommodation for
vulnerable groups.

Speakers said this was partly due to a shortage of stock and the
lack of priority given to housing when community care legislation
was first being implemented.

Michael Ashley of the Association of District Councils said:
‘The government’s community care task force didn’t include a single
member from housing.’

But delegates said the government was starting to take housing
more seriously.


The NFHA report found social services and housing chiefs in the
13 areas surveyed believed there would be an increase in demand for
residential and nursing home places for the elderly. It also
detected a trend towards more large homes.

And it found differences in the number of people with learning
difficulties living at home, with some areas reporting 70 per cent
living with their families.

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