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Welcome to the learning4housing blog. I will be posting my thoughts and opinions on a range of issues facing the social housing sector. You are more than welcome to post your comments, whether you agree or disagree on the points. The aim here is to stimulate some debate on these issues, whether they are about current government policy or about best practice in housing management or strategy.

is an independent training provider for the social housing sector. We cover a wide range of subject areas, including anti-social behaviour, homelessness, resident involvement, void control, choice-based lettings, and complaints management, as well as personal skills development around communication, negotiation, assertiveness, influencing, managing people, etc. Please visit the main website for more information at

Please call David on 07986 246406 to discuss your training needs and how we can help, or email at

Thursday, February 26

New Housing Management Training Programme Announced


Here at learning4housing, we are pleased to announce our Spring/Summer programme of training courses on various aspects of housing management. All courses are suitable for staff members, involved tenants, and board members. The courses will be held at the unique surroundings offered by the National Coal Mining Museum, which is near Wakefield and is easily accessible from the M1 and M62. As an added bonus, all delegates will have free access to the museum and may also have the opportunity to don a hard hat and experience an underground tour of the mine! 

A bit about me… I have over 30 years experience of working in the social housing sector and have been an independent trainer, tutor, and consultant since 2004. I have a passion for training, learning and development of people. All courses use a wide range of approaches, including short presentations, group exercises, open discussions, and games. I strongly believe that learning should be fun and that the key element is engagement with hearts and minds in order secure change.

The courses that have been arranged are:

Wednesday April 15, 2015:     Introduction to Social and Affordable Housing
Wednesday May 6, 2015:        Dealing with Anti-Social Behaviour
Friday May 22, 2015:               Improving your Involvement with Residents
Monday June 15, 2015:           Introduction to Housing Law
Tuesday July 7, 2015:             Skills for Housing Management

Each course stands alone, or can be used as an opportunity to develop knowledge and skills across a range of areas, particularly for new members of staff.
All courses can also be offered on an in-house basis, which can provide a very cost-effective method of meeting your training and development needs. 

Here are the details of the Spring/Summer training programme:


Who? This one-day course is aimed at people who are new to social housing and are either working in a housing role, or within other areas, such as IT, HR, or Finance. The course will also be useful for involved tenants and board members. 

What? The course will provide a broad overview of social housing, including: 
• What is social housing? 
• Why does it exist? 
• Who lives in social housing? 
• How is it paid for? 
• How is social housing regulated? 
• What laws cover social housing? 

When? April 15, 2015. Arrival for tea/coffee & pastries at 09.30. Course starts at 10.00 and ends at 16.00, with one hour for lunch, which is provided. 

Where? National Coal Mining Museum, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Cost? £155.00 per delegate, all inclusive. (Discounts available for multiple delegates, or multiple course bookings) - see below for details


Who? This course is aimed at front-line housing workers, anti-social behaviour specialists, managers, tenants and board members. 

What? The course will examine the new legal framework for dealing with anti-social behaviour, including the new injunctions and other orders that are now available for housing providers to use. We will also consider the range of non-legal tools that can be used, and also a number of practical case studies as examples, as well as examining good practice in case management, taking witness statements etc. 

When? May 6, 2015.   Arrival for tea/coffee & pastries at 09.30. Course starts at 10.00 and ends at 16.00, with one hour for lunch, which is provided. 

 Where? National Coal Mining Museum, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Cost? £155.00 per delegate, all inclusive. (Discounts available for multiple delegates, or multiple course bookings) - see below for details


Who?   This course is aimed at residents involvement specialists, or any front line housing officers whose role includes promoting and developing involvement with their customers.  The course is also suitable for active residents and board members who may wish to gain greater insight into the subject.

What?   The course will consider the different approaches that can be taken to involve service users, including the different levels and methods that can be used. We will also examine the barriers to effective involvement, and ways of promoting involvement from those groups who are traditionally harder to reach. Good practice examples will also be included, together with opportunities to share experiences with people from other providers.

When?   May 22, 2015.  Arrival for tea/coffee & pastries at 09.30. Course starts at 10.00 and ends at 16.00, with one hour for lunch, which is provided. 

Where?    National Coal Mining Museum, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Cost? £155.00 per delegate, all inclusive. (Discounts available for multiple delegates, or multiple course bookings) - see below for details


Who?   This course will be suitable for anyone working in social and affordable housing who requires an overview of the legal framework around housing issues.

What?  We will examine the different kinds of law and some background to the development of housing law. We will also cover the legal framework around tenancy law, disrepair, homelessness and possession claims. The use of case law examples and good practice points will also be included.

When? June 15, 2015 - Arrival for tea/coffee & pastries at 09.30. Course starts at 10.00 and ends at 16.00, with one hour for lunch, which is provided. 

Where?  National Coal Mining Museum, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Cost? £155.00 per delegate, all inclusive. (Discounts available for multiple delegates, or multiple course bookings) - see below for details 


Who?  This course is aimed at anyone who works in the sector who wants to reflect on and develop their personal skills. This would be particularly useful for new members of staff, but also for those who need a refresher.

What?  We will examine the range of skills that are necessary to be an effective housing worker. Closer consideration will be given to issues around effective communication, empathy, active listening, negotiation and assertiveness. There will be opportunities for discussion around the ways we develop these skills and put them into practice in the real world.

When?   July 7, 2015 - Arrival for tea/coffee & pastries at 09.30. Course starts at 10.00 and ends at 16.00, with one hour for lunch, which is provided. 
Where?  National Coal Mining Museum, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Cost? £155.00 per delegate, all inclusive. (Discounts available for multiple delegates, or multiple course bookings) - see below for details 

More on costs of courses:

Single booking for one course:   £155.00 per delegate
Two or more delegates from on organisation on one course:  £145.00 per delegate
Single delegate attending one course:      £155.00
Single delegate attending two courses:     £300.00
Single delegate attending three courses    £450.00
Single delegate attending four courses:     £590.00
Single delegate attending five courses:     £740.00

Further discounts available for two or more delegates attending multiple courses - please contact for details. 

All prices quoted are all-inclusive of refreshments, lunch, course attendance, and handouts. Please also note that there is no VAT payable on these courses.

If you would like to make a booking on any of these courses, or would like more details on course content, please contact David on 07986 246406 or at

Future programmes will include training on: 

• Equality and Diversity in a Social Housing Context 
• Effective Partnership Working for Success 
• Allocations and Lettings – how to develop a successful strategy.

These are likely to form part of our Summer/Autumn training programme. If you have any specific requests for training topics, please call David on 07986 246406 or at 

Terms and conditions:
Send no money on booking - invoices will be send following attendance at each course. Payment terms are 14 days.
Cancellation: Over two weeks notice, 25% fee payable, between one and two weeks notice, 50% fee payable, less than one week, 100% fee payable. Substitute delegates permitted. All course material is subject to copyright law, but may be used with permission and acknowledgement.  The receipt of a booking indicates acceptance of these terms.


Tuesday, November 11

Housing Day 2014

So, today is Housing Day.  But what does it mean and why should this be any different from the many different 'days', 'weeks' and 'years' that are aimed at drawing our attention to a range of worthy subjects? For instance, did you observe the 'International Talk Like a Pirate Day' on September 19? Or the 'Hug a Drummer Day' on October 10th. No? Well, neither did I to be honest. So why should we be celebrating Housing Day today? Well, the short answer is that it matters. Now don't get me wrong, the many aspiring Captain Bluebeards across the land would have clearly been in deep water if they hadn't donned their eye-patch and parrot and Aaarrggghhhed! whenever appropriate or possible last month. And why not hug a drummer? Often the butt of musician's jokes which imply their lack of musical ability and a tendency for drooling. If anyone deserves a hug it's a drummer, and who am I to deny them. Yes, to those who have very specific points of view, a national day is just the ticket. It raises the profile of many good, and some bizarre, causes, and it matters to them. 

Housing on the other hand, matters to everyone. Even if you are happily housed in a warm and secure home, with hot water, central heating, a cat curled up on the rug, and enough bedrooms for everyone in the household (perhaps even a spare for when granny comes to stay), it is likely that you will either know somebody, or be related to somebody, who has a housing problem. Perhaps this is a son or a daughter who should really have flown the nest by now, but is stuck in the family home, which whilst providing the usual creature comforts, does not really promote those feelings of independence and privacy that those of my generation enjoyed at that age. But it might not be too easy for young Jane or John to leave. The cost of housing is rising. Mortgage deposits are high. Private rents are going up. So-called affordable rents are out of reach of many on low or average pay. The shortage of housing at a genuine affordable price, either to buy or to rent, has led to a generation who have been unable to begin their independent lives. And worse than this, the problem of homelessness continues to blight our 'civilized' country. 

Sadly I am old enough to remember the screening of Cathy Come Home in 1966. The plight of Cathy and her young family touched a national nerve at the time. Homelessness shouldn't have been happening in the 'swinging sixties', when the welfare state was still attempting to provide help from 'cradle to grave'. Cathy's story made people angry. Angry that people were being punished for no fault of their own, leading to appalling treatment by officials and bureaucrats who were supposedly responsible for 'helping' people, but were often intent on breaking up families rather than providing genuine assistance. But, surely we have moved on from all that. We are living in 2014 not 1966. Things must be better than they were. The answer to that is yes they are, but perhaps some housing problems are different, whilst some are much the same. Several pieces of legislation have served to improve housing over the years, but yet, despite the advances that have been made, there are still constant reports and articles about the 'housing crisis'. 

So, what is this crisis? There is a crisis around the supply of housing in general, and the supply of genuine affordable housing in particular. Social housing - or housing that has been built with assistance from a meaningful public subsidy to ensure its affordability - is almost a thing of the past. Increasing private sector rent lines the pockets of private landlords with housing benefit, who, due to the lack of adequate regulation, are free to let and evict at will, thus adding to the crisis.

But Housing Day should be about the positives. We all know the problems, so what are the positives about social housing? Really, they shouldn't need stating, but sometimes stating the obvious is necessary. The benefits of good quality housing have often been explained. The benefits to good health, good education and to general wellbeing have all been evidenced many times. The savings to other purses of providing decent housing have also been calculated. And yet, here we are today, still arguing the case.

Going back to basics, a decent home is a right that we should all have. A home that is safe, warm and dry. A home that doesn't require you to have three jobs to enable you to pay for it. A home that should be an achievable aspiration for us all, not just the few who have been lucky enough to inherit. A home that is not blighted by inadequate neighbourhood facilities, such as health services, decent shops, and good schools. A home that is not overcrowded and has space for children to play and flourish, space for older people to relax, and space for families to grow together. I don't think this is too much to ask, given the relative wealth of this country. Wealth that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all contributed towards. And that also goes for many of our immigrant communities. The historical contribution towards the accumulated wealth of this country by many people from abroad should not be ignored. 

There are very strong moral arguments for state intervention in the provision of decent housing for all. Equally, there are strong economic arguments, which seem to hold more sway in today's market-driven society. Social justice is something we should all be striving for, but the plight of the modern-day Cathy's poses some very challenging questions. Let us continue to make our case and to make sure that housing is an important issue in the forthcoming election.

Saturday, November 16

New ASB Legislation...continued.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill is currently being debated within the House of Lords and will soon become law. The Bill contains provisions for changing the legal framework for dealing with anti-social behaviour. New legal orders will be introduced which will replace ASBOs and housing injunctions. New injunctions known as Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNA), will come into force and will be the main tool, apart from possession, which remain in place, for social landlords to use. Whilst there are similarities between the current s153 housing injunctions and the new IPNAs, there are also some key differences as well.

A debate has begun around one of the differences that may arise, depending on whether an amendment is accepted. Currently, those applying for housing injunctions against ASB perpetrators only require evidence on 'the balance of probabilities' that the action has taken place. This is a normal requirement for civil law remedies and has been defined as: "The balance of probability standard means that a court is satisfied an event occurred if the court considers that, on the evidence, the occurrence of the event was more likely than not." In re H (Minors) [1996] AC 563 at 586

One of the amendments to be considered by the House of Lords relates to whether, under the new  legislation, it will be necessary for claimants to prove 'beyond reasonable doubt' that the perpetrator's behaviour was anti-social. This is the evidence standard that is normally required in criminal cases.

There is clearly a need to keep a sharp eye out for this one, as if the burden of proof does change to the criminal 'beyond reasonable doubt' standard, it will certainly make it much more difficult for social landlords to obtain injunctions against those who carry out anti-social behaviour in their areas. When injunctions were first introduced, it provided a valuable alternative tool for dealing with ASB which did not involve possession. If it becomes more difficult to prove ASB in a court, then possession will return as the main remedy for addressing the problem of ASB. Does anyone really want that to happen?

Monday, August 5

Supporting Scrutiny

With tenant-led scrutiny now becoming more established, and some very positive outcomes being reported, one question that I have regularly heard posed is how tenants should be supported in carrying out scrutiny reviews. Support can come from various sources, but is usually provided by officers and/or by an independent advisor. For scrutiny panels to be able to operate without support they need to have skills, experience, resources and confidence to succeed. Providers who set up a scrutiny regime without ensuring that these are in place could be accused of setting tenants up to fail. Whilst there may be some (hopefully very few) providers who would willfully set out to do this, despite having a negative view of scrutiny, I would hope that the majority of social housing organisations would make some positive attempt at making sure scrutiny is a success.

So, can support be provided by a landlord without jeopardising the independence of the scrutiny panel? Clearly, it is a matter of determining how that support will be provided and ensuring that the input is genuine support and not taking over the leadership and responsibility from the panel. Perhaps this is where independent support can be useful. Independent tenant support emerged as a vital aspect of the stock transfer process, providing advice and guidance to tenant groups and information to the wider tenant body, on the often confusing and tortuous route through officialdom and bureaucracy. So, does tenant-led scrutiny also require this input from independent advisors? Well the answer has to come from tenants themselves. Each scrutiny review is different, and it should be up to tenants who are involved in the process to determine whether or not they should have support which is outside the organisation. Clearly, there should be a constructive partnership which emerges, with tenants, officers, and if required, independent supporters, working together towards shared aims around improving services.

What should the support be aimed at? Again, this should depend upon the skills and experience of the tenants involved. It might be support to enable panels to select certain services for review, or assisting in developing a project plan for a review. Support may be needed for locating the source of evidence, or in the drafting or writing a report. The key aim in all the support that is provided should be to build the skills and experience of the tenants who are involved in scrutiny. Those providing support, from without or outside the organisation, should aim to reduce their input as those skills and experiences develop.

Whatever the source and the type of support that is provided, everyone involved should make sure that the overall outputs and outcomes from the review are tenant-led, and are seen to be tenant-led. This can be a challenge in itself, but certainly not beyond the wit and means of all those involved in scrutiny.