The consensus among both healthcare professionals and social housing providers is that a relationship between the two is fragmented at best. For social housing providers, there’s a lack of responsibility in caring for tenants, and so training for frontline staff on how to spot, detect and report signs of abuse is almost non-existent. For healthcare professionals, there’s a lack of understanding of how to engage with social housing providers and build a closer relationship.
Having both services better connected with one another would help social housing become more efficient in tackling any potential issues their tenants may be facing, and help improve the wellbeing of social housing tenants, many of which are particularly vulnerable.
Community Care has identified several matters that hamper the relationship between social care and social housing. A lack of training and therefore understanding of how to safeguard against any discovered issues is one major factor. Housing staff may have a lack of confidence in their judgement and may fear that they are over-reacting when considering filing a report.
Any reports that are submitted may still not be dealt with appropriately, as social care providers may struggle to understand reports that haven’t properly been defined based upon social care guidelines. This confusion again highlights a lack of information housing staff have when writing reports, which leads to inadequate results. A sharing of information between both sides could improve by inviting one another to strategy meetings, so there’s a greater understanding in the way in which the other party conduct themselves.
There’s also a suggestion in Community Care’s article that there is a negative attitude from social care providers towards housing staff, so reports aren’t treated seriously. This rejection again highlights a weak relationship between both parties and a need for more inclusiveness.
A roundtable session was recently held by Inside Housing which involved both leaders in the healthcare and social housing industries. While a broader discussion than the relationship between social housing and social care, some of the discussion suggests a wider issue.
Nicola Theron, local area director for London Community Health Partnerships, suggests housing “is an unknown territory for us in many ways from an NHS perspective; we don’t in general know a lot about how it works, how to get conversations going and who to approach in most organisations”. This revelation is interesting, because it suggests the exact opposite of what Community Care found, and that it is, in fact, the health sector that doesn’t understand social housing, and not the other way round.
To reaffirm Community Care’s suggestion that the health sector doesn’t place enough value on social housing, amongst the discussion Mark Gardner, chief executive of Melin Homes, suggests the issue the health sector is having is that the location people live in isn’t on the agenda for strategies. Gwyn Owen, housing and public sector land project lead at Essex County Council reaffirms this point, arguing that there needs to be a shift in focus from cost-saving towards ensuring housing conditions are improved, as to avoid potential health hazards.
Bruce Moore, chief executive of Housing and Care 21, is more confident at least of social care’s relationship with social housing. He suggests that relationships are developing on a local level and that social housing and social care are more easily connected, although he does admit that there is still a lot of work to be done on a national level.
The key takeaway from both the roundtable discussion and Community Care’s argument is that communication channels are essential to improving the relationship between both parties. If both sides can gain a better understanding of each other’s industries, then there will be more closely aligned strategies going forward.