'We must refuse to accept it is ok for someone not to have a home.'
CIH Scotland chair, Esther Wilson, issues a rallying cry to housing organisations to share best practice and showcase the difference they make to so many people's lives.
It’s a crucial time for social housing. The tragedy at Grenfell has thrust social housing into the spotlight and the incremental implementation of welfare reform masks the cumulative and severe cuts to social security. At our Housing Festival earlier this year, Alastair Campbell reflected that we must refuse to accept the normalisation of the unacceptable – for me, put bluntly, that is refusing to accept that it is okay for someone not to have home.
In my 19 years in housing, our sector has never been as high up the political agenda as it is today and in Scotland, we do have signs of an approach that recognises the value of housing – a commitment to eradicate rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation, and a commitment to funding 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 for social rent by 2021 – amongst other things.
We are faced with constant, fast paced changes, both foreseen and unforeseen (BREXIT!), to our internal and external environment. The question for the sector is how can we make sure our work continues to be relevant and responsive to peoples’ housing needs? It is vital that we, as a sector, continue to challenge what we do and how we do it and to be bold in the changes we make, whether that’s in the development work we undertake, the services we offer, our policies or our practice.
Across social housing, professionals are doing great work every day and it disappoints me when our work is misrepresented in the media. You only need to look at the recent regeneration of Fernhill in South Lanarkshire with new and refurbished housing stock which reflects the needs of the people who live there, talk to care leavers in Dumfries who are housed in specialist supported homes which prepare them to live independently, or speak to young people in Falkirk about how housing led employability initiatives are helping them reach their potential to see the positive difference that we make every day.
What has been crucial in this has been the role of social landlords to genuinely engage with and listen to tenants, with local groups influencing decisions on rent as well as directing decisions on repairs and housing quality.
I’m confident that we will continue to honestly appraise our own activities. Scotland is a small country and we can all learn from each other so that we can continue the good work with our tenants and communities to deliver great services that make a difference. That means we need to get even better about telling everyone about the incredible things we all do every day.
My call to the sector is to keep doing what you are doing; keep building homes, keep innovating, keep delivering great services, keep working with your communities and crucially, keep challenging yourself. But let us know so we can share your great work.
We are your membership body, we are here to make you the best housing professional you can possibly be and every one of you is changing the lives of people across Scotland every day. The solutions to Scotland’s housing crisis will only come through the persistence and energy from our sector. It is up to all of us to keep housing at the top of everyone’s agenda.
Esther Wilson is the chair of CIH Scotland.