14 Apr 2021

Housing professionals and tenants working together to tackle stigma

Addressing the stigma that many tenants and residents face because of where they live is a big challenge. Following on from the launch in 2020 of our joint guide, our upcoming webinar with See the Person, Tackling stigma: the role for tenants and professionals, will explore how housing professionals and organisations can play their part, by working with tenants to understand how organisations’ culture, systems and professional practices may contribute and how together we can change that, and help to tackle stigma more widely.

CIH’s report Rethinking social housing demonstrated what a valuable the role and purpose social housing has for many individuals, families and wider communities, including: providing secure and affordable homes; enabling people to thrive and prosper; providing a safe place from which they can get involved with local communities; supporting health and wellbeing. However, it also put a spotlight on how some people have experienced stigma for being social housing tenants. The factors that contribute to stigma are many and complex, shown not only in CIH’s report but also in research for See the Person and in the experiences related to them by many tenants as part of their campaign.  Whilst not all are in the scope of housing organisations and professionals to change, there is a lot that can be done to review systems, structures and practices to make sure that these are not reinforcing or contributing to the wider sense of stigma that tenants and residents encounter. That was the motivation behind CIH and See the Person working together to develop It's not okay: a guide to tackling stigma in social housing which looks at key areas within organisations and professional practices that can make a difference, from the design, quality and maintenance of homes, and the management of neighbourhoods, to the culture of organisations and the language and attitudes of those working in the sector at all levels.

Since we launched the guide, further steps have been taken to support action and change across the sector. The government has published its charter for social housing residents, where it proposed a new and reinvigorated role for the regulator championing consumer standards, and performance measures for landlords that are related to the issues that matter to tenants and residents. Whilst not as extensive a theme as it was in the preceding green paper, addressing stigma remains a thread running through the charter, which includes a commitment by government to review professional training and development, looking at the knowledge and skills that are required.

This was a welcome change of focus; CIH had already embarked on a comprehensive review of its standards and has recently launched its new professional standards framework. This is an ambitious framework that embeds the expectation that professionals will both identify and tackle any prejudice or unconscious bias and challenge discrimination and behaviour that stigmatises tenants, as well as being equipped with skills and knowledge to deliver high quality services to tenants and residents and be an advocate for the sector. As well as the focus on professionals and their practice, we have also had conversations with organisations about the work they are doing to review services, the involvement with tenants and examples of how they are using the guide to support that. The webinar offers another opportunity to share what is being done and the lessons we can learn from that to continue to tackle stigma together.

Written by Sarah Davis

Sarah Davis is a senior policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing. She leads on all things ageing, health, care, support, rural housing, tenant engagement, housing strategy and planning. Sarah is a chartered CIH member.