05 Sep 2022
The Better Social Housing review, launched earlier this summer, is today beginning the second phase of its work with a call for views from as many different people and organisations as possible with an interest in social housing in England.
The review’s aim is to address the poor quality of some social housing and the unacceptable conditions some tenants are having to live in. Led by an independent panel, it will assess the physical, cultural, and economic reasons why some social housing is falling short of basic standards for tenants in areas such as maintenance and repairs and the responsiveness of housing providers to their tenants.
The members of the panel leading this review have been meeting with stakeholder organisations since the beginning of August to gather insights and evidence on the issues involved. Over the next two months, they will continue to meet with a wide range of organisations including social housing providers, central and local government, regulators, and charities. They are also setting up a series of face-to-face meetings with tenants and customer-facing housing staff.
Two surveys were launched today and will run until the end of October alongside the stakeholder meetings with one version for tenants and another for all other stakeholders. The findings from these will directly contribute to the report and recommendations for change the panel will make to the government and those who develop and manage social housing by the end of the year. Panel members are particularly keen to hear the experiences of people from minoritised communities who are often disproportionately affected by issues with social housing.
The Better Social Housing Review was set up by The National Housing Federation (NHF) and Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) with the support of a secretariat, but the processes it follows and the recommendations it makes will be fully independent of both organisations.
Helen Baker, chair of the Better Social Housing Review, said: “All social housing should feel like a home, a place for people to feel secure and safe, where they can live well and thrive. But we know this isn’t always the case, and the poor quality of some social housing has very much been in the spotlight recently. This is an opportunity to listen to those who experience the kinds of issues being raised so that we can address them head on. The panel is committed to delivering a thorough review, culminating in practical, workable solutions for a better way forward.”
The independent panel is made up of five experts with diverse experience of social housing in England. They are:
Helen has held many board level leadership roles in the civil society and public sectors across a career spanning social care, housing, health and education. She has chaired organisations ranging from national housing associations to NHS trusts and social care providers, a multi-academy trust and both local and national charities.
Helen has set up and managed a number of charities and began her career as a social worker. She has always had a strong focus on working with those who have been marginalised and disadvantaged – in particular those with disabilities, mental health issues or other long-term health conditions. Board appointments with Government arms-length bodies have included roles with the General Social Care Council, the Commission for the Compact and the National College for School Leadership.
Helen is currently the chair of Shelter and vice chair of The What Works Centre for Wellbeing and is also a deputy lieutenant for Oxfordshire.
Jennifer has been a councillor for Lambeth Council for 12 years and is a landlord and tenant lawyer by profession, specialising in leasehold enfranchisement. She was deputy leader of Lambeth Council, having held cabinet portfolios in Housing, Environment and Children Services. She has direct experience of the issues faced by those who live in social housing and those who are struggling to be housed.
Jennifer led on Lambeth’s Equalities Commission and has a strong commitment to equality and diversity. As well as having run her own law firm she has been a partner for a medium sized London firm of solicitors. She has a particular interest in helping tenants and landlords to understand their rights and obligations.
Leading Lambeth’s housing services, she has direct knowledge of the inner workings of a large housing provider and has seen, first-hand, how good and poor quality housing services impact people’s lives.
She is keen to raise awareness of the plethora of (often complex) housing/ leasehold legislation, as good legislation does not automatically enforce itself.
Sumita is a chartered architect, author and teacher with a passion for the environment, equity and ethics. She came to the UK 30 years ago on a scholarship to the University of Cambridge to study sustainable design, having studied architecture in India. She runs her own sustainability-focussed practice, Ecologic Architects, and is on the board of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Sumita has been teaching architecture for 30 years; and is a published author and popular speaker.
Sumita was on an NHS board for nine years and is passionate about health equity through design. She campaigns on social equity and diversity, setting up Architects for Change, the Equality Forum for architects in 2000, and is a trustee of the Architects Benevolent Society amongst others. Sumita comes from a humble background and has direct experience of the issues faced by people living in social housing and helping many. She is interested in the provision of safe, durable and sustainable housing for all. Sumita received an OBE for services to architecture in 2021.
Neal has lived in rented accommodation for over 30 years, in both private and social housing. He has sat on a number of social housing panels and volunteered as an engaged tenant for 11 years. Neal has been involved in all aspects of engagement, from analysing and improving the operational workings of organisations and contract procurement, to communications systems, policy oversight and staff employment.
Neal has been volunteering with the National Housing Federation (NHF) Tenant Advisory Panel since 2019 on the Together with Tenants Charter, was involved in the Together with Tenants roll out, and continues to volunteer with the NHF to challenge and support what they are doing to strengthen relationships between tenants and landlords. He has worked in managerial positions in a range of industries including retail, wholesale, the motor industry and transport logistics. As a wheelchair user, Neal is passionate about ensuring the voices and experiences of tenants with disabilities and the more vulnerable within society are heard and respected.
Tom is a commissioning officer working in Children’s Services for Manchester City Council. He has spent the last three years commissioning and leading on the procurement of accommodation and support services for care experienced children and young people, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. This year, he was awarded the Council’s ‘Rising Star’ award in recognition of his commissioning work, which focused on expanding partnerships with charitable/non-profit organisations.
Tom also works closely with the Leaving Care Service in Manchester, which supports over 100 care experienced young people who leave care each year. Moreover, he has helped to roll out Manchester’s House Project, which has developed into the Greater Manchester House Project Collaborative across 7 Greater Manchester authorities and aims to better support care experienced young people moving into their first tenancy. Tom works closely with young people, their key workers, and providers to ensure Manchester develops the right accommodation at the right time to meet the presenting needs. In Tom's current role for Manchester City Council, he commissions and procures a variety of accommodation models delivered through a range of providers, including housing associations.
Tom is also a youth justice volunteer with Trafford Borough Council.