A tweet from Boris Worrall this week made me think about social landlords role in situations that used to picked up by ever-shrinking support services, and how this will work as housing providers continue to be pushed towards more commercial objectives. Boris tweeted about an elderly tenant who couldn’t cope with her home, so they, as a social landlord, stepped in to help. This is so common and is becoming more so. I had the same situation just last week.
As a sector, we experience many aspects of human life, and it’s not always pretty. Sometimes it dark, tragic and deviant. I think it is important to be reminded of this when we are talking about the future of the sector, because these things will become more and more prevalent in society if we lose a grip on our social purpose.
With huge cuts to services such as supporting people funding, social services and mental health teams, is it our responsibility to fill these gaps? And are we putting ourselves as individuals more at risk, knowing that the support from these other agencies has been greatly reduced?
In housing, frontline staff (I’m mostly going to refer to Housing Officers, but that does not mean that this is exclusive to that role) go into situations, often alone, that puts them at risk. We have to. It’s our job. But many of us do it because we want to help people. We do it because sometimes there is no one else.
My worry is that the risk will get higher and our ability to step in or signpost those people that genuinely need help will reduce.
The reduction in capacity of support services and the increased commercialisation of social housing providers could result in an expanding crevice of not only poverty but of despair. Those people that social landlords do not have the skills to fully deal with but that don’t meet the increasingly stricter qualifying criteria for specialist help. It’s those people that disengage with services that services don’t have the capacity or the resources to chase them. Not only that, but those that want help but just aren’t in high enough need. And this doesn’t just apply to mental health but to homelessness, and other problems in our society.
It’s a crevice that few want to go near – the ‘no mans land’ hole between social housing providers and support services. Those that do try to bridge it from either side, will find it increasingly difficult as it inevitably grows wider.
I worry that what were prevented situations when times were good and services were funded, will become the preventable tragedies in the future. And the increased risk element is only a tiny fraction of the bigger issue here.