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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

CIH response to the COVID-19 pandemic - building a sustainable future


This outbreak and the associated social and economic shut-down have hit every sector hard. CIH has been no exception to that, as chief executive Gavin Smart explains. Just as we had regained our financial sustainability, we are today facing unprecedented challenges to our income and our ways of working.

Never before have the people and communities we serve needed housing professionals more. What we provide - a safe, secure place to live, and now, for many of us, to work – is at the heart of a happy and healthy life. Now more than ever, home really is where we start from. At CIH we are focussed on ensuring that we take the necessary steps now so that we are well placed to support the housing profession in this critical work now and in the future.

This outbreak will end, but we need to change how we work for a while: there are things we need to pause or stop doing, and many things we need to do differently. And there are some things we need to do that we haven’t done before.

Some of these changes reflect the restrictions the government has put in place to stop the spread of infection, while others are to allow us to continue running our operations while protecting all of us and keeping CIH on the best possible financial footing for the future.

Sadly, alongside various other cost savings and efficiency measures this has meant asking some of our colleagues to agree to take a period of furlough leave. By being willing to agree to furloughing, these colleagues have allowed us to take a big step towards helping CIH to manage our way through this really challenging period.

For those of us not taking furlough leave, our challenge is to ensure that we work as well as we know our furloughed colleagues would have done to keep CIH in as good a shape as possible, so we are well placed to resume the full range of our work just as soon as circumstances allow.

At the same time as taking these difficult but necessary measures we’ve been acutely aware that our members and the whole sector should be able to expect support from their professional body and we’ve worked to provide factsheets and good practice guides, to move more of our training online and to set up webinars, video calls and twitter-chats to do just that.

We also recognise we can’t do everything ourselves so we are partnering with others to help fulfil our role, for instance with the Institute of Leadership and Management to deliver daily webinars on a vast range of issues and working with organisations from across the housing sector to bring clarity to issues such as compliance that are affecting housing professionals, the organisations they work for and the communities they serve. We also continue to work with Mind to promote our Shine a Light campaign to promote mental wellbeing and with Women’s Aid to remind the sector of the pledges they made as part of our Make a Stand campaign against domestic abuse. Both are issues that have been brought into sharp relief by the current crisis and where there is a clear challenge to us to play a role in helping the profession respond.

We are focussing our policy and good practice work on keeping housing at the heart of government agendas across the UK, both now and also in the future wen many of the current challenges we face will remain and, in some cases, will have become even more acute.

These are exceptionally trying times. We all face huge challenges, but as I said in my Inside Housing column last week, if we maintain our professionalism, I know we’ll all come through not just intact, but strengthened and with the renewed trust of the people and communities we serve.

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