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

Continuing to #ShineALight on mental health in housing – CIH president launches a further guide to support the housing sector


Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) president Aileen Evans today launched a new guide to help housing organisations whose tenants and other customers may have mental health problems. The guide, developed with support from the mental health charity Mind and CIH, looks at the approaches that will help organisations as a whole to raise their game.

Aileen has committed to use her presidency to shine a light on mental health in housing. It’s an issue that affects both people who live and work in social housing, and she wants to make sure that housing professionals are part of the solution on mental health, never part of the problem.

Discussing the new guide – which you can download here – Aileen said:

“Sadly, the life experiences that lead to priority for social housing – homelessness, relationship breakdown and the like - can often take a toll in terms of wellbeing. People often come to us in times of crisis. They look to us for a home, and we can’t walk away from our responsibility. We can’t risk failing people from whom everyone else may have already walked away.”

“Housing officers aren’t mental health specialists, and we’re not trying to change that. Our new guide is aimed at raising awareness, and helping staff understand how they can support people to get the help they need. Too often, we do nothing because we’re afraid of doing the wrong thing.”

Having a mental health problem can make it more challenging to maintain a tenancy. The reasons for these difficulties are complex, and problems with money, mental health and housing can sometimes overlap.

The guide emphasises the importance of good communication – using plain language and understanding people’s communication preferences. It includes practical recommendations in three key areas:

• Managing rent arrears

• Communicating effectively with tenants and residents

• Training your staff.

It also includes a quick guide to help individuals and teams reflect on their day to day work at each stage, from pre-tenancy through to moving on.

David Stephenson, senior policy and campaigns officer at Mind said:

“The coronavirus outbreak has particularly affected the mental health of people living in social housing. Mind’s survey during lockdown of over 16,000 people found that those living in social housing were more likely to have poor mental health and to have seen it get worse during the pandemic. That’s why it’s so important that housing providers implement these recommendations to improve support for tenants with mental health problems”.

CIH chief executive, Gavin Smart said:

“Our homes have never been more important to us than they are right now. It’s so important for all individuals and families to have a home they can afford, that they feel safe in, and that they’re supported to keep that home if they are struggling. This new shine a light guide is extremely timely, and highlights just how much housing professionals can learn from each other and from our partners.

“CIH is proud to support shine a light and we urge our members and the wider sector to get involved – raise awareness, raise our game and raise money for Mind and the work it does."

You can find out more about the #ShineALight campaign here and download the new guide here.

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