Our continuing support for social housing staff

Liam Gregson, Member Engagement Officer, Northern Housing Consortium

With austerity swelling social housing’s role as an ‘ambulance service’ for vulnerable groups, it is unsurprising that the mental health problems faced by residents has come increasingly into focus.

Research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has suggested that one in three people living in social housing has a mental health problem and last September the mental health charity Mind published research putting forward even starker findings:

• Newly analysed data from Mind has shown more than two in five (43 per cent) people with mental health problems living in social housing have seen their mental health deteriorate as a result of where they live;
• More than one in seven (15 per cent) experienced stigma from housing officials during the social housing application process;
• More than one in four (27 per cent) had problems with benefits such as universal credit or housing benefits;
• Nearly three in ten (28 per cent) experienced stigma from neighbours or flatmates.

Whilst Mind’s research is based on the relatively small national sample of 2009 people, I’m sure all would agree that providing the necessary support for residents who suffer from mental health problems is no less a priority.

NHC members will be more than aware of their role in striving to support some of the most vulnerable in society. From the threat of homelessness, the challenges posed by Universal Credit, or domestic issues within the home; frontline staff can come into contact with residents under serious strain and it is integral that those staff are best placed to help.

Alongside Mind’s research came a call for social housing providers to do more to ensure staff are “well equipped to support tenants who have mental health problems.” This is a call the NHC has long aimed to respond to.

Last October, alongside our partners HACT, we convened a Mental Health and Housing Conference where delegates heard of the innovative ways in which housing providers were collaborating with health services as well as new research that underlined the role housing can play in delivering recovery outcomes (you can read more about the conference HERE).

In February we began a series of training courses to support our members in addressing the wellbeing challenges they can face in their day-to-day roles. New dates are available on our website and we would be more than happy to also run the course for our members in-house.

With our course: Mental Health and Supporting Residents, we will help frontline staff understand mental illness and how these issues can drive behaviour within residents. By looking at how problems can present themselves, dealing with difficult situations (including within the parameters of the Mental Capacity Act), and personal resilience; the course aims to prepare colleagues to deliver the kind of support that goes beyond traditional customer service.

Organisations will also be aware of their responsibility towards the wellbeing of all colleagues including those whose work can carry an emotional toll. Our course: Managing the Mental Wellbeing of your Team will help managers to look after the mental health of themselves and their team members. By the end of the course delegates will be equipped to have conversations about mental health, have the knowledge to manage potential trigger situations, and know how to start building a resilience that will maximise performance whilst preserving personal wellbeing.

The training is conducted by experienced practitioners in the field of mental health support and coaching. Nicky McGee, a Mental Health Nurse and Crisis Clinician, has supported vulnerable residents in a variety of roles covering welfare advice, personal budgets and sustainable tenancies, and independent living and care. Glynis Osborne, Senior Development Consultant and founder of Thinking Success UK, has a background in psychology and has built a successful career in integrating resilience and communication skills into her role as a performance coach.

Overall the NHC will continue to focus on mental health and engage with members through roundtables and events to continue a dialogue around these challenges and share good practice and learning. Together we can all ensure social housing is both a great sector to work in and a happy place to call home.

Places for Mental Health and Supporting Residents (11th June) and Managing the Mental Wellbeing of your Team (14th June) are available to book via our events page HERE.

All NHC training sessions can be tailored to your needs and delivered in-house. For further information follow this LINK.

Research from Mind cited above can be accesses here: