Domestic Abuse
Dr Kelly Henderson
February 15, 2022

Framing the Interface between Regulation and Professionalism in relation to Domestic Abuse 

It is an interesting time in the housing sector with a number of discussions to be had against the backdrop of the changing regulatory landscape.

It is an interesting time in the housing sector with a number of discussions to be had against the backdrop of the changing regulatory landscape. In November 2021, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) set out that it was taking steps to prepare for a new consumer regulation role. It specified this would focus on four key areas:

• Principles and outcomes
• Standards
• Consumer regulation approach
• Tenant satisfaction measures

A year earlier, in November 2020 the Social Housing White Paper detailed ‘We will expect the Regulator of Social Housing to review and amend its regulatory standards to make it clear that landlords should have a policy setting out how they should tackle issues surrounding domestic abuse, working with other agencies as appropriate’.

To date there has not been any detailed information in relation to the expectation laid out in the White Paper in relation to domestic abuse and the regulatory standards. However, the RSH is currently inviting views on the 22 proposed tenant satisfaction measures (TSM) across the five key areas outlined in the White Paper:

• Keeping properties in good repair.
• Maintaining building safety.
• Effective complaints handling.
• Respectful and helpful tenant management.
• Responsible neighbourhood management.

Twelve of them will be measured using a perception survey with the remaining ten via housing providers’ management information. Disappointingly, the TSM consultation document makes no mention domestic abuse as a stand-alone issue, stating ‘we have opted for a definition based on cases of ASB (including cases relating to domestic abuse and/or hate crime).’  

I have argued for some time that housing providers need to see domestic abuse in its’ own right as opposed to a component of ASB. In my research, I asked housing providers where domestic abuse was situated within their own organisation. Almost two thirds (64.9%) of respondents said that their response to domestic abuse was framed within anti-social behaviour. Some respondents indicated that their organisation did not have a separate policy for domestic abuse and that it was part of an ASB policy. Almost a fifth (19.1%) of respondents stated they had not received any training in responding to domestic abuse. 

In responding to the issues highlighted in the Social Housing White Paper, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) introduced Professional Standards for housing staff CIH professional standards - Chartered Institute of Housing saying it wanted housing staff to have the ability to demonstrate their professionalism and dedication to the sector. CIH states that housing professionals must be the change we need to see in the sector, that it is vital that as a sector we have a common purpose celebrating a collective identity as a housing profession.

The standards centre around seven characteristics whereby housing professionals should not only consider their personal professional development needs but also what they can contribute to the professionalism of their own organisation and the sector more widely. CIH expects that commitment to the standards will soon become the expected norm, and something residents will anticipate.

The seven characteristics include:

• Integrity
• Inclusive
• Ethical 
• Knowledgeable
• Skilled
• Advocate
• Leadership

The Social Housing White Paper points out that for most people living in social housing, their experience of their landlords comes in the main from frontline staff either by visiting their local housing office, making contact by phone or via having repairs carried out in their home. It states that when interacting with their landlord, residents should expect and receive a professional service from competent and empathetic staff.

Thinking about the professional standards in terms of domestic abuse, any worthwhile domestic abuse policy needs to detail its approach around how housing professionals recognise and respond to domestic abuse in their daily interactions with residents on issues such as:

• Rent arrears
• Reports of anti-social behaviour (ASB) from neighbours
• Routine and emergency repairs
• Allocations
• Customer survey visits

In considering our response to domestic abuse in our day-to-day duties there is an opportunity to develop learning on domestic abuse and importantly to share good practice across the sector. Housing professionals can consider their response to domestic abuse in relation to the CIH professional standards, making a start by:

• Considering what learning and training do we need personally to understand and respond effectively and our organisations and more widely as a sector.
• Understanding what we can bring to the coordinated community response to domestic abuse, collaborating with the domestic abuse community and importantly listening and learning from survivors.
• What can we do to share good practice to improve the housing sector response to domestic abuse?
• What methodology can we use to measure our response to domestic abuse? 

Using the framework of the CIH Professional Standards in relation to domestic abuse, I urge housing professionals to feedback to the TSM consultation before it closes on 3 March 2022, to speak up, give their thoughts, ideas, and suggested improvements on TSMs or to consider how domestic abuse will be part of regulation – be the change we want to see in the sector.

Consultation on the introduction of tenant satisfaction measures (accessible version) - GOV.UK (

Kelly Henderson