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Social Housing Standards

Volume 825: debated on Wednesday 16 November 2022


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in the other place earlier today by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, Members across the House and people across the country will have been horrified to hear about the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Awaab Ishak. Awaab died in December 2020, just days after his second birthday, following prolonged exposure to mould in his parents’ one-bedroom flat in Rochdale. Awaab’s parents had repeatedly raised their concerns about the desperate state of their home with their landlord, the local housing association, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. Awaab’s father first articulated his concerns in 2017, and others, including health professionals, also raised the alarm, but the landlord failed to take any kind of meaningful action. Rochdale Boroughwide Housing’s repeated failure to heed Awaab’s family’s pleas to remove the mould in their damp-ridden property was a terrible dereliction of duty.

Worse still, the apparent attempts by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing to attribute the existence of mould to the actions of Awaab’s parents was beyond insensitive and deeply unprofessional. As the Housing Ombudsman has made clear, damp and mould in rented housing is not a lifestyle issue, and we all have a duty to call out any behaviour rooted in ignorance or prejudice. The family’s lawyers have also made clear their view that the inaction of the landlord was rooted in racism and cultural prejudice.

The coroner who investigated Awaab’s death, Joanne Kearsley, has performed a vital public service in laying out all the facts behind this tragedy, and I wish to record my gratitude to her. As she said, it is scarcely believable that a child could die from mould in 21st-century Britain, or that his parents should have to fight tooth and nail, as they did in vain, to save him. I am sure the whole House will join me in paying tribute to Awaab’s family for their tireless fight for justice over the last two years. They deserved better and their son deserved better.

As so many have rightly concluded, Awaab’s case has thrown into sharp relief the need for renewed action to ensure that every landlord in the country makes certain that their tenants are housed in decent homes and are treated with dignity and fairness. That is why we are bringing forward further reforms. Last week, the House debated Second Reading of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill. The measures in that Bill were inspired by the experience of tenants that led to the terrible tragedy of the Grenfell fire. The way in which tenants’ voices were ignored and their interests neglected in the Grenfell tragedy is a constant spur to action for me in this role.

However, before I say more on the substance of those reforms, I would first like to update the House on the immediate steps that my department is taking with regard to Awaab’s death. First, as the excellent public service journalism of the Manchester Evening News shows, we are aware that Awaab’s family was not alone in raising serious issues with the condition of homes managed by the local housing association. I have already been in touch with the chair and the chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing to demand answers and that they explain to me why a tragedy such as Awaab’s case was ever allowed to happen, and to hear what steps they are undertaking immediately to improve the living conditions of tenants, for which they are responsible.

I have also been in touch with the honourable Member for Rochdale, who has been a powerful champion for his constituents, and will be speaking shortly to the honourable Member for Heywood and Middleton to discuss finding suitable accommodation for tenants in Rochdale who are still enduring unacceptable conditions. I also hope to meet Awaab’s family, and those who live in the Freehold estate, so that they know that my department is there to support them. It is right that the Regulator of Social Housing is considering whether this landlord has systematically failed to meet the standards of service it is required to provide for its tenants. It has my full support in taking whatever action it deems necessary. Finally, I know the coroner has said she will write to me, and I assure the House that I will act immediately on her recommendations.

Turning to the broader urgent issues this tragedy raises, let me be perfectly clear, since some landlords apparently still need to hear this: every single person in this country, irrespective of where they are from, what they do or how much money they earn, deserves to live in a home that is decent, safe and secure. That is the relentless focus of my department. Since the publication of our social housing White Paper, we have sought to raise the bar dramatically on the quality of social housing, while empowering tenants so that their voices are truly heard. We started by strengthening the Housing Ombudsman service so that all residents have somewhere to turn when they are not getting the answers they need from their landlords. In addition, we have changed the law so that residents can now complain directly to the ombudsman, instead of having to wait eight weeks while their case is handled by a local MP or another ‘designated person’.

One of the principal roles of the Housing Ombudsman service is to ensure that robust complaint processes are put in place, so problems are resolved as soon as they are flagged. It can order landlords to pay compensation to residents whom they have mistreated. It can also refer cases to the regulator of social housing, who will in future be able to issue unlimited fines to landlords they find to be at fault. All decisions made by the ombudsman are published in the public domain, for the whole world to see which landlords are consistently letting their tenants down.

It is clear from Awaab’s case, which did not go before the ombudsman, that more needs to be done to ensure that this vital service is better promoted and reaches those who really need it. We have already run the nationwide Make Things Right campaign to ensure that more social housing residents know how they can make complaints and easily access the Housing Ombudsman service when things are too slow. We are now planning another targeted multi-year campaign so that everyone living in the social housing sector knows their rights, knows how to sound the alarm when their landlord is failing to make the grade, and knows how to seek redress without delay.

Where some social housing providers have performed poorly in the past, they have been given ample opportunity to change their ways and to start treating their residents with the respect they deserve. The time for empty promises of improvement is over, and my department is now naming and shaming those who have been found by the regulator to have breached consumer standards, or who have been found by the ombudsman to have committed severe maladministration.

While there is no doubt that this property fell below the standard that we expect social landlords to meet, Awaab’s death makes it painfully clear why we must do everything we can to better protect tenants. Our Social Housing (Regulation) Bill will bring in a rigorous new regime that holds landlords such as these to account for the decency of their homes and the services they provide. At the moment, the system is too reliant on people fighting their own corner, and we are determined to change that. The reforms we are making through the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill will help to relieve the burden on tenants with an emboldened and more powerful regulator. The Regulator of Social Housing will proactively inspect landlords and will have power to issue unlimited fines. It will be able to intervene in those cases where tenants’ lives are being put at risk because landlords are dragging their feet in actioning repairs. In the very worst cases, it will have the power to instruct that properties are brought under new management.

Landlords will be judged against tenant satisfaction measures, allowing tenants and all of us to see transparently which landlords are failing to deliver what residents expect and deserve. The right of everyone to feel safe in the place that they and their loved ones sleep at night is universal. That is why both our levelling-up and private rented sector White Papers set out how we will legislate to introduce a legally binding decent homes standard in the private rented sector for the first time. We recently consulted on that and are reviewing the responses so we can move forward. It is a key plank of our ambitious mission to halve the number of non-decent homes across all rented tenures by 2030, with the biggest improvements in the lowest-performing areas.

Through the legislation we are bringing forward, we hope no family ever has to suffer in the way that Awaab’s family has suffered. We will end the scandal of residents having to live in shoddy, substandard homes, such as some on the Freehold estate. We will restore the right of everyone in this country, whatever their race or cultural background, to live somewhere warm, decent, safe and secure—a place that they can be proud to call home. I commend this Statement to the House.”

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement from the other place. I am sure we all agree with Secretary of State Michael Gove that Awaab Ishak’s death, after months of living in a mouldy home, is an unacceptable tragedy, so we support the Government in bringing forward legislation to ensure that housing associations responsible for social housing are held to account. Yet I also draw attention to the Housing Ombudsman, who has recently drawn attention to “a dramatic increase” in cases of damp and mould. Last month, it issued a special report on Clarion Housing in which it says:

“The landlord’s approach was often inconsistent, which seriously impacted residents. It did not have a sufficiently robust and detailed policy in place, and the policy aims that it did have were not met in practice.”

It says that recurring themes included

“a failure to accurately diagnose the cause of damp within a reasonable timeframe, poor communication with residents, and failures to update residents on inspection findings and the actions to be taken.”

So, sadly, this case is not an isolated one. This attitude by housing associations is clearly unacceptable and must be tackled urgently.

I have a number of questions for the Minister on these issues. New regulation is clearly important and welcome, but there is also a funding crisis for local authorities, which need to invest in their social housing stock, and this will be a roadblock to improvement if not addressed. What are the Government doing to support investment in social housing, and the monitoring of standards and enforcement? Every year, £38 million is spent on treating damp and mouldy homes. With energy bills shooting up, this winter will likely lead to a further spike in mould problems. Damp is also more likely in homes that are excessively cold and more expensive to heat. Will the Minister confirm what steps the Government are taking to retrofit and insulate older social housing stock? Will she commit to sufficient new resources being allocated to the regulator to allow it to effectively perform its inspection role and any new duties that will arise from the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill?

While this Statement mainly focuses on social housing, there are equivalent concerns about private rented properties. One in four private renters is living in fuel poverty. Generation Rent research has found that, for every three serious hazards that councils identify in private rented homes, local government inspectors issue just one formal enforcement notice. The majority of tenants are simply not being protected.

The Government have said they will apply the decent homes standard to the private rented sector, which we strongly support. The consultation on this closed on 14 October, so can the Minister tell your Lordships when the results of the consultation will be published and when we are likely to see the long-promised renters reform Bill? Will she confirm that the Government will commit to the abolition of Section 21 to give tenants greater confidence to complain about unsafe conditions, to ensure minimum standards and landlord registration so that landlords are truly accountable for the properties they let out, and to give stronger powers to councils to take action against landlords who break the law?

When a local authority has a selective licensing scheme, it is more proactive in enforcement. However, it concerns us that the Government seem to be taking a very cautious approach to these schemes. Can the Minister explain why, when they clearly seem to be having a positive impact on standards?

Finally, I draw attention to the Statement’s very welcome recognition of the serious matter regarding the way in which the housing association behaved towards the family. As the Statement says, their lawyer said that racism and cultural prejudice played a role in their treatment and the handling of their complaints, which is clearly disgraceful. Recent government statistics show that white British households were less likely to live in damp conditions than other ethnic groups: while the figure for white British households is 3%, mixed white and black Caribbean is 13%, Bangladeshi is 10%, black African 9% and Pakistani 8%. I am sure the Minister recognises that this is a serious matter. Does she agree that this is a clear problem of inequality that must be addressed and that these complaints about racism must be thoroughly investigated?

We are pleased that the Government refer to support for this. It is the response we need, but we also need action. We expect the Government to stick to their promise that they will act immediately.

I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I am standing in for my noble friend Lady Pinnock, who cannot be here tonight; I have 15 years of experience in chairing a housing association, so I hope that I can contribute some constructive points.

This Statement follows a personal tragedy for the Ishak family in Rochdale. We should convey our sympathy and support for them, but the best thing we can do is reduce the possibility of this happening again. However, in my experience, social housing is not easy or straightforward, but complex. Some of the housing stock is far from up to standard, some tenants have very complex social needs and investment in this sector is switched on and off with each change of government, which also has further implications. The regulation regime and regulators also change frequently—three times during my 15 years—which means a loss of experience and knowledge of housing associations and a weaker regulator as a result.

Sadly, one of the problems is that too many tenants in social housing feel a lack of respect. They are demoralised. Anyone who has canvassed such housing knows that one of the biggest problems is getting them to vote, with the consequence that they do not get the all-round, cross-party political attention that they should.

I will make three points relevant to this case. First, maintenance is always a variable expenditure, depending on the state of finances of housing associations. It is easily switched off and the consequences follow much later. This is why, in looking at the funding of social housing, the Government need to look at not just new development and building, which is already inadequate, but at what is being invested in improving and maintaining the stock. I always had to fight in the housing associations that I chaired; investing in development is attractive but the stock is the most important thing, because the tenants are often paying for the new developments through their rents and therefore they need improvements too. That must always be respected by housing associations and the Government.

Complacency culture is a problem. There are some fantastic people working in the housing sector, to whom we should give respect, but there are a minority of housing associations and managers who are inadequate. It is too easy for the bad associations to run themselves for the convenience of staff and not tenants. In every housing association I have been involved in, whether you like it or not, you have to fight to make people think that it is simply not good enough to say, “This is good enough for them.” You need higher standards than that. Tenants need to be at the forefront and have respect.

Finally, we always need to learn from mistakes and seek to improve, but there is a danger with blame culture. It is very easily politically to say, as the Statement does,

“The time for empty promises of improvement is over, and my department is now naming and shaming those who have been found by the regulator to have breached consumer standards”.

I agree that we should expose that, but we also need to be aware of the unintended consequences. If that stops an openness and a willingness of people to admit mistakes, we will have a worse situation.

It is important to ask why the Regulator of Social Housing, after two years of this case, is only now considering whether the Rochdale association is up to scratch. Where has it been? Did the housing association in Rochdale alert the regulator at an early stage that it had a severe problem, and what has it done over the past two years to address these issues? That seems pretty important. I accept that naming and shaming has a role, but not if it leads an organisation to cover up and disguise mistakes. I give the example of the airline industry: we would never be where we are in the airline industry if we spent all our time naming and shaming rather than trying to deal with mistakes and errors and improve the safety record.

So I would like to end with three questions to the Minister. First, is there enough social housing stock in the system to allow housing associations to move people where improvements are needed on the existing stock? I would identify that as almost certainly a major problem that needs addressing. Secondly, are the Government happy with the speed of the Social Housing Regulator in intervening in this case? Did it wait until the end of this case before it intervened? Surely it should have been involved at a much earlier stage, and somebody, if they were running a housing association, should have alerted the housing regulator to the problem. If the Manchester Evening News was involved, I cannot believe that it was not in contact with the regulator—so what has it been doing over the last few months such that we are now waiting for it to make its judgement?

Thirdly, will there be much more attention paid by the Government to improving our housing stock in all sectors, rented and owner occupation, to phase out outdated housing? Surely, we need to do this as part of the insulation programme, but it is fundamental to the problem that we are talking about today that not enough attention has been placed on improving existing housing stock.

My Lords, I can hear the passion from both noble Lords opposite and I think it is completely appropriate. I wish to add my voice to those who have shone a light on the failings of the housing association, although I understand that the blame culture does not always work; you always have to have with it the support to do better. I have a huge amount of respect for the regulator, and when the regulator has the new duties when the Bill goes through, I am sure that they will do the shaming, if necessary, but they will also do the supporting where necessary as well.

We cannot allow families such as Awaab’s to live in housing that is not fit for human habitation, where there are clear signs of neglect, damp, and mould, and where the family fears for the children’s health. Living in a decent home is a right, and the Secretary of State has been quite clear that the Government will not rest until every single household feels safe in their home. Addressing a number of things that have been brought up, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, quite rightly talked about the issues of the Housing Ombudsman. I do think that this is the way forward for individuals, the way forward for the regulator to get to know issues that are becoming systemic in any area, and the way forward for individual issues to be dealt with in a very timely manner. But we do need—the Secretary of State mentioned this in his Statement—to get out to the tenants to tell them how to do this, and that needs to be done sensitively, because having English as a second language can be a barrier to that, as can other things. We need to make sure that we are doing everything we can, and the Secretary of State said that we are going to go into another country-wide communications project on this—the ombudsman is part of the key to making sure that this does not happen again.

Both the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, mentioned building. We know that there is, I believe, £11.5 billion in the affordable housing building fund, and some of that is for social housing. But I say to the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, that there is never enough housing stock to do what we really want to do. This has not just been the case recently; it has always been a challenge, and it is a challenge that you have heard the Secretary of State say that he is up to delivering. We just have to keep going with building the necessary housing stock in this sector that is required.

Energy—once again from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock—is always something she challenges the Government on, and quite rightly. As I have mentioned before, there is a government programme of support and money available to retrofit all housing stock, and we also have to remember that the social housing sector is the most energy efficient sector in the country—but we cannot be complacent, and we need to move on this as well.

On private rented sector properties, I have not got the timeline yet, but the review has been done and we are working on getting that through, because it is important. This was not a private rented sector house or flat, but we do know that these issues are just as difficult and complex in the private sector as they are in the social sector. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, that I think there is an issue about culture in the housing sector as a whole, and I am hoping that the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill will start to change that culture. That was something that we brought out very early on when we announced the Bill—the fact that we wanted a cultural change within the sector. That is extremely important. I have been involved in the sector a little bit—not as much as some noble Lords, but I have—and there is a cultural issue that does need changing. The regulator knows that, and will spend time working with the sector to change that culture.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, on maintenance and stock improvement, and I will take that back to make sure that we are encouraging all social landlords to make sure that the maintenance is agreed. I know from the local authorities delivering social housing that this is something that is always important to them; certainly, when I was involved, we had planned maintenance—it was good planned maintenance, and the money was there to do that. But there is always a bit of a pull and push on this—whether it goes into maintenance or new properties—and that is an issue too.

I will look at Hansard and, if I have not answered all noble Lords’ questions, I will, as always, write. But what is important to me is that we continue to have a discussion, all of us, in this House, because this House has many of the answers and challenges us all. To any Peer—there are not many of us here—who wants to contact me following the debate to discuss this matter further, I say that my door is open, because it is an important matter and I want to discuss it. It is important that all of us. There is expertise and experience in this House, and I can see that there are noble Lords who know quite a lot about this sector with us today. We need to use that to ensure that nobody has to deal with what Awaab’s family faced ever again.

Before I sit down, I just want to say that our thoughts and prayers are with Awaab’s family through what must have been the most horrendous time—something that obviously they will never forget, and let us hope that we never forget it either.

My Lords, this is such a horrible tragedy. I join the Minister in sending sympathies to Awaab’s parents. To lose a two year-old child is just about as bad as it gets, and I feel very strongly about that. I know that the housing association itself is deeply troubled and upset by what has happened on its watch. The coroner said that this should be a “defining moment” for the housing sector. I spoke today to the chief executive of the housing association, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, and there are some important lessons that the housing associations and we in Parliament and government can learn from this tragedy.

First, the Statement from the Secretary of State explains that the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, which we greatly welcome in this House—we have completed its stages here—will enhance regulation of social landlords and the role of the Housing Ombudsman. This new legislation is important, since I suspect that in this case there was no knowledge at all of the Housing Ombudsman. There was an opportunity to make a complaint and be listened to a lot earlier, but I think that opportunity was simply not known about in Rochdale at the time. We now have legislation that will strengthen the ombudsman, but we need to promote that ombudsman service really quite energetically, and I believe that this process has started.

In my ignorance, I did not understand that mould can actually kill a small child—it is as bad as that. Mould is a horrible thing to have in your house, but the fact that it can lead to death really brings home just how awful this plague is in so many houses where ventilation and heating in combination are not achieving a balance, and where condensation is causing this horrible mould. The urgency of doing something about this has now been magnified by this event and it means that all housing associations have to give priority to this. When they hear that a place has mould on the walls, they must take that very seriously. When a visit is happening for any other reason, staff need to be told, “Look out for mould as well; report that back to base. That is a serious issue”. Now that housing associations are very large enterprises, communications within them need to be good enough so that people share all the information and understanding they bring back from a visit or telephone call. That sharing of information needs to identify where mould is a problem so that something can be done about it.

My next point is that fuel poverty is also behind this. People are not putting the heating on and not making the place warm enough. They cannot be blamed for that; the cost of fuel is a major part of the house- hold budget. This will get worse with the current energy crisis and we will have more of these cases, not fewer. I am afraid that a lot of properties owned by housing associations—including pre-1919 street properties and 1960s and 1970s concrete buildings—need serious attention. They need insulating in a modern way that will cut those energy bills and mean that the lack of heating does not create the condensation that leads to the mould that leads to tragedies like this. We are going to have to invest in these older properties. We are ready for decent homes round 2; I hope the Government are up for this. These things are not just a matter of regulation; they are, as the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, said, also about investment. We all agree on that. The social housing decarbonisation fund coming through will be really helpful. The levelling-up funding should target the insulation of older properties. We can see where the priority really lies in terms of the resources we are going to put into properties: cutting down on fuel bills.

There are some important lessons here. There are lessons for government as well as for the housing associations. Let us hope that some real value can come from this miserable tragedy of poor little Awaab, and that this is indeed a defining moment for the housing sector.

It is indeed a defining moment. The Secretary of State has made it very clear that he thinks that this is a defining moment and that he is not going to let this go.

I was also surprised by how dangerous mould can be. I have concerns about the sharing of information in these cases, because a health visitor and a visiting midwife both noticed this mould. They put forward a report to the council, which did not seem to go as far as it should have. Sadly, communication is often an issue in these cases and we need to make sure that those problems are dealt with as well as the issues of the housing.

Obviously, this case was two years ago, but I am concerned about fuel—of course I am. However, I am mostly concerned about whether some of these tenants know what they can get from the Government to help them. I am not sure that they do. Through wearing my other hat as a Faith Minister, I am working very closely with the faith communities to make sure that when they talk to their communities and have their warm hubs and so on, they ensure that everybody knows exactly what the Government are offering to help them, because that sometimes is not the case. This case was not so much about heating but about ventilation, but that is another issue we need to look at across the sector, because mould often grows when ventilation is not correct.

Lastly, the noble Lord is absolutely right that not enough people know about the ombudsman. We had the Make Things Right campaign, which reached millions of social housing residents. This family obviously did not know about that, but I would then ask: where was the housing association to say that the family could go to the ombudsman when they first complained? There is more that we need to do, both the Government, in telling social housing residents about what they can get, and others who have contact with these families, by suggesting to them that the ombudsman is there to help them.

My Lords, mould was causing death to children when Charles Dickens explored the inequities in the rookeries, so it is particularly shocking that this should occur in our own century. My noble friend talked about the rights of tenants and their inability to understand the role of the ombudsman, but this tenant family did the right thing: they got legal advice and their lawyer approached the council. For some reason, the council thought that was a reason to do nothing and not to attend to the mould. Will my noble friend make it clear that this is not a reasonable excuse not to act to provide safe and secure housing? This is particularly important because she talked about the culture. There is a disturbingly high level of churn among officials doing this kind of work in housing associations, looking at maintenance and the like. You can get it right for a while and then someone else comes along. Can my noble friend be unambiguous and say that this is clearly a misunderstanding of how the law operates and not a reasonable excuse?

I agree with my noble friend. When I read about this, I was also very surprised by the timeline: once Awaab’s father had instructed solicitors, the housing association then said it could do nothing further. I understand that many housing providers have a policy to routinely pause addressing complaints through their process when legal proceedings are commenced, and that this stays in place until agreements are reached between solicitors. I do not think that is right. We need to look at this. Repairs should not be stopped. When rehousing is necessary, I do not think that should be stopped. I understand that this is in the hands of the housing providers; if they want to keep going with maintenance, rehousing or whatever is required, they can. They have decided to have this policy, but personally I do not think it is acceptable.

My Lords, the Housing Ombudsman said earlier today that at the heart of little Awaab’s death lies the behaviour of the landlord, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. As he said, for this landlord, and perhaps too many others in the social housing sector, there are issues with culture, behaviours and values. We know this. We have seen it time and again. So, while I commend the Government for all the actions they have taken since Grenfell, will they look again at including professionalisation in the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill? My noble friend the Minister has emphasised the importance of culture change, but without professionalisation it will be so much harder to change the culture, behaviours and values of those working on social housing.

My right honourable friend in the other place said that it is the right of everyone to feel safe in the place where they and their loved ones sleep at night. We know that many living in social housing would feel happier, safer and more valued knowing that the people responsible for their homes were qualified, just as those in other sectors with responsibilities to others are qualified. If this is to be a defining moment, let us not waste this opportunity. We have a real opportunity to do something about this now.

I thank my noble friend. I wondered whether I would get that question from her or the Front Bench opposite. Noble Lords know that we recognise in the social housing White Paper the need to improve professional standards in social housing, so that all residents receive the high-quality services they deserve and, as importantly, in my opinion, are treated with dignity and respect by social housing staff.

We have carried out a review on professional training and development and, as a result, have amended the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill to allow the Secretary of State to direct the regulator to set standards on the competence and conduct of all staff involved in the management of social housing. The new competence and conduct standard will ensure providers take appropriate steps to ensure all staff have the right knowledge, skills and experience, and demonstrate the behaviours required for the delivery of high-quality and professional services for tenants. As my noble friend knows, the Bill is going through the other place at the moment. I am sure there will be more discussions on this, so we wait to see.

I declare my interests in the private rented sector, as in the register. We have heard from a number of colleagues about the importance of the culture in social housing provision being improved. Would my noble friend agree that social housing landlords must do better to train staff to see the welfare of tenants as their responsibility, rather than seeing them as a problem to be managed?

I absolutely agree with my noble friend. That is the culture change we need to embed in the sector and the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill is the catalyst for this. I know that professional qualifications are an issue, but the Government have made it very clear that they want the staff working in housing associations to have the right knowledge and skills, and particularly empathy with tenants. That applies in every sector. Training is necessary and will come. The regulator will certainly be looking at these issues as it moves forward to taking on responsibility for not just the financial issues within the sector but the consumer issues.

The noble Baroness said that she would look through Hansard and write to us. Could she look at when we are likely to see the passage of the renters reform Bill? We have talked about the importance of private rented housing compared with social housing and the Bill is critical to making progress, so I would be grateful for a response on that.