Branch Secretary :

Impact of Welfare Reform on Housing Employees

Almost half of housing staff have experienced resident suicide threats according to a recent report from the consultancy, 'Straight Forward'. Just 25% of workers report feeling well equipped to deal with the situation.

The report entitled 'Impact of welfare reform on housing employees' shows that the bedroom tax in particular has changed relationships between housing workers and tenants. A majority of workers felt more stressed at work, mainly due to increased workloads and dealing with more 'emotionally stressed' clients. The problem appears to be escalating rapidly; 77% report that customer interactions are more challenging than six months ago. A minority of workers, 45% feel very/extremely well supported at work, while 55% feel unsupported or moderately supported.

"In the focus groups and interviews, we encouraged people to speak openly. As they spoke about specific cases some respondents were reduced to tears. Not only did tenants need more help and support but, since the reforms, the issues staff were expected to deal with were bigger and more complex. Every day they must reconcile the need to collect the rent from vulnerable people who are forced to go without food, clothes or heating" according to Charlotte Cook writing in the Guardian online today.

Charlotte Cook calls for housing organisations to; "communicate clearly with staff where they stand on rent collection versus customer wellbeing", examine staff training, and give employees time to talk about pressures ensuring managers give teams the support they need. These are all good basic points that should be on the agendas of health and safety committees. Stress management has been a rising issue in the sector for a number of years. We should also be raising staffing levels, lone working and patterns of working.

Access the Impact of Welfare Reform on Housing Employees leaflet.

There is also a wealth of material on tacking these issues on the health and safety sections of this website and the national Unite site. Follow the link below for material on stress on the Hazards magazine website: