News

Housing advice has never been more important

Before I joined Shelter Scotland I facilitated many practice sharing forums with local authorities and housing associations. I found that after a hard day at the flip chart, regardless of the topic, whether it was legislative change or service improvement, the key points were invariably as follows:

  • “More training needed”
  • “Better communication”
  • “Lack of resources”.

What always strikes me about this is that we know that training is the key to it all – training makes for better communication and therefore a better use of resources. Responding to change is an ever present challenge for people working in housing and even more so for clients, customers and tenants. Housing advice has never been so important. Knowing how the law can protect or impact on people’s lives, knowing how housing options can prevent a crisis, knowing how to plan for or mitigate the effects of Welfare Reform – just knowing what legislative changes are around the corner is a no brainer.

Shelter Scotland specialises in housing information and advice training, using an array of methods from e-learning, face-to-face training, blended learning, bespoke in-house training, to webinars. Shelter Scotland’s continually updated online training resources can be accessed by anyone, anywhere and at any time. This is a huge advantage for busy housing professionals trying to keep up with the rapid changes in housing law and policy, welfare reform and the economy.  Over 5,000 housing professionals have completed e-learning with us. The National Standards e-learning course remains the most popular way for housing professionals, advice and advocacy organisations to develop their staff.

When I joined Shelter Scotland last year, the Enterprise team were celebrating their 10th anniversary of delivering E-Learning courses. Jane Heppenstall (my boss’ boss!) had just been interviewed for the above article. It reminded me of the times when I used to visit local authorities and housing associations to demonstrate web-based housing mobility and exchange services. More often than not landlords required permission every time they wanted to access the internet and once online the sites they could actually view were severely limited – I used to wonder how they did their Christmas shopping! But at the same time I was still using acetates over PowerPoint, CD-Roms over memory sticks, dial up connections over wireless, and the closest thing to Skype was a gadget that Spock might have used on the Starship Enterprise (no pun intended!).

Suffice to say, things have changed somewhat since I began my career in housing. Because of new technologies we have a much greater choice in how we deliver training and how learners access information. In Jane’s interview she said:

We’ve never tried to force a standard product on people and say, ‘take it or leave it’. It is very much about how the system works for people, if they come back and say they want to do things slightly differently or they need supplementary questions or whatever, we will do it.

One of the impacts of recent raft of legislative changes is that demand for certain types of training methods has come full circle. There has been a noticeable shift in preference towards face-to-face training. Partly because trainees feel more invested in by their managers, and partly because, according to the old Chinese proverb, people simply learn better: ‘Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand’. Shelter Scotland’s e-learning courses are highly accessible and result in a qualification in housing law, information and advice. Face to face training, on the other hand, allows trainers to tailor the information more specifically to learners’ areas of interest. Bringing some fairly heavy duty topics to life is one of the key creative skills of a face to face trainer.

Our focus is on helping to build people’s confidence by ensuring a level of housing knowledge and skills that should result in getting it right every time. Investing in the future in this way must mean better decisions for clients, better communication within organisations and better use of resources – overall a win-win for trainees.

Let us know if you’re interested in training on housing on trainingscotland@shelter.org.uk and feel free to share any good resources you’ve found that other housing professionals might find useful using the comments below.

About the author

Debbie MacPherson

Debbie MacPherson

I’m one of a team of Learning Officers supporting e-learners and delivering face to face training in housing law, information and advice. Last year I completed the highest via ferrata in the world on Mt Kinabalu in Borneo, this year I’m sticking to sea level with Shelter Scotland’s Hairy Haggis relay team at the 2013 Edinburgh Marathon!