Best Practice Case Studies: Chartered Instititute of Housing

CIH logoThis case study is about a positive action initiative established by the Chartered Institute of Housing in 2009 called Positive Action for Disability (PAfD). This is a pioneering recruitment and mentoring programme providing traineeships for disabled people seeking careers in the housing sector. The scheme, with its network of housing partners, focuses on supporting disabled people in the sector to develop their skills and grow into future housing leaders. It aims to address the under representation of disabled people working in housing (around 3%, compared to around 20% of tenants in social housing).

The core of the scheme is a two year salaried traineeship offering a three-pronged approach, including:

  • Workplace training – usually 35 hours a week in a host housing provider including study time
  • Academic study – often leading to a qualification at level 4 or above
  • Tailored and intensive coaching, mentoring and support.

Much additional assessment and support is offered to both the trainee and employer. The scheme has been a success, with so far 11 trainees having secured professional grade jobs in housing, 19 having joined the programme. 13 housing orgs have signed up so far, with more coming on board this year. Here are just a few examples of successes:

Debbie Smith – Debbie joined PAfD in 2009 after a long period of illness and disability, and since she started has won three awards – Employee of the Year award from New Charter Housing Trust; The Nicky Chapman award, jointly offered by the CIH and Habinteg Housing for the best-performing PAfD trainee; and A Housing Hero 2012 award for Most Inspirational Colleague. Debbie gained a permanent post with New Charter as a Debt Advisor and has since been promoted to a managerial position. She says, “With New Charter I have achieved something I had begun to believe would not be possible, which was to get back to full-time employment and still be able to manage my illness. This has only been possible because of their understanding and willingness to be flexible about my disability.”

Debbie’s supervisor says, “Debbie has had a positive influence as a role model for disabled people … and shown huge determination in breaking down barriers to employment.”

Jayne Wallace – Jayne joined PAfD in 2009 and was offered a traineeship with Gloucester City Homes. Jayne has a movement disorder that affects her speech and mobility. Prior to PAfD, she worked in the cosmetics retail sector until the nature of her disability caused her a major rethink of her career options. She gained a distinction in her HNC in Housing Studies and now has a permanent role within Gloucester City Homes and is considering furthering her studies with a Housing degree. Jayne says, “I found the whole 2 year traineeship was excellent. At first my self-esteem was very low, but Graham [her mentor] helped me a lot with building up my confidence and assertiveness.”

Jayne’s supervisor says, “Jayne is a valued member of the Customer Services Team and demonstrates a real commitment to providing excellence in her customer service as well as her own personal development.”

Shafat Choudhury – Shafat joined PAfD in 2010 and is placed with Redbridge Homes in North London. Shafat has both serious hearing and sight loss and uses a support worker arranged through Access to Work to assist him in the workplace. Shafat says, “I found the support given during mentoring sessions was very useful. Compared to how I initially started managers are more keen to listen to what offers I can make to the organisation and are more open about what they might consider as barriers, and consult me regarding issues.”

Shafat’s supervisor says, “Having our trainee placement has enabled our organisation to reflect more closely on how we can positively welcome a person with a disability into our workforce.”

Eileen Barron – Eileen joined PAfD in 2009 and had a placement with Somer Community Housing Trust in Bath. She previously worked as a music tutor and is an accomplished singer. She has recently started work with Aster  Communities Housing in the South West. She has a long term health condition that affects her on a daily basis and wanted to work in a situation where this would not be perceived as a problem and where issues could be discussed and solutions found. Eileen says, “Doing this scheme has given me the opportunity to work full time for an ethical organisation doing stimulating and rewarding work and earning a good wage. I’ve also gained a post graduate qualification. Before I started this traineeship I didn’t think I would ever have a ‘proper’ job.”

Her supervisor says, “There is absolutely no doubt that Eileen has overcome her own personal challenges to carry out every possible aspect of her work to an exceedingly high standard.”

Paul Blayney – Paul joined PAfD in 2010 following a serious illness. He previously worked as a sales manager, but like many newly-disabled people went through a period of reflection and decided he wanted a fundamental change of career and chose housing. He was a trainee with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing and now has a permanent role with them. Paul says, “I have found the mentoring and support to be excellent. I regularly meet with my mentor and he has been very supportive and encouraging.”

Paul’s supervisor says, “Having Paul working alongside us has been a brilliant experience for the whole team. I can honestly say that if Paul had not come to RBH, we as an organisation would have been at a disadvantage.”

Paul Blayney
Paul Blayney

The Chartered Institute of Housing are reviewing the programme and looking for further ways to improve and extend it in the future. If you would like any further information on this exciting initiative, please contact Graham Findlay who manages this programme at


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6 thoughts on “Best Practice Case Studies: Chartered Instititute of Housing

  1. It’s great to see some examples of disabled people being successful. Often we hear that there aren’t enough opportunities and that is definitely true but it’s refreshing to see something about success.


  2. Here in Canada there are federally funded programmes (fewer each year) and provincially funded ones. Since we are so geographically spread out each provincial government backs something different. Is PAID a non-profit organization or a government funded one. Do they rely on government grants?

    Great idea, though! It’s great to read about it and some of their “success stories”.


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