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Social housing must lose Shameless stigma, says Bromford’s Rising Star

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So says one of the housing world's Rising Stars, Rishi Spolia, a Bromford Living neighbourhood manager working with customers in Burntwood, Staffordshire.

Shaking off negative images like those associated with the dysfunctional Gallagher clan on Channel 4's fictional Chatsworth council estate is a must, he argues, if the sector is to attract a new generation of people who need affordable housing.

Rishi's arguments about perceptions of social housing helped clinch his place in the Rising Stars final at the CIH annual conference, which started on Monday and climaxes with a question-and-answer session and live vote in Harrogate on Thursday.

The Bromford contender's comments about the need to shake off Shameless-style stigmas may go some way to answering the theme question being posed at Wednesday's key Rising Stars session -titled Nobody gets us, why?

"It is true to say that while the sector strives to deliver excellence it is working against a negative perception of our communities," says Rishi, who will be sharing the stage on Wednesday with a number of high-profile figures including Danny Brocklehurst, Bafta-winning scriptwriter of… Shameless.

"This theme emerged when, in our original submissions, the CIH asked us how we should tackle the problem that the word 'social' is good when followed by 'networking' and bad when followed by 'housing'?

"I made the point that social housing is burdened by negatives like worklessness and the chaotic lifestyles of vulnerable customers who carry that Shameless tag.

"These are stigmas that the sector must challenge and shake off if we are to attract the new generation of aspiring homeowners who are still feeling the effects of the credit crunch and struggling to get a foot on to the property ladder.

"We need to show that the 'social' in social housing means positive things like high-quality homes, customer empowerment and building sustainable communities."

Rishi is looking forward to making the most of his trip to Harrogate and will be updating colleagues about his experiences through the Yammer social network and OurSpace.

His success in reaching the Rising Stars final at Harrogate -and going head to head with four other housing professionals -earned praise from Julie Walker, Bromford's Living head of neighbourhoods for Staffordshire.

She said: "Rishi is full of enthusiasm and ideas, and is a natural leader. He is ambitious to succeed and continuously tries to find new and innovative ways of doing things. He is an excellent communicator and has superb relationships with other agencies and customers in the places where he works. Importantly, he's also a great team player."

At stake is a career-boosting package of prizes that includes a day shadowing housing minister Grant Shapps, an invitation to speak at the Housing Conference 2012 in Manchester and £1,000 to spend on learning. Visit the Inside Housing website (opens newwindow)