Asbestos in social housing in the UK - understanding the risks and solutions

UKATA explain the risks that asbestos in social housing presents

Asbestos was once a widely used building material in the UK. However, the health risks associated with asbestos have been well documented, and the substance has been banned for use in the UK since 1999. Despite this, many social housing buildings still contain asbestos, posing a risk to residents and workers if damaged or disturbed.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material which was regularly used in buildings from the 1950s until the late 1990s. It is still found today in many buildings, including domestic and non-domestic premises, schools, and hospitals.
If disturbed, it can be a killer.
Inhaling loose asbestos fibres is known to cause several serious and even fatal diseases including lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Social housing is provided by either housing associations (not-for-profit organisations that own, let, and manage rented housing) or the local council.
Social tenants rent their homes from the housing association or council, who act as the landlord.
The presence of asbestos in social housing poses a significant risk to residents and workers if damaged or disturbed. Asbestos fibres can be released into the air during routine maintenance or renovation work, and residents may unknowingly be exposed to the substance. Additionally, many social housing buildings are old and in need of repair, which can further increase the risk of asbestos exposure through natural degradation of the material.
The government has announced a £3.5 billion fund to remove unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings, including those in the social housing sector, with an unprecedented £5 billion investment in building safety, including the £3.5 billion announced on 10 February 2021. The housing secretary confirmed to the House of Commons that the government will fully fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres (6 storeys) and over in England. While this funding does not specifically address asbestos, it demonstrates a commitment to improving the safety of social housing buildings.
Local authorities and housing associations have a responsibility to manage the risk of asbestos in their buildings. This includes conducting regular asbestos surveys and developing management plans to ensure that asbestos-containing materials are identified and managed appropriately. In some cases, asbestos-containing materials may need to be disturbed or removed during maintenance activity, which should only be carried out by competent and appropriately asbestos trained professionals. For some types of work, a contractor with a licence from the HSE may be required.
UKATA’s ‘Duty to Manage for the Housing Sector’ course is for any persons in the housing sector who require an overview of the duty to manage and legislative requirements. This would normally include, but is not limited to duty holder’s assistants, appointed persons assistants, building owners, landlords, sublessors, managing agents etc. and any person assisting duty holders in the compliance with CAR 2012 Regulation 4, as well as other statutory legislation that is specific to housing providers such as The Housing Act 2004 & the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
Residents of social housing can also play a role in addressing the issue of asbestos. It is important for residents to report any damage or deterioration of building materials that may contain asbestos to their landlord or housing association. Additionally, residents should follow any safety instructions provided by their landlord, such as avoiding drilling into walls or ceilings without permission.
Asbestos in social housing is a serious issue that requires action from government and housing providers. While the UK government has taken steps to address the issue with the ban of asbestos, there is still a long way to go to ensure the safety of residents and workers in social housing buildings.
It is important for local authorities and housing associations to take a proactive approach to managing the risk of asbestos and for residents to be vigilant in reporting any concerns.
UKATA (the UK Asbestos Training Association) is a leading association dedicated to improving the quality and standards of asbestos training, with the goal of protecting workers and the public from the risks associated with asbestos exposure.
Committed to promoting excellence in asbestos training through the development and implementation of high-quality training standards, the provision of best practice guidance, and the promotion of safe and responsible working practices within the asbestos industry.
As an association, they work closely with their members to ensure that they have access to the latest information, training resources and industry updates, and provide a range of support services to help them achieve their training goals.
Their membership base includes a wide range of organisations involved in asbestos training, including training providers, asbestos removal contractors, consultants, and equipment suppliers.
UKATA is passionate about promoting safe and responsible working practices and is committed to working together with members and partners to achieve a shared goal of protecting workers and the public from the risks associated with asbestos exposure.

To find a UKATA approved asbestos training provider near you, visit or for free advice call the team on 01246 824437

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