Housing associations should be more than just landlords
Community programmes transform lives and improve communities, so housing associations should keep investing in them as part of the work they do, says Peabody’s director of community programmes Veronica Kirwan.
Last week (29 August - 4 September) was Community Impact Week - and it is important to recognise and reflect on the impact housing associations are making to the communities they work in. But how do we minimise the effects of welfare reform and other legislation on residents, and what should housing associations be doing to improve the communities they work in?
Firstly, it is important to note that a lot is being done. A report commissioned for the G15 showed that in 2011-12, the 15 housing associations that make up the G15 group invested over £40 million directly in economic and community development programmes. That figure will likely be higher today as these programmes have developed, although rent cuts and Brexit fears have the potential to stymie their future growth.
Community programmes provided by housing associations are aimed at ordinary people and provide real, measurable benefits. Peabody, for example, helped 1,084 people into jobs or apprenticeships in the year 2015-16, generating a £9 social return for every £1 invested.
The community work done by housing associations creates a platform that enables greater independence and self-reliance, for example through the provision of employment advice and training or by investing in community facilities. Peabody’s floating support services team provides a crucial service helping older residents remain in their own homes and showcases how co-ordinated support can be hugely beneficial for residents.
Community work done by housing associations often covers many areas of life where residents may need support, ranging from advice on money and benefits through to volunteering and health. It is the ability of housing associations to offer such a wide range of free and subsidised services for communities that make the work so vital. But, as with so many things, more can always be done.
As further cuts to public services increase the reliance of everyone, but especially the poorest, on charities, it is all the more important for housing associations to keep providing critical services for the benefit of their communities. Residents will rely more and more on the provision of services and the sector should respond to this positively.
If we all take action now and recognise the huge benefit that community programmes and investment can have, we can avoid causing unnecessary pain in the future. Working together as a sector and with other service providers such as local authorities we can ensure that residents can continue to lead happier and more fulfilled lives. Working collaboratively, the sector can use its scale and expertise to deliver fantastic services that provide a positive impact for whole communities and minimise the effects of welfare reform on the lives of residents. This work is happening now and we should continue to build on our successes so far together as a sector.
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