Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, responsible for the Community Organiser’s programme of the Big Society, has launched a report by LSE and Orbit on how housing associations can empower tenants to help their communities and tackle society’s toughest challenges.
LSE Housing and Communities researchers conducted 170 in-depth interviews with local people, community leaders and Orbit staff about their community investment priorities to inform the development of a framework to guide future investment decisions. Specially trained resident ‘peer researchers’ helped to carry out more than half of the resident interviews. The top five community investment priorities identified were:
youth activities, support and job access;
employment and job training for adult residents;
tackling crime and anti-social behaviour;
welfare and money advice; and
support and provision for older people and families.
Housing associations house one in ten people, many from poor backgrounds. They must invest in areas where they rent out homes otherwise communities, hit by the economic crisis, welfare reforms, and loss of support will face a triple whammy. As big social investors in communities, housing associations can help their tenants to help themselves. The research shows that tenants, with support from their landlords, can contribute time, local knowledge and commitment to helping their neighbours. The success of using peer researchers in this study demonstrates that proper training gives tenants the skills and confidence to collect their neighbour’s views through simple surveys; to give basic advice on welfare reform; plug gaps in elderly needs; encourage energy saving; and help with childcare. In every way they can be an 'arm' into their community.
Mr Hurd said: "People want to live in strong communities. So it is no surprise that many housing associations have for years been doing great work to maximise their social impact. I look forward to more cooperation with Government as we explore the potential of residents to engage with community building programmes like Community Organisers, Community First and NCS. Involving residents is fundamental and so I congratulate LSE and Orbit on this groundbreaking work."
LSE's Professor Anne Power said: “The most enlightening part of this research was to find out how much housing associations contribute to communities, much of it unrecognised. Low-income tenants with little experience can contribute in many obvious, but untapped ways, if given enough support, training and recognition. We found housing associations and tenants, often seen as a burden on society, in fact offer huge undervalued, underused assets and skills”.
Stewart Fergusson, Managing Director of Orbit Heart of England, explained why Orbit asked LSE to help: “Orbit invests around £1m a year in the communities where it works to provide opportunities and help people to achieve their ambitions. We wanted to really understand if we were meeting local priorities and challenges and learn how we could have even more impact in the future.”
David Glover, one of the peer researchers, said “It was a fantastic experience. No regrets! We would love to do it again.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Bigger than Business ‘Summary’, a fuller report (Volume I), an extended research report (Volume II) and supplementary information (Volume III) can be found at http://www.orbit.org.uk/main.cfm?> or http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/LSEhousing/
This research will form a critical part of Orbit’s 2020 work, a comprehensive business planning and review exercise.
For more information please contact Joanna Bale, LSE press office, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted 28 November 2012