How social value can build communities

9 November 2017 | 9 November 2017

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When many people think of housing associations, they think of organisations that provide affordable homes – but housing associations do so much more.

As our sector marks Community Impact Week, it’s clear that we invest in more than homes; we make our communities great, thriving and successful places to live.

We call that difference, that impact, our ‘social value’.

And as the world changes or times get tough, this work is vital to help our residents achieve their everyday aspirations and live independent lives.

If we can support our residents, whether that’s into work or better work, or whether that’s helping local groups get started and build a community, we can create stronger, safer places and help people on towards even greater success.

And isn’t that why we’re all here?

Training for the future

Over the last few years we’ve seen wages stagnate and work become increasingly insecure, with more short-term work and zero hour contracts.

This means our employment and training services have been focused on not just helping unemployed residents into work, but helping those in work get on their career into more sustainable or reliable employment.

We prioritise tenancies that are at risk and because we use an Information, Advice, and Guidance based model, a lot of our work is through face-to-face engagement.

It’s a personal, quality service and last year we helped our 500th person into work.

Alongside this, our Tenancy Support Advisors and Income Officers have been supporting residents with welfare reform, particularly with the rollout of Universal Credit.

A team effort

We completed a merger last year to become one of the largest housing associations in the country, maintaining 56,000 properties and building around 1,500 new homes a year.

This means, as a major business, not only can we maximise the social value of our work and investment, but we can leverage our partners and suppliers to do the same.

Working with our procurement team, we’re creating job opportunities and work experience for Sovereign residents through our supply chain, either with new tenders or by working with existing suppliers.

It means, as well as quality and the cost, our suppliers have to show that they have the same values as us too. We’ve already had success, creating 28 opportunities so far this year.

Putting our focus where it’s needed most

While we’ve grown, we’ve retained our focus on a core geography. We work in eight priority communities where we have an extensive stockholding and can have a significant impact to improve income, education or employment deprivation.

This local approach means our communities officers really get to know the places they work in and the people that live there, helping to deliver projects which will bring real benefits.

In particular, we’re looking to close the skills and attainment gap between some of our communities, with the aim of making a sustained positive difference.

We can’t do this alone so we build partnerships and work closely with local authorities and other local agencies. We support literacy and numeracy programmes in primary schools as well as youth workers who can engage and inspire young people.

We also fund transition programmes between primary and secondary school and support adult education to help people gain qualifications and certificates that can pave the way to work and a career.

It’s an approach that helps people at different stages of their life today, while giving the children in the community have the best possible start in life.

It’s what we do

For many businesses, this work is called ‘corporate responsibility’. For us, it’s just what we do, every day.

Social value is central to our business, from the moment a resident picks up their keys to a Sovereign home. And, as life changes, we’re there if they need us.