Longhurst Group proud to play part in 'Places after the pandemic' report

Longhurst Group is proud to have played a key role in a new report which explores how housing associations can deliver more for their communities following Covid-19.

We took part in PlaceShapers’ and HACT’s 'Places after the pandemic' report after making more than 9,000 wellbeing calls, establishing a hardship fund to help customers and establishing links in our communities with support services.

The report has used data and information from a host of housing associations to explore how the pandemic could offer a once in a lifetime opportunity for housing providers to deliver more with their communities, change how homes are built and adapt services.

It also shows how housing associations adapted during the national lockdown and played a key role as community anchors. It explores how social landlords are fundamentally reviewing their work and their role in places as we look to the future.

'Places after the pandemic' will be launched today (17 September) at a seminar to discuss the findings and the next steps.

Charmaine Simei, Director of Community Investment, said: “Our Improving Lives strategy – with its two key pillars of supporting our customers’ Health and Wellbeing and Economic Resilience came into sharp focus in March.

“Within days of lockdown, our operational customer facing teams stood down normal service and it was all hands on deck.

“Collectively, we understood that wellbeing, hardship and isolation were our priority areas to tackle, armed with a clear focus on food, fuel, medication and social inclusion.

“Our housing teams got on the phones and made more than 9,000 wellbeing calls, our Community Investment Team worked with Covid-19 hubs and local foodbanks to provide support and established a repurposed hardship fund to help those customers who had been affected by the pandemic.

“We also launched a new digital customer wellbeing hub, which provides 24-hour mental health support, debt management services, domestic abuse support and advice and guidance for carers.

“Digesting how much we have learnt and what our role as community anchors actually means in practice in this ‘new normal’ will continue to reveal itself over the coming months and years.

“Whilst some of the societal scars left by the pandemic may last longer than the virus itself, there has been an explosion of energy, compassion, collaboration  and innovation, which as a sector we have a continued role and responsibility to help harness, support and foster. 

“We are indeed here for the long-term and working in partnership, within and outside the sector, will be essential as we attempt to rebuild and reset communities in the months and years ahead.”

Whilst some of the societal scars left by the pandemic may last longer than the virus itself, there has been an explosion of energy, compassion, collaboration and innovation, which as a sector we have a continued role and responsibility to help harness, support and foster.

Charmaine Simei, Director of Community Investment

The report shows that, overall, in the first three months of lockdown, a sample of 42 PlaceShapers members made 300,500 welfare calls, gave advice and guidance to 57,000 people and organised 50,000 food deliveries. Members forged new partnerships with people and organisations in places to make sure support was there for everyone who needed it.

PlaceShapers Chair Matthew Walker said: “The crisis has reinforced our sense of place and the value we place on our homes and neighbourhoods. A decent, affordable home meant living in comfort during lockdown. It meant space to work from home and home school.

“The support social landlords offered became a lifeline for many in frightening, isolated times. Up and down the country we heard stories of the difference landlords made and how they worked together in the places they work.

“This report explores the lessons we’ve learned so far from the Covid-19 pandemic, including how local our view of place is and the importance of building strong, trusting partnerships in places.”

Andrew van Doorn, CEO of HACT, said: “As community anchors, housing associations are in a unique position. We work in place for the long-term. We have the capacity to affect the recovery and reset of communities across the UK now and in the future.

“There are significant risks ahead of us that we will need to navigate. By working in collaboration, by evaluating and learning from our experience, by being bold in our choices, we will be able to accelerate change, maximise our resources and achieve greater impact as place-based organisations.”

The report’s conclusions include:

Place is hyper-local
A landlords’ role in place is often dependent on the number of homes in an area. During lockdown place became hyper-local. Solutions have had to be found at a very local level; signposting to services beyond an immediate vicinity became unviable. This revealed that important ‘actors’ in an area might be people a housing association does not ordinarily consider. For example, local corner shops have become vital community assets, as have grocers, chemists, parks and green space.  The challenge has been to support communities and residents at this level, particularly if a relationship has been traditionally be held at a wider place level.

Space matters
How we understand the home of the future and create spaces that meet an increasing need for multiple use (work, rest and play), has come to the fore. How we create both the spaces and places for the future needs careful and thoughtful consideration. How we deliver standards needed for space and not compromise due to expediency and cost will be challenging. How housing associations adapt their own businesses for this new reality and ensure that their housing management is responsive to the new uses of homes will be key.

Partnership working

A new sense of collaboration between housing associations is emerging and awareness that housing associations working together can accelerate change, stretch their resources and achieve greater impact. New relationships have also formed, and housing associations have stepped into areas and activity that are new to them. As we move forward, strengthening and developing those relationships further is a key task. Turning new relationships into partnerships and collaboration, must be built into strategies and ways of working.

A new approach to Value for Money
The VfM approach with its focus solely in efficiency no longer feels ‘fit for purpose’ and PlaceShapers may explore with its members, the wider sector, and the regulator, how to move this forward to focus on effectiveness as well.

Decentralising

Having a hyper-local presence is about providing effective services to customers, but also engaging and reassuring them. In the last decade the trend has been to pull teams and services into central locations. With the successful adaptation of remote working, this may no longer be the case. The value of a more community focused operational model has been experienced and welcomed (by some for the first time). Housing associations need to think about how to accelerate this change, but also how to make sure they learn from the past. New operational models that are created need to be vibrant and fit for the future.

To view the report in full, visit www.placeshapers.org


    
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