There are two types of people who will benefit from reading this (also see our ‘Housing Associations’ page):
- Person 1 = An owner or employee of a HA or RSL who is currently operating WITHOUT a social value strategy and is curious to know why they should
- Person 2 = An owner or employee of a HA or RSL who is currently operating WITH a social value strategy and who would like to feel quite smug about it.
But first, context…
Housing is increasingly seen as the first social service: “Our homes are more than just roofs over our heads. They are a safety net and springboard to a better life.” *
That said, their importance in providing a solid foundation to some of the UK’s most vulnerable people, means that HA’s and RSL’s duty to look beyond their core offering is PARAMOUNT.
Social Value is one of the most effective tools to promote economic growth alongside social wellbeing. Beyond an opportunity to drive cost savings and operate more efficiently, social value presents the chance to make real, meaningful impact on people’s lives.
So, let’s walk through why that’s important for your organisation, shall we?
Unavoidable Reason #1 – Responsibility and opportunity to work towards the greater good NOW
Housing Associations play an essential role as anchors points in their communities. HA residents are more likely to experience some form of disadvantage, and while providing a roof over their heads meets the most fundamental human needs for shelter, warmth and safety, HAs have a real opportunity – and of course a duty – to empower people to create a brighter future by adding value to society.
Socially responsible housing providers are well positioned to tackle big issues like social isolation, community cohesion, health, education and employment for society’s most vulnerable people.
By achieving their social aims, HAs can support people to live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives, equip them with the resources they need to shape and achieve their aspirations and empower them to actively participate in modern society – creating a better future for everyone.
To do this, HAs must understand the impact that investment decisions make for their residents. That’s where a Social Value Strategy comes in.
With the ability to make sound, evidence-informed decisions about future investment, HAs can embed a Social Value Strategy which has a meaningful impact on improving people’s quality of life, health and wellbeing.
Social Value should be a strategic priority. If you’ve been simply focusing on your core operations of providing housing and collecting rent, you’re not doing all you can, nor all you’re expected to be doing, for your tenants, and you’re certainly not contributing to the greater good of the community and wider economy.
Unavoidable Reason #2 – Employment support could actually save costs and deliver against other corporate objectives
Right now, over 50% of working-age social housing residents aren’t in employment, which means their reliance on HAs and RSLs is HUGE.
Now, put that number up against the 40% of HAs that are currently offering some degree of employment and skills support and you can immediately see the problem: The demand far outweighs the supply.
Add to that the roll out of Universal Credit, which will impact on social housing residents disproportionately, and the issue increases further: HAs are actually LOSING MONEY by not offering this vital service to their residents.
By investing in a Social Value Strategy which support people to develop their skills and provides access to training and support to enter into, and sustain, employment, HAs can empower their residents to get jobs that help them stay in their homes longer.
This in turn improves their financial position, reduces reliance on Universal Credit, and creates positive and lasting change for the tenants, and wider society.
HAs will see the return on investment from their Social Value Strategy as residents will be able to pay their rent on time and sustain their tenancies, reducing the level of voids and poverty in communities.
But why stop at just employment and skills support?
Building more inclusive, engaged communities and reducing social isolation will encourage residents to stay in their homes longer and take greater care of their environment – problems which can be tackled through a Social Value Strategy and deliver against corporate objectives too.
Engaging and involving residents in Social Value events and activities also opens up the opportunity to collect feedback outside of the traditional ‘consultation’ setting where people often don’t feel comfortable sharing their views. Implementing a Social Value Strategy enables HA staff to reach people who do not usually engage, and draw out insight and learning which may otherwise have been missed.
This can shape your investment priorities more effectively, provide valuable feedback to improve service delivery and increase your ROI.
Unavoidable Reason #3 – Just look at all these benefits…
The benefits of establishing a social value strategy are far reaching for everyone involved in your organisation and society as a whole. For HAs, they include:
- You are clear about your residents’ needs and the priorities of the communities where you’re based, and you can deliver programmes and activities to address these effectively
- You can measure what’s working and residents can be actively involved in giving feedback, which improves investment decisions and increases ROI
- Residents are more likely to stay in their homes longer, pay their rent on time and contribute positively to society
- Communities are happier, safer and more sustainable, social isolation is reduced and larger societal problems are addressed
- Staff are more engaged in their roles, which improves employee satisfaction and retention
- The social value strategy integrates with the corporate strategy and KPIs, so it helps to deliver on your plans and goals rather than being an additional strategy to deliver
- Being able to deliver social value programmes and activities that have a longer-term impact on your residents and communities as they align with your corporate strategy – rather than short term projects that don’t deliver much social value
So, do you now see why it’s so important?
Ultimately, the resounding reason why a Housing Association should have a Social Value Strategy is that it is in fact in theirs, their tenants’ and society’s BEST INTERESTS to do so.
In addition, there’s a very strong chance that HAs will be legally required to report on their social value in the near future, which could affect an organisations access to government funding and support.
It’s also likely that the Social Value Act will be widened to cover goods as well as services in the next few months, which means it’s also a perfect marketing opportunity to show how progressive and forward thinking your organisation is by proactively exceeding the minimum requirements of the Social Value Act.
If, as per the very start of this article, you have identified yourself as person #1 and, after reading this have had a little brainwave that a Social Value Strategy would be in fact a great thing to incorporate within your Housing Association, then book a complimentary 20-minute call with me HERE, and I’ll talk you through what you can do to get started right away.
* Secretary of State: Green Paper – A New Deal for Social Housing