Building communities that work

Published on 25/07/2018

Last week the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published an unemployment report titled 'Building Communities that Work.' I was delighted to be able to contribute to this report as a board member at Give us a Chance (GUAC) as well as being Head of L&Q’s employment services.

The report is welcome recognition of the wider role of housing associations in creating sustainable communities and helping people to live independent lives. We’re not just about building homes.

The report, supported by GUAC, noted that collectively housing associations invested an estimated £76.9 million in employment services in 2017. This is a significant sum when compared with the government’s £130m Work and Health programme which launched earlier this year.

As Joe Dromey, senior research fellow at IPPR noted this is despite the fact that "nationally commissioned employment and skills services have failed to work with [housing associations] and have failed to support people who face the greatest barriers to work." This has only recently begun to change with housing associations like L&Q leading the way.

I am proud to work for an organisation that helps the most vulnerable people get into work, working with partners to deliver essential services,  and funding these projects almost exclusively ourselves. We are on the front line of the unemployment problem with six in ten housing association tenants out of work, twice the national average.

This has driven us to find new ways to tackle the barriers that the most vulnerable people face, whether physiological, physical or educational. We provide a huge range of services, developed based on need, including employment support, training, money guidance and debt advice, work experience, apprenticeships, information services, enterprise support fuel poverty programmes and digital inclusion.

We also have advisers throughout the sector who have been through our programmes themselves, come out the other side and are now able to help people with similar experiences. All of this equips and motivates us to make a difference where it matters.

In 2017, L&Q helped 451 people into paid work and we now aim to do more, having just launched our £10m a year L&Q Foundation and our skills Academy. In addition to this we just secured a unique five year £100m credit facility from BNP Paribas - a positive incentive loan whose interest rate is tied to us meeting our employment targets.

We do this along with the rest of the sector because we believe that no one should be denied the opportunity to achieve their potential because of where they live.

The rollout of Universal Credit has highlighted to need for support with personal budgeting. The government's pilot programme 'Universal Support Delivered Locally' evidenced this and found that partnership-working with housing associations was effective in providing outreach and support for the hard-to-engage.

Whilst we as a sector know how crucial our work is to tackling unemployment, this report represents a huge push in the right direction, not only in giving external recognition to the important work we do but encouraging government and other potential partners to work with us to produce better outcomes for the unemployed across the country.

Matt Bayliss is Head of Independent Lives Services at L&Q and board member at Give us a Chance (GUAC).