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PlaceShapers are well placed to work with their tenants to assist them in using the internet and support their communities in setting up social enterprises, a conference has heard.
Speakers at the PlaceShapers' Community Investment Conference in Birmingham on Monday 19 November highlighted the sector's role in supporting tenants to access the internet ahead of the online Universal Credit system being introduced next October. The benefits of setting up and supporting social enterprises were also discussed as a key way to build social impact.
The event was attended by 90 delegates from the group's 87 community-based housing associations.
Speaker Dean Sadler, co-founder of TribePad, highlighted the challenges in educating tenants in the use of technology. Studies show 50 per cent of social housing tenants have never used the internet.
He said: "Things will only get tougher for tenants over the next five years so providers need to think about this now to help them as much as possible and not least to ensure they can pay their rent."
Delegates also heard from John Picken and Dave Child who are piloting the website 'Neighbours Can Help' with the aim of bringing people together using technology.
John said: "The website is a social networking platform that enables people to connect with neighbours and make requests and receive help for a range of things such as gardening, borrowing DIY equipment, childcare and general advice."
The pilot will run in Sheffield from December working in partnership with South Yorkshire Housing Association although the social enterprise is keen to work with other housing associations nationwide and urged interested organisations to get in touch.
Mark Richardson, strategic lead on Green Light, a partnership between the National Housing Federation and Groundwork UK, which was set up to help the sector engage more effectively with social enterprises, called for more organisations to get involved.
He said: "PlaceShapers have got a key part to play in advocating social enterprises. Green Light is developing an Academy - a virtual network to improve access to information on social enterprises and to put organisations in contact with existing schemes."
Dr Chris Handy, a member of PlaceShapers Steering Group and group chief executive of Accord Group, chaired the event and closed with a final rallying call.
He said: "Welfare reform is here and now and rapidly accelerating. We have a lot of work to do to ensure the financial inclusion of our tenants, education of technology, action over doorstep lending and in supporting them to set up social enterprises. We need to get our act together and share learning and information as we go."
In addition to the ones mentioned in the above the following spoke at the event:
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