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Collaboration is our great strength

PlaceShapers 2020 is a mixture of speakers and workshops that tackle all aspects of the housing agenda

  • 4 main sessions
  • 7 workshops
  • 3 lunch and learns
  • 42 speakers
  • 301 members

Day One: Our work
Day Two: Customers and communities
Day Three: The future

Conference summary

Day Three: Thursday 26 November

Looking ahead to the coming 12-18 months and the challenges our organisations and communities will face, and discuss how we can help support them

Workshop 7
Supporting carers and the care sector

COVID has shone a bright light on the massive contribution that unpaid carers and key workers in the care sector make all over the country. This session looked at Harry’s Pledge, a fantastic campaign launched by Longhurst Group to raise awareness about the massive contribution unpaid carers and key workers and what more we can do to support them.
Hayley Charlesworth, founder of The Helping Harry Trust and mother to Harry Charlesworth, a lively five-year-old whose birth disability of quadriplegic cerebral palsy means he has significant caring needs, shared what being a carer means, the daily challenges and therefore why this campaign is so important.
Lynn Stubbs, Executive Director of People and Performance at Longhurst Group, discussed what more associations can do to value carers and the need to get the whole sector behind this campaign to make a united national commitment to our carers.
The session was chaired by Oona Goldsworthy, Chief Executive Officer, Brunelcare. Harry’s Pledge, already adopted by 45 housing associations, centres around committing to four main goals:

  • Being a supportive employer to people that have caring responsibilities
  • Making our offices and community spaces as accessible as possible
  • Building more fully-accessible homes
  • Further promotion of care as a professional career and lobbying for changes in status, pay and rewards

Workshop 6
How could we help support domestic violence services

Chaired by Alison Inman, the Founder of the Make a Stand campaign and CIH president 2017-18, Michelle Hill, CEO of Let’s Talk Change , a North West based relationships charity and Kelly Henderson, the Interim Director of Housing at Women’s Pioneer Housing and Co-Founder of The Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance.

Key takeaways

  • Domestic abuse worsened during the pandemic but a move to online support services have actually led to an increase in engagement with perpetrators
  • Whether big or small it doesn’t matter. There are ways housing associations of all sizes can commit and respond to domestic abuse
  • Look at the needs of the person over the needs of the organisation and what wrap around support can be offered
  • Start the conversation around domestic abuse in your organisation though the power of storytelling and keep it up. Link into your local services where possible

Discussion focused on the impact of COVID and how domestic abuse services have seen unprecedented demand. More information on a report by Women’s Aid.

From here the session covered two key areas

1. How housing associations can best support domestic abuse charities and services
The session looked at how associations can support the services in their local area and utilise their expertise and support for the benefit of their residents. It also highlighting the Women In Safe Homes (WISH) fund, which offers financial support to associations with an infrastructure that would enable them to lease properties and then rent them to women who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

2. How housing associations can educate their colleagues and customers 
The session covered the importance of normalising the conversation around domestic abuse, eradicating any potential stereotyping and embedding training and partnerships with local services to ensure both colleagues and customers get the support they need. There are tools and resources available to help associations better support their employees

It's important to make sure that the Respect helpline for perpetrators is also easily accessible on your websites. 

Lunch and Learn
Learning from International Development

Always keen to learn from others, this session looked at what international development can teach housing associations. Chaired by Cath Purdy, Chief Executive, South Lakes Housing and PlaceShapers Board Member with Kate Wareing as speaker. Kate is former Director of Strategy at Oxfam GB and now is now Chief Executive of Soha Housing.

Kate highlighted how we can learn from adjacent sectors to help enable people gain the power to make positive change for themselves. Drawing on her experience of humanitarian work, Kate shared observations and some practical tools

  • Assess how we think about power and rights (of residents / customers/ beneficiaries), and the focus in international development on considering specific issues of power. Soha models itself around the “rights” of its tenants and residents
  • The concept of “resilience”. What happens when vulnerable people make decisions based around personal safety and immediate need. The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework can identify paths to resilience
  • What “asset based approaches” mean to programme design and case work in both sectors. The OK/Not OK casework tool can be helpful as well as recognising individual perceptions, circumstances and needs.

Kate also described how she drew on her experience of humanitarian work as we entered the COVID pandemic.

Ian Shapiro, Chief Executive of Reall, an International Development Organisation, gave an insight into why learning across geographies matters.

  • Housing is a doorway to 16 of 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The supply of housing is the starting point to create real change for communities
  • COVID has also put housing centre stage and allowed the narrative to extend and connect with other relevant issues like climate change. This is an opportunity for the housing sector.
  • The UK has an serious global offer for and things to learn from emerging markets.


Workshop 5
How can we better support children and young people?
The session was chaired by Charlie Norman, CEO of MSV, Justin Watson, Director of Young Manchester, a charity that strives to improve opportunities for all children and young people, and Dan Paskins, UK Impact Director for Save the Children UK.

The session cover two key themes

1. The impact COVID had on children and young people’s services in the UK
2. The role housing associations can play in supporting these services

Dan Paskin highlighted how uncertain the future looks for many children and young people’s charities for 2021 and beyond. Children and young people have really suffered through the pandemic, not only with their education, but relationships have suffered. Many find themselves isolated from others their age, and their health and wellbeing has been impacted, with many no longer able to enjoy hobbies and many experiencing food poverty at home.

Dan highlighted what he believed housing associations could do to help:

  • The quality of homes learning is crucial for a child’s development. Housing associations can do all they can to ensure young residents have space and resources they need to learn.
  • Groups run by and for children and young people are struggling through this. Housing associations can work with these group to offer support and where possible financial stability
  • The funding crisis has left many groups and charities unsure of where to turn for support. Housing Associations can help join up services and activities.
  • Sadly children’s wellbeing is not on the agenda of policy makers. Together housing associations can help create demand and amplify the conversation

Dan posed the question: "Will children and young people living in your homes look back and see their home life as something that helped them thrive? If not, what can be done to change this?"

Justin Watson began by posing the question: “What are your plans for long term investment in the children and young people’s sector?” There are lots of housing associations working on grass roots projects such as youth clubs and food banks, but what about using connections to help groups and charities network, offering support with coordinating and building alliances?

Justin outlined 3 points

  • We need to be more wellbeing focused
  • People not buildings; focus on the real needs of young people when investing
  • Sharing power not voice; how can we genuinely involved young people in decision making, both within your organisation and within their community. Give them the opportunity to look back and see that they’ve achieved something.

Kazie, Sam and Jack, all young people involved with Young Manchester, talked about their experiences working with the charity and what it’s meant to them to be involved.

Closing plenary
Future gazing: What lessons can we take from 2020 to make us better fit for the future?

Chaired by by PlaceShapers Chair Matthew Walker, this session looked to the future to identify what can be done differently as a result of our collective experience.

Harry Swales, Executive Director, Partners and Places, Homes England started by outlining how the health crisis that emerged compounded the housing crisis that already existed.

This has left Homes England and housing providers with an extremely challenging environment. But resilience has provided an excellent learning curve and that partners are everything. Looking forward, we must keep listening and talking, innovating and collaborating.

Vic Raynor from the National Care Forum spoke about the importance of data and its role in understanding what is happening in the care sector and also in the response to COVID, and that the last year has accelerated digital progression by up to five years.

Amanda Leonard, Director, Housemark, outlined how Placeshapers have gone further than the rest of the sector in terms of resident engagement and offer during COVID. From their rich Covid impact metrics, themes emerged such as

  • Those able to pivot and be agile have fared the best
  • Organisations have used productivity to rebalance the customer relationship
  • Housing providers already have a ‘full plate’ which COVID has compounded
  • There is a real need to be honest about the human cost to wellbeing

Steve Douglas, CEO, St Mungo'sconcluded by outlining what his sector has learned:

  • That the collaboration has been unprecedented and must continue moving forward.
  • That technology has a huge part to play and that it’s when we work together we really make a difference.

Fair to say, the role of digital, collaboration and keeping wellbeing at the forefront were emerging and recurring themes!

Matthew Walker closed PlaceShapers' first ever digital conference, saying that the rich line up of speakers and the debate they had created would help ensure we take forward the best from COVID.


Day Two: Wednesday 25 November

The Charter for social housing residents: what does the White Paper mean for us?
The session was chaired by Danielle Oum, Chair of WHG, who gave a broad perspective on of the paper.  Fiona MacGregor, Chief Executive of the Regulator for Social Housing, highlighted three definitions of success and three challenges for PlaceShapers

Definitions of success
1. Does it make a difference for tenants
2. Does it work for landlords
3. Does it give the tools to carry out role

Challenges for PlaceShapers

1. You’ve set the bar high, so don’t fall short
2. Share good practice
3. Ensure representative feedback

Joe DeVille, Vice Chair, Tenants Advisory Panel for Coastline Housing ensured the resident perspective was front and centre of the session, sharing his own experience and guidance for others on increasing meaningful tenant involvement. 


The green challenge
Environmentalist Jonathon Porritt led a session on climate emergency, COVID and how we can meet the net zero carbon challenge. Chaired by Charlie Norman, Group Chief Executive, MSV and PlaceShapers Vice-Chair, the call to action for the session was: “We need that political emphasis here, it’s an emergency so why not the urgency.”

There are big targets to get to net zero by 2030. The pandemic has helped in terms of awareness and practical steps but we have a long way to go. Wales has become a great example as a beacon in legislation-making by taking into account future generations.

There are four issues to tackle

1. Regulation; critical to enforce anything
2. Money; retrofit is expensive. We need to look and not just funding but new finance sources
3. Trust; retro fit will need persuasion, some good examples but needs more as living in the homes requires understanding and technical knowledge
4. Supply chain; by better working our supply chains, more than 100,000 jobs could be created.

For PlaceShapers two immediate actions:

1. Stand up
2. Collaborate

The best way is to build the right homes otherwise we will have to retrofit.


Lunch and learn
A charter for tenants: what does the white paper mean for residents and members? 

This was led by James Temple, a resident of Broadland Housing with Jenny Osbourne, Chief Executive of TPAS and chaired by Carol Carter, Chief Executive, Origin Housing and PlaceShapers Board Member.

While the new Charter in the Social Housing White Paper has been welcomed by housing associations, tenants and as a sector, this session explored some of the pros and cons now faced by the housing sector.  It looked at ideas ranging from making Boards more accessible and encouraging membership of Boards through to opportunities for tenants to “chip in” on topics that matter most to them. 

The Charter will help ensure the sector has active listening skills, builds relationships with a wide range of tenants so their voice is heard and grows the skills of their teams for better services and homes. Ideas from the session will feed into the PlaceShapers response to the White Paper.

Workshop 4
Ensuring no place left behind

This session was chaired by Placeshapers’ Director, Rachael Orr, alongside guest speaker, Toby Lloyd, Chair of the ‘No Place Left Behind’ Commission and a former government housing advisor.

‘No Place Left Behind’ is a recently formed commission (of which Placeshapers is a member) focussed on encouraging investment and ‘levelling up’ of under-valued areas.

Toby explained that the commission is looking at why some areas of the UK are disadvantaged, how some projects have led to successful transformations and what changes need to be made to public policy to encourage wider improvement.

He believes the commission’s role is one of political communication: to amplify the collective voices of those on the ground to bring about action and investment from central government. He asked that Placeshapers members feed case studies or evidence (both positive and negative) into the discussion via their website:

There was positive discussion about the appetite for greater integration and the recent Covid crisis bringing communities together to create opportunities for change. There was also consensus that there was a need for greater trust and empowerment of local partnerships so that resources could be invested at ground level where they are needed most.

Workshop 3
Housing associations as community anchors – what more do we need to do?

Kevin Lowry, Director of Housing, at Manchester City Council and Anne McGurk, resident and Chair at Phoenix Community Housing assessed what housing associations need to consider to be a community anchor.

Key point to emerge included:

  • Not all community anchors need to work in isolation; building strong partnerships with other housing providers and local authorities can be a key element to success.
  • By pooling resources, experience and training, an anchor can have a holistic approach to what the community actually wants  and needs.
  • It is critical to be a positive part of the community, ensuring that the community is fully engaged and has influence the agenda.

Chaired by Katie Teasdale, Head of Member Relations, National Housing Federation, who summed it up perfecting in her closing remarks: We can make a huge difference to the communities that we serve.


Day One: Tuesday 24 November

Day one focused on the external environment, addressing diversity, stigma, employment support and the difference made by members during the COVID pandemic.

Matthew Walker opened the conference and outlined how the four months since he became chair had allowed him to really hear the difference made to people’s lives by PlaceShaper members; those local stories create national impact.

Housing minister, the Rt Hon Chris Pincher MP, told the conference: “It’s a real pleasure to address you at the first ever virtual PlaceShapers annual conference. I’d like to begin by thanking the PlaceShapers network for the work you doing in supporting the social housing sector including the 2 million people who rely on you and the services that you provide.

“I also like to pay tribute to the many housing associations, housing providers and professional organisations involved in this vital sector for the incredible resilience that you have shown during this challenging time.

“Since the onset of COVID, you have shown professionalism and commitment in utilising your expertise in providing support to millions of social housing tenants.

“You can be proud of what you’ve achieved. This pandemic has made us rethink in so many ways how we live and how we want to live with a reminder of the importance of having a decent, safe and secure home with access to green space. That is especially the case for social housing and the millions of people who call it home.”

Drew Van Doorn, Chief Executive of HACT, gave an overview of the difference made by Placeshapers in the pandemic and told the conference never to waste a good pandemic – take forward lessons and bring positives out of it.

Insight from Ryan Shorthouse, Founder and Chief Executive of Bright Blue, set out the political environment in which PlaceShapers operate and the crucial role of members in Red Wall constituencies. This introduced policy work planned by PlaceShapers to improve the lives of local communities.

The first session was chaired by Christine Turner of Chair of Rosebury Housing Association who summed it up by reminding delegates that issues that existed pre-Pandemic still need to be addressed, especially decarbonisation and the green agenda. These were on the agenda for the rest of the conference.


Lunch and learn
Diverse Voices

Chaired by Chan Kataria, CEO of emh Group, this was the first of monthly workshops on diversity and will draw out and learn from best practice among members. Chan said: “Diversity at Board and CEO level in the sector is not as high as it should be. However, the renewed focus on this topic will help change things".

Kemoy Walker, a youth worker, teacher and CEO of Kyso Club, discussed how his work has helped the local community in Moss Side, Manchester.  Sam Lewis, from MSV Housing, highlighted how the pandemic has changed views on racism. “People are coming together to take a stand against racism and treat people with respect." 

Jo Tipney gave an overview on MSV’s proactive approach in creating an anti-racism taskforce. “Now is the time to make a stand. We’re committed to seeing this journey through. It’s not good enough anymore to do nothing. It takes bravery, humility and a willingness to make change.” 

Tia Mantack, from MSV, summarised the current situation perfectly: “We're not just fighting one pandemic, we’re fighting numerous – such as mental health, inequality and racism. We’re not just a housing association, we are a caring association. We'll continue to evolve as an organisation, together we can do better".


Workshop 2
It’s not OK: what more do social landlords need to do to tackle stigma?

Chaired by Cross Keys CEO Claire Higgins  (who had earlier been announced as the new vice chair taking over from the hugely impactful MSV CEO Charlie Norman) the session looked at tackling stigma. Earlier conference delegates had raised concerns at it not being addressed through the Social Housing White Paper.

Pam Hankinson, from the See the Person campaign and SYHA resident, fights for fairness and respect. She said that most people assume those living in social housing are on benefits and unemployment which is not true. When talking to the press, they want stories about people ‘moving on’ whereas many residents are happy living in social housing.

Melanie Rees, Head of Policy and Research at CIH, explained that the White Paper mentioned the importance of personalisation, and the need for respectful interactions. She gave examples of assumptions made by some people working in the sector and outlined a number of the solutions, including:

  • getting the culture right across an organisation;
  • being accessible and accountable;
  • providing clear and positive communications;
  • ensuring involvement is meaningful;
  • offering homes and repairs of a good standard.

This work is an integral part of the CIH professional standards framework.


Workshop 1
Employment support programmes and evaluating them

The day concluded with a session on the difference made by the employment support provided by members.

Chaired by CEO of Raven Housing Trust Jonathan Higgs,  Lynsey Sweeny from Communities that Work gave a review of the PlaceShapers and Communities that Work All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Social Mobility. This champions social housing providers that support residents to secure sustainable livelihoods.

Joe Dromey, Director, Learning and Work Institute highlighted that the housing sector addressed inequalities that exist with residents and employment; and the massive impact of COVID on employment. This week’s Spending Review needs to address gaps in employment and inequalities with employment programme that are geographically balanced and managed locally.

Professor Ken Gibb from CACHE highlighted inequality in housing  and that social housing supports employment, gives security and supports people to stay in work. Simple factors also can impact in addition to inequalities such as demographics on age, family composition, childcare costs, transport. He also stressed the importance of funding continuity, the importance of partnerships and working collaboratively. 

Neil O’Reilly, from SYHA, said the APPG report gave a snapshot of the sector but a lot goes under the radar the work of housing associations – but funding was key.

PlaceShapers Conference Graphic - FINAL



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