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New report from Respublica calls for radical local approach to welfare reform
The 'community right to challenge' should be extended to welfare and employment services in order to save the Government's welfare reform agenda, a new report from the think tank ResPublica urges today.
Responsible Recovery: A social contract for local growth calls on policy-makers to hand power to local community intermediaries such as social landlords and voluntary organisations to determine and deliver the range of employment-related services within their communities
Launched today (Monday 4 March 2013) in Parliament, the report, supported by PlaceShapers, warns that a radical new approach to welfare reform is needed in order to address the needs of the poorest communities.To read the full report click here.
Published one week after the Public Accounts Select Committee highlighted the failure of the Work Programme to target those most vulnerable and excluded from the employment market, the ResPublica report calls for a greater and more robust localism to connect the regeneration agenda with local social value and the needs of local labour markets.
It is highly critical of previous regeneration efforts by successive governments, describing them as top-down, statist initiatives which overlook community assets and local labour markets which affect the daily lives and opportunities for residents.
The report calls upon housing associations to use their assets for wider neighbourhood benefit, engage in active partnerships around community budgeting, and support and facilitate asset transfers and devolved services, including employment and training support.
Researchers found many examples of good practice across the UK, where social landlords, community groups and local authorities work innovatively to boost the local economy and deliver social benefits. The report showcases a number of case studies from Hull, Rochdale, Peterborough, Huddersfield and Lewisham in East London.
The author of Responsible Recovery, regeneration expert Julian Dobson said: "To achieve an economic recovery which makes a difference for real people, policy makers need to consider the context of real people's lives. It is not only material assets that people need to escape poverty, but also social assets such as family, friends and neighbours; human assets such as practical skills; and public assets such as local services, infrastructure and community organisations.
"Policies such as the 'bedroom tax' which risks disrupting neighbourhoods, or the loss of affordable childcare, all make the difference for those struggling to get out of the poverty trap."
Caroline Macfarland, Managing Director of the think tank ResPublica, said: "The whole point of localism is applying local knowledge to local problems. Housing associations already play a significant role in driving forward informal local economies. They have unique knowledge of community assets, local networks and local labour markets. Government should recognise this and make sure that national initiatives aimed at reducing unemployment and tackling poverty take into account the expertise of local community organisations."
The report also recommends exemption from the 'bedroom tax' for households who are considered pillars of the local community, and calls for changes in the system so that lodgers are deemed to occupy a spare room so that there is no under-occupation penalty. It argues that local networks of social landlords could help match lodgers with spare rooms in the same way that the Homeswapper home exchange scheme is facilitated.
Responsible Recovery: A social contract for local growth makes twelve recommendations to national and local government, social landlords and community-based organisations which would engender 'a more robust economic localism' whereby policies are tailored to housing, welfare, local business needs and other forms of social support and security within communities:
The report is supported by a coalition of housing providers from across the UK which are already pioneering community-led initiatives to achieve social sustainability and local growth. These are: Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, the largest housing mutual governed by staff and tenants, Cross Keys Homes in Peterborough, Trafford Housing Trust, and Placeshaper, which represents 90 housing providers nationally
Mick Leggett, Chief Executive of Cross Keys Homes, and a member of Placeshapers, said: "The ResPublica report highlights the long standing challenges of 'regeneration' and the big current issues affecting communities across the country. We welcome this report as a reminder of the importance of developing a people centred approach and of nurturing growth at a local level
"The approaches advocated in the report will reduce the risk of our more vulnerable communities being marginalised, isolated and viewed as a problem which drain resources, and help to ensure that the people living as part of these communities are valued and supported to play a key role in community and economic life."
Matthew Gardiner, Chief Executive of Trafford Housing Trust, and a member of Placeshapers, said: "Without local approaches national policy risks creating the blight of empty homes and abandoned communities which will undermine work to support local growth.
"Many housing providers rooted in the local communities already lead by example in our people-led approach to local social value, through our spending and procurement, and support for employment, training and volunteering opportunities. We understand our local markets and should be trusted to make the best use of our homes."
Gareth Swarbrick, Chief Executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing said; "This report highlights a range of innovative approaches driven from the involvement and empowerment of tenants and employees who live and work in our communities. Our established networks of community voices and tenant volunteers - who help with community projects, scrutinise services, donate time as Representatives or Board members, or simply support an older or more vulnerable neighbour - all help shape our understanding of local needs and priorities."
MEDIA ENQUIRIES TO: Daniela Puska on 07713 527 077 or email@example.com
1. Embargoed copies of the full report and press/broadcast interviews with ResPublica representatives are available on request.
2. The ResPublica Trust (which operates under the trading name ResPublica) is an independent, non-partisan think tank. We focus on developing practical solutions to enduring socio-economic and cultural problems in the UK. Our practical recommendations for policy implementation seek to strengthen the links between individuals, institutions and communities that create both human and social capital.
3. Julian Dobson is a ResPublica Research Associate. He is an independent writer and researcher and director of the consultancy Urban Pollinators. He has spent many years writing on and observing community regeneration across the UK, particularly as founding editor of the regeneration magazine New Start and previously as editor of the weekly Inside Housing.
4. Trafford Housing Trust is an independent housing company set up by the government following the stock transfer of 9,000 homes under the previous ownership of Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council.
5. Cross Keys Homes is Peterborough's largest housing association - managing 10,000 properties providing homes for tenants, older people, shared owners and leaseholders. www.crosskeyshomes.co.uk
6. Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) is a membership based provider of social housing. In March 2012, following a vote of support from tenants, it took over the ownership of the homes formerly owned by Rochdale Council. It now owns and manages around 13,750 homes in the borough. www.rbhousing.org.uk
7. Further details of the case studies cited in the report are available on request. These include: