ForHousing: aiming to improve local people’s lives
Henry Terefenko, Group Director of Communities, at ForViva, explains how a partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council, under its ForHousing brand, aims to improve local people’s lives:
The economic climate both councils and housing providers are operating in is a challenging one. Austerity in public services and welfare reforms has had a major impact on both types of organisation, reducing the funding pot available for housing investment.
As the Building Bridges report from the CIH outlined, it’s never been more important for local authorities and housing associations to work together to tackle the housing crisis and help communities to thrive.
When the contract became available with Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) to manage their 5,500 homes, we saw this as an opportunity to develop a new kind of partnership that was focused on improving the lives of local people. ForViva’s visions and values are closely aligned with the Council’s. That’s one of the reasons that our partnership makes perfect sense.
Many people think of Cheshire West as a wealthy, well-to-do area, but there are pockets of serious deprivation and significant challenges to address. In Ellesmere Port and Neston where we are working, there are major concerns around health and wellbeing, debt, housing and employment.
By working together, we can combine our expertise with the Council’s to make a real difference to people’s lives.
One of the key pillars of the partnership has been the length of the contract with CWaC. Agreeing a ten-year partnership to deliver housing management services means we are committed for the long haul and can make meaningful and lasting investments in local neighbourhoods.
Both we and the Council are intent on building new affordable homes, raising people’s aspirations in the local community, improving their health and wellbeing and reducing inequalities.
It’s early days – we’re only nine months into the contract – but we’re already making headway on our ambitions.
Increasing resident engagement is a key area we are working on together.
Before our partnership began, just 26 per cent of customers in Ellesmere Port felt they could make an impact on services. We now offer residents 13 different ways to get involved to help us shape services, from Facebook to tenant meetings and are engaging with more young people.
Our new digital services mean customers can access services anywhere, contact us online, and request repairs online quickly and easily at any time of day. We’ve also set up a new team to improve the wellbeing of vulnerable residents and help them maintain their independence.
The government has recently renewed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between bodies working in health, housing and social care. It aims to strengthen the working relationships between these organisations with the shared goal of improving people’s health and wellbeing.
We and Cheshire West and Chester Council recognise the important link between housing and health and wellbeing. Our partnership has recently grown further as a result. The council awarded us a contract to deliver homeless support services over the next nine years. The service is delivered under the brand Forfutures.
This is aligned with our belief that housing providers have got to go beyond just the traditional roles they have played in the past.
Forfutures’ approach focuses on tackling the causes of homelessness – including a mediation service and access to life skills and health and wellbeing support.
We must deliver positive outcomes for the people we work for and at ForViva we believe partnership working can help us achieve this.
By working collaboratively with local authorities, we can overcome the challenges we both face. We can deliver value for money for residents while improving services and creating thriving communities.