As COVID-19 rears its ugly head once more, Cobalt Housing’s Head of Neighbourhoods, Nick Grubb, explains why the need for safe and secure housing has never been greater…
Everyone deserves a place to call home, and it is important that, in its upcoming Autumn statement, the government makes a pledge to invest in the right type of ‘affordable housing’ to help put an end to homelessness for good.
In Autumn 2019, charity Homeless Link reported that more than 4,000 people were estimated to be homeless in England. However, the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has served as a stark reminder that there is a significant amount of work to be done to support homeless individuals and those at risk of losing their homes.
Future Proof the Roof, is a recent report by The Salvation Army, which raised concerns around the 6,000 people who were thought to be sleeping rough during the initial outbreak of the pandemic in April.
In the report, Lorrita Johnson, The Salvation Army’s director of homelessness services, said: “Our report demonstrates that if the government mirrors the austerity approach it took during the last economic crisis, there will be dire consequences for rough sleepers, private renters, and the economy as a whole.”
The threat of homelessness
During the height of the pandemic, the UK showed great support and a real sense of community spirit toward getting those who have unfortunately lost their home into accommodation. The government reported that more than 90% of rough sleepers in England have been offered accommodation during the pandemic, thanks to the efforts of local councils and charities supporting vulnerable individuals.
It is the virtual support that local authorities and charities provide that the government must place more investment into so that the support of vulnerable individuals can continue. The pandemic has proved that more must be done to support families into homes and welcome them into communities that they can proudly call home.
“We must play our part in keeping tenants secure at home, helping people get the support they need, and acting compassionately and quickly when they are struggling”
Cobalt alongside many other housing associations recognise that we have a duty of care to our community, and that we play a vital part in creating places for people to call home, that are affordable to sustain tenants long into the future.
At the start of lockdown in March, we made a promise to our communities that no one would lose their home through no fault of their own due to COVID-19. Instead, we prided ourselves on working with those individuals to make sure both them and their families were supported, heard, and reassured.
In August, Cobalt joined many other housing associations and signed the National Housing Federation’s (NHF) eviction pledge to show our continued commitment to our communities. As a housing association, we must play our part in keeping our tenants secure at home, helping people get the support they need, and acting compassionately and quickly when they are struggling.
We have been really proud to be able to support the Liverpool City Region approach to tackling homelessness during the pandemic, making all of our empty homes available to the panel, working with Liverpool City Council and the Whitechapel Centre to rehouse over 40 single homeless people or families. Cobalt are now working closely with those to welcome them into our community and working with them to overcome financial and other issues that may threaten their stability.
Housing associations play a vital role in many tenants lives and provide so much support both inside and outside homes in the community. It is this support that the government must invest in so that we can sustain tenancies and support individuals to start again.
It is a fundamental need for all people to have somewhere to call home, a place where they can feel settled and secure. For people who have been through the trauma of losing a home, or have been homeless for some time, the offer of a new home represents hope.
Read more on the UK’s homelessness crisis:
- Homeless shelter capacity could plunge by two-thirds, experts warn
- Christmas ‘evictions truce’ date confirmed
- Scotland sees 70,000 children on social housing waiting lists
Supporting people into work
Cobalt have a Welfare Benefits team that has helped over 1,600 tenants in the last year maximise their income, lower their costs, and become more financially resilient.
Prior to the announcement of the national lockdown, we met with local councillors across the Croxteth, Norris Green, and Fazakerley to assess how we could better support our tenants during the crisis. We added resources to our Welfare Benefits team during the height of the Coronavirus peak to make sure we could effectively support those whose employment situations has changed.
We have recognised that young people in particular have been affected by the pandemic. As such, our team and local and national partners such as charity Turn2Us have assisted those struggling with benefit checks, so that they can claim and access the support to which they are entitled.
There are also many barriers to work that includes access to workwear, transport costs, interview clothes and other ‘start-up’ costs. Cobalt set aside £500 for our tenants to help with these costs and then our Community Regeneration team see them into employment and help them to flourish.
“Young people in particular have been affected by the pandemic – our team and partners have assisted those struggling with benefit checks so they can access support”
Coronavirus has unfortunately had an impact on many tenants’ employment situations. We are working hard with our employment partnerships to identify and promote as many apprenticeships and training and work opportunities as we can.
We are also building employment opportunities into our procurement activity to ensure we are playing our part in bringing employment to the areas in which we work.
Cobalt is continuing its partnerships with Positive Footprints – a programme that works with primary school children to raise their aspirations – to fund the programme across our primary schools.
Through the support of the team at Positive Footprints, we have been able to talk about employment and aspirations to hundreds of primary school children in Norris Green. This has helped these children to think about and understand various roles and to discuss their aspirations in a positive and supported environment. If a member of our community wants to become an astronaut and go to the moon, its our job to help them live that dream.
Creating and sustaining a settled future starts in a home in the heart of a proud and thriving community. Only by housing associations working with local authorities, community groups and charities can associations such as Cobalt continue to make an impact. The government must show their support and prove to communities that they are listened to and that they will invest in the right places in their upcoming statement.
Let’s start spreading a message for all in communities across the UK that will sustain into the future: a settled home for all.
Main image: Nick Grubb, Head of Neighbourhoods, Cobalt Housing
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