As the UK transitions from the European Social Fund to its own Shared Prosperity Fund, Lynsey Sweeney, managing director of Communities that Work, explains why the social housing sector will prove critical to the new programme’s success
For decades, the European Social Fund (ESF) played a role in uplifting some of the most vulnerable residents and communities in the UK by funding vital employment and education programmes delivered by social housing associations.
These programmes provide a foundation for social mobility and inclusion and inject a much-needed financial boost into local labour markets.
As the government continues to shape the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), it is critical that the social housing sector be at the heart of this dialogue and play a role in the architecture of UKSPF.
Doing so will help catalyse our economic recovery, deliver the levelling-up agenda, and ensure UKSPF achieves long-term success.
Collaborative by nature, the social housing sector stands ready to work with the government to be a key delivery mechanism for UKSPF, as well as provide invaluable insight as to how to best implement UKSPF in the communities that need it most.
Communities that Work and the National Housing Federation recently joined directors from social housing across England for a roundtable discussion with senior officials from the government’s Cities and Local Growth Unit on UKSPF.
We want this thoughtful and productive discussion to be the first of many engagements with the government on UKSPF – not the last.
With the funding profile for UKSPF due to be set this Autumn, the sector will continue to engage with the government to have its voice heard in the shaping of this vital programme, which has the potential to be our most powerful tool to recovery and levelling up.
The social housing sector is a social investor in its own right. In 2019-20, an estimated £76m was invested by housing associations into employment and community support services aimed at helping people into work and career progression.
This investment power gives the sector the unique ability to partner and match funding from the government, amplifying investment impact and tapping into greater local opportunities.
Not only does the sector invest, but it does so efficiently and effectively. Housing associations’ strong understanding of local labour markets combined with the trusted relationships we have with residents enable us to provide bespoke support that connects people with sustainable employment and closes gaps within labour markets.
“In 2019-20, an estimated £76m was invested by housing associations into services aimed at helping people into work and career progression”
This tailored support is widely evidenced as successfully helping people overcome labour-market barriers and secure employment and training opportunities.
Moreover, the sector’s focus on local employment for local people is central to economic recovery and can help communities level up for the long term.
The social housing sector brings unrivalled regional and local expertise. Housing associations are local anchors in the communities they serve, facilitating and leveraging local partnerships that connect people with employment and training opportunities.
These strong networks combined with the sector’s deep local insight are key to unlocking local and regional economic growth, as well as targeting the UKSPF effectively.
Although the social housing sector provides a broad range of support that delivers long-term prosperity for people and communities in its own right, the UKSPF will be an essential part of the sector’s ability to maintain its current level of investment and support future long-term commitments.
With the economic impact of COVID-19 exasperating the already widening prosperity gap within our country, failing to effectively implement the new UKSPF could have devastating effect on our economy and those further from the labour market.
UKSPF has the ability to reduce persistent inequalities between communities and to deliver the levelling-up agenda – but it can only do so by working in partnership with the social housing sector.
Communities that Work
Communities that Work unites social landlords who have a shared vision of helping people into work.
Its mission is to transform lives by enabling social landlords to support people to access long-term, rewarding employment.
Communities that Work works in partnership with a range of stakeholders to build influence around the housing and employment agenda, on behalf of its members – who altogether own and manage 1.4m homes across England.
Image: Lynsey Sweeney, managing director, Communities that Work
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