Duncan Forbes is Chief Executive of Bron Afon Community Housing. Bron Afon is a social enterprise and registered social landlord.
In this blog post he talks about an innovative project to develop co-operatively managed accommodation for young people who would otherwise be at risk of homelessness.
When Dr Peter Mackie, from Cardiff University told our youth forum that by 2020 there would be a housing crisis for young people it spurred them into action.
Bron Afon owned a derelict community centre and we were looking at demolishing it. But, thanks to the young people involved with the youth forum’s ideas and research, eight new starter homes with support have just opened.
The project created a chance to put the young people’s innovative and creative ideas into action.
Bron Afon Community Housing staff and internal trade teams refurbished the block that is for 16-24 year-olds, who are in, or aspire to be in, education, employment, training or volunteering.
Ty Cyfle is the first completed project by Bron Afon’s Own 2 Feet Living service which provides innovative accommodation for young people.
Young people have taken the lead with this initiative and provided each other with mutual support, helped by our skilled youth team and our volunteers. Working in this way the group has dramatically changed the lives and life chances of many of its members for the better, including young people who have previously fallen down the gaps between other support and care services.
This service is unique, as it is led by young people who know the combination of accommodation and tailored support will help their peers succeed.
Our team help the tenants to stand on their own two feet and move on into their next tenancy within two years. During that time they get help with budgeting, cooking cheap meals and being a good neighbour.
Our Own 2 Feet support package has been running for a few years and not a single tenant who has been through it has failed in their tenancy.
Afon Youth has set up a management committee for Ty Cyfle with the tenants. It has set some simple ‘house rules’ and self-manages any low-level issues.
Ty Cyfle is a fantastic example of how co-operative working leads to outcomes that you can never imagine, by not following a traditional ‘we know best’ or ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ approach.
An Afon Youth member
Suzy Sorby, has been a member of Afon Youth since the start and now works for Bron Afon. She said:
“We are passionate about the problems that young people face when getting housing and this includes the perceptions of homeless young people. Over the course of three years we filled up two large folders with our research. We all knew that what we were doing was something unique, something that no one else was doing, and we, the young people were given the opportunities to do it for ourselves. This was young people helping young people.
“Afon Youth is made up of a diverse group of young people, including some who had experience of being homeless.
“It was identified that there was a big gap from living in 24 hour support to floating support once a young person was successful in managing their own home and finances. It was highlighted by the young people who had gone through Own 2 Feet that there was something extra needed for young people to be ready for independent living. This is how we got our idea for Ty Cyfle.”
Ty Cyfle and the local community
Ty Cyfle has two community rooms where residents in the local area will be able to access services like computer training and job hunting. We will also run our various work programmes under the ‘That Works’ banner, which has already helped many people into training and work.
You can contact Bron Afon Community Housing on 01633 620111 and follow Duncan Forbes on Twitter @forbes_duncan
THFI Project Manager, Jocelle Lovell, takes some time to reflect on the launch of the project’s legacy report, which took place this week, on Wednesday 3rd December
I was going to write a blog on the day in the hope of capturing all of the passion, enthusiasm and interest in our work, but then I decided to take time to reflect on the event:
The project has been a 3 year roller coaster ride with plenty of highs and lows, and having to constantly evolve to reflect changes outside of our control. The biggest challenge being, the lack of detail early on regarding the roll out of Universal Credit.
The event was very kindly hosted by the Huggard Centre, which for me sent a very poignant message. Our work is very much focused on the prevention of homelessness, whilst the work of the Huggard Centre is trying to break the cycle of homelessness. Prevention projects, like ours, are vital if we are to reduce the number of people who end up living on the streets, sofa surfing or living in temporary hostel accommodation.
We were very grateful to have Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, speak at the event, where it was recognised our work brought together all the elements of her portfolio.
The event was not only an opportunity to thank the project’s funders, Welsh Government and the Oak Foundation, but also to showcase our work to our new funders, Comic Relief, who found the event very informative and gave them insight into our thinking and methodology.
Attendees came from local authorities, credit unions, funders and third sector organisations. Whilst most were familiar with our work, and had been active partners, the event highlighted new opportunities, with many attendees requesting follow up meetings to see how we can work together in the future.
There is still so little we know about the Private Rented Sector, and so much more work to be done, but now is as good a time as any to get started…….
You can find the full report here.
We tweeted live from the launch using #THFI. Below is what some attendees had to say:
Full house @WalesCoOpCentre #THFI report launch ‘Need to engage with #PRS 2 improve #housingWales & #Financial Inclusion
#thfi manager Jo Lovell – ‘thfi’s ability to adapt and evolve to environment, has been key to success’ #THFI
@WG_CommunityMin: Spoke at @WalesCoOpCentre #thfi launch about the role of financial security in preventing homelessness & helping people live fulfilled lives
Whilst government and political parties will no doubt be debating their record on poverty in advance of the general election, next year, is it time for a rethink on how we define and measure it? It’s something that we’ve been considering at the Wales Co-operative Centre, given the ways in which our work supports the wider tackling poverty agenda.
Many of us working in this field have, over the years, disagreed with the relative nature of its definition. This, in my view, is one of its fundamental flaws. To cut through the technicalities if Mr Jones’ income was low enough, he would be defined as living in poverty. If his income remained the same but the rest of the nation’s income fell, he would be lifted out of poverty. He would still have the same income and the same bills to pay, but he would no longer be officially hard up. This is because Mr Jones’ status of living in poverty is related to his income compared with everyone else’s, not how well he is able to live on the money he has coming in.
‘A new approach to reducing poverty should adopt a clear definition of poverty, which is based on resources and household needs, not just a narrow measure of relative income’ says a new report published by the Bevan Foundation. Its report, ‘Rethinking Poverty – Implications for Action’, points to three clear required actions; raising incomes, meeting minimum needs and essential skills.
This wider definition includes some important elements but the issue of income and money still troubles me. Why? The reason is that I have worked with many people who, on the face of it, have a moderate income but because their outgoings are so high, their disposable income is extremely low….so low sometimes that they can’t feed themselves or their family. Back to Mr Jones; if his employer starts paying the living wage, he may not be lifted out of poverty, it depends on everyone else’s income. Whether he can feed his family is immaterial.
This is where financial inclusion and financial capability are critical. Every person needs to have a safe, secure and flexible place to manage their money and the knowledge and confidence to manage it well and make the most of what they have coming in. This means access to responsible financial products and debt advice when things go wrong. Credit unions are a great starting point for many people who have been excluded from these essential services for far too long.
Teej Dew is Programme Director for Financial Inclusion at the Wales Co-operative Centre
Nearly a quarter of a million people in Wales want a job but do not have one. More than 8,000 households were homeless in 2013 and 79,000 people needed food aid. One in three children lives in a low income family. This is the stark backdrop to the Bevan Foundation’s new report “Rethinking Poverty – Implications for Action”, which is of great interest to us at the Wales Co-operative Centre and the work that we do that supports the wider poverty agenda.
The report argues that digital and financial skills are essential to help people out of poverty, or at least mitigate its impact. About digital inclusion, the report says:
“Digital skills are an important adjunct to literacy and numeracy, as more and more services are either available only online, or offer time and/or cash savings if accessed online. The shift towards online benefit claims is a particularly strong driver of change. People without access to the internet and without the skills to use it are disadvantaged. There is a marked income-effect in digital exclusion – in 2013, only 1 in 10 (9%) of those in managerial and professional occupations did not use the internet compared to more than three in ten (31%) of those who had semi-routine and routine occupations.
“It is very welcome that digital skills have a relatively high profile in the 2013 Tackling Poverty Action Plan. The plan includes the Digital Inclusion delivery plan’s targets, the targets for which have mostly been met. The commitment to digital skills and inclusion should continue, with challenging targets for people in low income groups, with programmes of sufficient scale and impact to achieve them.”
The achievement of the targets in the Digital Inclusion delivery plan was due to the Welsh Government’s Communities 2.0 programme, which is led by the Wales Co-operative Centre. How is this going to work then when Communities 2.0 comes to an end in March next year? Well, we need everyone in Wales working to tackle poverty to take digital inclusion seriously. Our experience is that the current practice is too patchy. And to get this consistency we need a strong, lean leading digital inclusion project to help all front line services deliver effective digital skills support.
The Bevan Foundation report is blunt about the nature of the challenge. For the last eight years, there has been no improvement at all in the number of Welsh people living in poverty. And that number is set to rise. Yes, we need an informed debate. But we also need action.
Dave Brown is the Director of Strategic Development & Performance at the Wales Co-operative Centre