Over the last three months, we’ve been talking with colleagues from social housing organisations across the UK on a regular basis. Initially, those discussions were focused on identifying vulnerable residents and the best ways of organising the distribution of food and get support to our residents and communities.
They were also about how we shift our work and engagement online, and how we look after ourselves and each other during this moment of crisis.
Since then, those conversations have changed. Now, those conversations are focusing on the future role of social housing organisations in place and how we use our resources and presence in communities to be a key part of the recovery and reset that is now needed.
Before we think about the future, let’s stop for a moment and reflect on the impact that we have had since March, in responding to the challenges of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown.
We have unlocked the passion of many who work within the sector. Our social purpose has come to the fore and has been keenly felt.
We have delivered on our role in communities, ensuring that vulnerable residents and local people have been supported and not forgotten.
We have strengthened and developed relationships with local community groups, local authorities, the NHS and local businesses.
We have demonstrated that we can be agile, embracing new ways of working, shifting to digital and redeploying staff to different areas of the business overnight.
We have engaged with our residents on a scale that has never been seen before, responding to their individual needs, whether with food parcels, advice and guidance, financial assistance or just a regular call to see if they are OK.
We have continued to deliver our care and support services despite significant challenges, from staff shortages and the lack of PPE.
We have facilitated the ending of street homelessness in many cities.
We have responded to issues of poverty, which have huge impact on our communities, in particular, our BAME communities.
We have achieved a lot but it doesn’t end there.
Amidst all the uncertainty about the future, I’m clear about one thing: we can’t go back to the way things were before. We need to move forward. We need to use our passions for making a difference and our creativity for being different. When the chips are down, we are a sector that steps up and delivers.
How we do this will define us as a sector for the next decade. The roles that we take, the decisions that we make, and the way that we work together will show who we truly are.
So what does come next? What are the things we need to explore now as we think about the future?
How can we build on what we’ve achieved? How do we embed the new relationships we’ve developed locally and make collaboration the norm?
How do we turn our new engagement and trust with residents into insight and involvement?
How do we meaningfully tackle poverty and inequality? How do listen carefully and act on what we are being told by our BAME colleagues and communities?
How do we pivot our organisations so that they are providing the right support to our residents and our communities? How do we enable our community and voluntary sector partners to survive and?
What role do we play in local economic development, beyond regeneration and housebuilding? How do we use our presence as significant local employers to support our residents back into work?
How do we understand and measure our impact in a meaningful way?
And how do we embed the positive gains we’ve made in our own organisational transformation and go further and faster than we could have imagined just three months ago?
The answers to all of these might be challenging.
But just as we’ve responded to the challenges of the last three months with agility, intelligence and dedication, so we can do so again.
And in doing so, we will create a new role for social housing in place.