But here is a government which has seemingly understood their ability to provide decent, secure homes for people has to be central to their domestic policy – and that they have to communicate about it in a way that speaks emotively to people.
This is why I wanted to work for PlaceShapers. Finally, we seem to have consensus that there is a housing crisis we must fix. As one of the PlaceShaper member CEOs said, we have a “once in a generation” opportunity to change housing policy. If that doesn’t excite you about going to work, then nothing will.
I started my career working as a support worker for people with severe mental health needs. I got the job straight after University to pay my debts off, probably still thinking I wanted to be a journalist.
But suddenly I met a group of people who had to fight so hard to get any pleasure from their lives at all. For all of them, the home they felt so safe in and the care and support we, their housing association, provided, was fundamental to any happiness they enjoyed.
Working for Shelter and then Oxfam I was alongside talented, passionate people who were both providing desperately needed services – and campaigning for them not to be needed at all. It was here I learned the power of campaigning and the need to challenge the policies and systems that mean too many people can’t enjoy their lives.
I’ve quickly found, working for PlaceShapers, the amazing ‘can do’ attitude of associations. When challenges are thrown at them they seem to say “right, what more do we need to do to provide an excellent service in this context?” But, as a campaigner, I think it’s crucial we also have even more of a voice in challenging policy which could be so damaging to our residents and communities – and proposing alternatives.
There’s been some great campaigning in this sector in the last few years. Campaigns to challenge supported housing funding, scrapping housing benefit for under-21s and ending lifetime tenancies to name a few.
This shows campaigning works. But these have been to stop something, to reverse a decision, not to implement a new, better way of doing things.
I hope we can now do more campaigning for positive changes. We should be campaigning on issues directly related to housing and other key issues – imagine associations campaigning on the need to end foodbanks for example.
This work must be delivered with our residents and communities. I think there’s a huge opportunity for PlaceShapers to change policy and I’m hoping we can seize this ‘once in a generation’ chance to do so.