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EHRA challenges poverty

Blog by Patricia Gallagher, Director, Provanhall Housing Association, and EHRA member.

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Easterhouse Housing and Regeneration Alliance (EHRA), comprising Blairtummock Housing Association, Calvay Housing Association, Gardeen Housing Association, Easthall Park Housing Co-operative, Lochfield Park Housing Association, Provanhall Housing Association, Ruchazie Housing Association, and Wellhouse Housing Association, has been involved in the physical regeneration of the housing and surrounding environments of Easterhouse since 1985 and has achieved great success in this role.

Given EHRA’s longevity in the world of housing, it was also amongst the first to get involved in wider role. However, in recent years there was a feeling that this was not quite as successful as the ‘bricks and mortar’ work, a fact that was backed up by the last Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) in 2016. 

The SIMD index showed that the neighbourhoods across Easterhouse remained in the top 10 most deprived areas across Scotland. EHRA is aware, that while most – if not all – of these issues fall under the responsibility of statutory services, reduced budgets and cuts to services were making the most vulnerable in their areas even more so.

As community anchor organisations, the housing associations and co-operatives that form EHRA therefore saw it as their role to attempt to fill some of the gaps and to address the continuing poverty in the area. As such, a challenging poverty charter was developed in 2017, and all of the EHRA groups signed up to it.

Reviewing the work that has been undertaken, collectively and individually, under this charter, makes for impressive reading. Between the EHRA members there are now five dedicated community facilities, partnerships with local groups which run a further three facilities, four community IT suites, welfare rights advisers or income advisers – some full-time, some part-time, and job clubs.

Income maximisation, in the shadow of Universal Credit, has been a priority for the group.  Over the year, just under £3 million was received by local residents via the welfare officers. 

The group is now running campaigns to actively encourage the uptake of pension credits in the area which was recently highlighted as a hugely under claimed benefit in this area of Glasgow specifically.

EHRA also helps local residents seek and secure employment via its support to local job clubs, which are now so successful that they receive government funding to deliver services.  From providing literacy classes, CV writing, setting up Universal Credit accounts and bank accounts, and providing clothing for interviews, many tenants have manged to secure positive destinations via employment or volunteering opportunities.         

EHRA is now a member of the Poverty Alliance and provide as much support as possible to local residents on energy efficiency. Annually, at least two food bank drives are held, Cash 4 Kids applications are made at Christmas – helping thousands of families in the area, pantomime tickets are provided, and highly successful youth clubs – one of the most successful forms of our preventative work – operate in almost every area.

The group also support the work of many other local charities in the area – ranging from flat pack meals to furniture recycling to allotments. Access to community electric cars is next on the agenda for some!

While much has been achieved in recent years, EHRA still feels it has much still to do and that the emphasis on challenging poverty has to be much more focussed on prevention. It is committed to continuing its good work in this area and, whilst it acknowledges it as a longer-term aim, changing the SIMD for this area.

For more information on EHRA and its charter for challenging poverty please see: www.gardeen.org.uk/ehra10