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How social landlords can help tackle poverty

Blog by Shona Stephen, Chief Executive, Queens Cross Housing Association

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The first applicants to our new £10,000 Community Chest fund are now getting a helping hand to improve their lives.

It was launched last month as a way of enabling young people in our area take advantage of opportunities that they might otherwise miss out on, or improve their quality of life in some way.

During the first weeks of the fund, we have had applications from young people looking to purchase sports equipment, buy clothes to attend college, clothes for a job interview and travel expenses to look for work.

The first to benefit was 13-year-old Tia from Westercommon, who used the money to pursue her martial arts hobby. Her mum was delighted that the grant allowed her to buy the kit, as normally she wouldn’t have been able to afford it, putting up a barrier to Tia’s participation.

This is exactly what the fund is for. Grants may only be available up to a maximum of £150, but, as Tia will testify, modest sums can make a big difference in an area where poverty continues to be a real issue for far too many young people.

Just how much of an issue was clarified for us through our recent tenants’ survey. More than 70% of eligible tenants returned the survey giving us an accurate picture of how people are living their lives in Queens Cross and the challenges they face.

It also gave us real evidence on what needs to be done to address some of the issues around poverty and deprivation that are still all too common in northwest Glasgow. This is what the Community Chest was born out of.

The exact level of how much some of our families are struggling although shocking was hardly a surprise. It is what we see and deal with every day, people struggling to heat their home and feed their families, having to make unacceptable spending choices because there is just not enough money to go round.

Key findings included 19% of tenants said at some point they had chosen to miss a meal or eat less because of a lack of money and nearly half told us that their income did not always cover their monthly expenses. In relation to children in particular, 18% of families said they’ve had to put off buying children’s shoes, and 35% of tenants said that at some time they had chosen not to put the heating on because of fears over costs.

As a housing provider, we can help our tenants overcome poverty by helping to put money back in their pockets and by giving them the opportunities to break the cycle of poverty.

Striving to keep rents low and providing energy efficient homes are two real steps we can take directly to reduce outgoings giving people more spending options. We can also advise on money matters, so tenants are making the most of the money they have and help them get what they are entitled to.

One of the biggest positive impacts we can make to improve life chances for our young people by providing help, advice and skills training to help young people get into work and activities they enjoy.

The role of a housing association is now about far more than simply putting a secure roof over someone’s head.

In this Scottish Government ‘Year of Young People,’ we hope that our Community Chest can go a small way to helping more young people and families pursue their interests and be able to take the opportunities open to them.

Read more about child poverty in north Glasgow and what Queens Cross is doing to challenge it