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Blog: help us spread the word - getting our message across

By Sarah Boyack, SFHA Head of Public Affairs

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This summer, the SFHA team are planning ahead for a busy autumn. To get our message across, we’re asking our members to get in touch with elected representatives to let them see for themselves the importance of the work of housing associations in communities across Scotland.

In the Scottish Parliament we will have legislation and inquiries by MSPs into areas that are critical for our members. This autumn will see new legislation on planning, warm homes, FOI, climate change, ONS reclassification and the new Scottish Social Security Agency. There will also be inquiries on homelessness and changes to safety requirements, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Senior SFHA staff have also recently met with ministers and Scottish Government officials to raise our concerns about the speed of progress on building new stock and for support in implementing SFHA’s Action Plan for apprentices in the housing sector.

In the UK Parliament, there is the opportunity to build support for SFHA’s five asks on welfare which call for a halt to damaging changes which are impacting on housing association tenants, rental incomes and planning for future services by housing associations. Discussions on Brexit are the chance to share the findings of the SFHA’s study of members which highlighted the threats and opportunities. And on energy, we’ll be highlighting our twin concerns of the cost of energy to tenants and the need to make sure that regulations don’t hinder the development of community renewables that are now being worked on by housing associations.

December will see discussions on the Scottish Budget which provide a chance to highlight the need for continued investment in new affordable housing and improving existing stock as well as support for tenants through spending on social care. We need to make the argument that spending on housing is not just an investment for the future but has the capacity to generate economic activity,  including new jobs and apprenticeships and is an opportunity to support communities which need regeneration. It’s also an important opportunity to raise the need for investment in care for older people to enable them to live as independently as possible in their own homes – a classic example of preventative spend.

It’s important that SFHA is able to raise the challenges our members face, backed up by evidence of the experiences housing associations have across Scotland. That’s why we’ve been surveying our members every month to get across the impact of welfare changes, particularly, Universal Credit, and make constructive suggestions for change to the DWP.

One of the best ways to get these messages across to decision makers is to showcase the fantastic work SFHA members are doing in local communities by inviting elected representatives to make local visits and build strong relationships with housing associations in their area.

We took our "I Value Scottish Housing Associations” campaign took to every Scottish political party conference this spring. We got very positive feedback and are now following up with the contacts we made then with elected representatives at every level of government. We’re also getting in touch with newly elected councillors and MPs so that, when housing is raised, they understand our members’ top concerns.

SFHA’s success in persuading the Scottish Government to invest in 50,000 new affordable homes was the result of campaigning alongside other organisations, in this case Shelter and the CIH, and our research demonstrated the benefits of sustained investment.

Being able to talk to our members andmeet staff and tenants is a great opportunity for elected members to see the important work being done by housing associations on the ground. Our website has briefings on key policy areas for members to draw on, and SFHA staff are always keen to help out with member inquiries, so we are successful in getting our message across and delivering for tenants and communities.

And, if you do have an elected member or another special guest visiting, make sure you take photos and share with @sfha_hq on Twitter!