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SFHA Scottish Parliament reception: Tackling poverty through social homes

SFHA External Affairs Co-ordinator Tom Ockendon reflects on a visit to the Scottish Parliament this week. 

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What is it about our social homes which make them so transformational in reducing and preventing poverty? That was the question we took to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday evening as we brought together organisations from across civil society to show the value of the work our members do every day to tackle poverty.  

In some respects, the story of poverty is quite a simple one; people living in poverty do not have enough money to live a decent life. But at the same time, like our lives in general, the story is a lot more complicated than that as poverty can become an all-encompassing grip across every aspect of someone’s life. And not just our own life, but our children’s and grandchildren as the effects can last a lifetime.  

In her opening remarks, our Chief Executive Sally Thomas laid out the positive impact our social homes have on people’s lives: 

“Social homes by their very nature are high quality, affordable homes for life. But they’re so much more than that. Living in a social home means being able to put down roots, it means being able to pursue education or employment opportunities, keep your children in the same school, look after your health, get the welfare support you might need, foster community spirit and so much more. Because our home is the building block for everything else.” 

In our recent report, Thriving Places, we looked at the community investment work our members undertake to support tenants, improve lives and create thriving communities as part of a socially just Scotland. The report brings together case studies which look at how housing associations and co-operatives support tenants across different parts of their life and help tackle some of the causes and symptoms of poverty.  

Whether it is preventing young people from falling into crime, supporting tenants throughout their journey into work, or offering befriending initiatives to older people at risk of loneliness, we know housing associations and co-operatives are so important to tackling poverty.  

We were grateful to be joined by the Minister for Housing, Paul McLennan MSP, who was reminded that although our members do a lot – they can’t do it all alone. We must have the political support and government money needed to continue building social homes, keep rents affordable and provide the wider services which have such an impact on tenants’ lives. Devastating cuts to the housing budget have sent shockwaves through the sector and undermined confidence that we are on a shared journey to make Scotland a country of fairness, equality and aspiration. We will continue to do all we can to push the Government into reversing the cut. 

The discussion ended with an impassioned plea from Sally to the Government to appreciate how important it is we have a thriving social housing sector in Scotland and to truly recognise the value of our housing associations and co-operatives in achieving the First Minister’s defining mission of tackling child poverty. 

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