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The social housing sector must be able to measure and demonstrate its value

Michael McLaughlin, SFHA Impact Team, says in a year that has seen unprecedented challenges for the social housing sector, both for tenants and landlords, the importance of the sector being able to measure and demonstrate its value, as well as the need for significant investment from the next Scottish Government’s Affordable Housing Programme, cannot be overestimated.

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As we celebrate Scottish Housing Day this year, having navigated the coronavirus pandemic, the restrictions, and the potential financial and long-term implications for both tenants and housing associations alike, the innovative ways in which housing associations have pivoted their operations in order to provide continued support for, and engage with, their communities has been, at many times, truly remarkable. From remote working to daily welfare calls and online be support programmes, staff redeployment, and everything in between, the ability to create positive impact through their work has continued. As part of our group as SFHA’s Impact Team, we aim to help our members to understand and improve the collaborative impact that drives better outcome across housing associations throughout the country.

Last’s weeks launch of Cache and HACT’s research paper The Impact of Social Housing: Economic, Social, Health and Wellbeing, commissioned by SFHA,  has articulated this brilliantly. Presenting not only interesting but, undoubtedly, significant findings through an extensive literature review and on the ground case study data, the research demonstrates the economic and social impact of social housing, for Scotland and its people, including reducing poverty and homelessness, improving health, and creating jobs and details how this evidence aligns to the outcomes of Scotland’s National Performance Framework. These significant findings show the real life benefits to our tenants and society that investment in our sector generates and the consequent importance of us being able to measure, demonstrate, and advocate this impact for the sector.  

SFHA’s Impact team has been delighted that this research draws on the HACT wellbeing approach, which we have endorsed and are keen to promote throughout the sector. It also notes the work we have been doing around the indicators of impact, with which the Social Value Toolkit provides some practical tools to capture this. Throughout the lockdown restrictions, the Impact Team and the wider group, which includes 30 organisations signed up to SFHA impact manifesto, continued to develop this remotely, and we are delighted that we will launch it at the beginning of October. Covering areas such as tenancy support, environment improvements, procurement, and health and wellbeing, the manifesto will enable all SFHA members to measure and improve on areas of social value in their operations. As previously mentioned, the fact that housing associations have been able to analyse data and need, in such challenging times this year, has enabled them to provide great support in their communities, and we want to provide a straightforward toolkit that will enable them to measure the social value they have created through this. In turn, this will provide further real and robust data to use in planning, budgeting and decision-making processes.

The launch of our Social Value toolkit is by no means the end of this journey for our impact work, quite the opposite; we are just starting this wider conversation within our membership, and we will continue to work with partner organisations such as HACT to develop the use of impact tools within Scotland. 

To echo the findings of the Cache report and also in the words of Craig Sanderson, the importance of social housing as an answer to much of the inequality, poverty and social exclusion in our society has perhaps never been higher. However, in order for this to be understood across wider society, and, indeed, for further significant investment to be made, through work such as the Social Value Toolkit, we must start to demonstrate the impact and additional value that this investment in our sector can create. 

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