A new Senedd, a fresh look at the importance of Home!
Bryony Haynes looks at what’s been happening since those elections in May:
“New faces, a constant battle for attention, and information overload are all common features of the months that follow a newly elected Senedd for its new Members of the Senedd (MS’s). Even returning MS’s aren’t safe, with many organisations, including us, using it as an opportunity to retell their stories and to build upon political relationships.
“Against this noisy backdrop, we ran a series of virtual breakfast briefing sessions for MS’s, their political support staff, and key Senedd staff as an accessible and informative series of opportunities to learn about, and ask questions of, housing associations.
“To tell the story of housing associations' contribution to the big challenges facing Wales in a way that cuts through the noise, means something to politicians and builds commitment amongst them. We knew we needed to bring the story of Home! to life by profiling the amazing work of our members and delivery partners - and making sure they did most of the talking.”
Green economic recovery
“The series kicked off with our very own Policy & External Affairs Manager, Bethan Proctor setting the scene about housing associations’ contribution to a green and prosperous Wales. Eurgain Powell from the Future Generation Commissioner’s office developed this thinking further, with specific detail around the skills necessary for the decarbonisation of the social housing stock.
“The power of this session was evident in demonstrating employment initiatives through testimonials by Cartrefi Conwy’s Creating Enterprise, and the tenant experience through the work of Electoral Reform Society and Housing Associations with the Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly.
“Alongside research staff, the conversation between our panelists and the Conservative’s Janet Finch-Saunders MS was particularly worthwhile. The value of which can be seen in her written question to the Welsh Government a few weeks later on plans to bring forward a long-term funding framework to support retrofit activity for social housing across Wales.”
“Not surprisingly in the context of the pandemic, our health session was the most attended of the three, with a balance of MS’s and staff across the political parties.
“The Welsh NHS Confederation opened the session by setting out housing’s role in addressing health inequalities. The power of front-line experiences really shone through in this session from Cardiff Community Housing Association, ClwydAlyn, and Newydd, with Jane Dodds MS commenting directly on how powerful their contributions were.
“It was encouraging to see the passion for this session in particular by our MS’s, especially in relation to their own experiences. Altaf Hussain MS gave us food for thought in developing our thinking further on the strong link between poverty, health and housing, and how these areas of our work intersect. Whilst a range of social issues and physical health issues were discussed, Jenny Rathbone MS took the opportunity to highlight the importance of mental health – particularly in relation to outdoor spaces.
“With the offer of ongoing support from these MS’s, there are definitely lots of follow-up conversations to be had from this session that can help us build political commitment to the contribution of housing to health.”
“Finishing off this three-part series, the homelessness session definitely brought the detail - the sector has so much experience to share, particularly from partnership working through the pandemic. Addressing the issue currently on many MS’s agenda, Shelter Cymru began by explaining the impacts of evictions into homelessness and how they are working together with housing associations to overcome the barriers.
“Justin Wigmore from Melin Homes delved in on the detail of reciprocal housing agreements to end evictions into homelessness, whilst Monmouthshire Housing Association demonstrated their local partnerships in tackling homelessness.
“It was great to see the return of Jane Dodds MS, who once again was moved by the tenant experience. In this case, it was the footage shown by Cartrefi Conwy of the impact of home allocations, based on a specific family.
“With a wealth of knowledge and experience showcased in all three of our breakfast briefings, the story of Home! continues to evolve through the start of this new Senedd term. We will be continuing this series in the autumn term with a look at issues such as affordability and supply.
“Our Home! Manifesto campaign succeeded in making sure housing is at the centre of the new government’s ambitions for Wales, but the work to make sure we have the political support to deliver this in practice is ongoing.
“In the coming weeks and months, we will also be refreshing our support and associated resources for housing associations to build positive, lasting relationships with MS’s. More on that soon. Our upcoming Reputation and Relationships Conference will also have a focus on the hows and whys to influencing political relationships, ensuring that our members are around the right tables in strategic decision making.”