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25 February 2015

Housing sector shines spotlight on board members making a difference in Wales’ innovative businesses

Housing association board members are responsible for running and setting the strategic direction of the sector’s multi-million pound businesses.

These businesses provide homes and housing related services to ten percent of the Welsh population. In 2014 they collectively spent £1bn in the economy, with 80 per cent of that spend retained in Wales, and employed 8,400 people on a full time basis.

There are currently over 550 people on housing association boards. CHC, the representative body for Welsh housing associations, has today launched ‘Come on board’, a campaign designed to attract even more people with the right skills and experience to steer their organisations through the challenging times ahead. Balanced and diverse boards are the foundations of good governance, and the campaign is being launched jointly with Tai Pawb, an organisation that promotes equality and social justice in housing in Wales and Chwarae Teg, the leading professional agency for the economic development of women in Wales.

The launch of the ‘Come on Board’ campaign coincides with the introduction of CHC’s Code of Governance. The Code, produced in consultation with members, sets standards and practices that boards and their members must adhere to. It has been designed to help housing associations to develop good governance structures and support continuous service improvement for tenants.

CHC’s Group Chief Executive Stuart Ropke said: “The Code of Governance and the ‘Come on Board’ campaign are two crucial elements in helping to achieve our ambition of housing associations being recognised as the best governed organisations in Wales.”

Housing association board membership is open to people from all walks of life, ages, abilities, experience and vocations, and both the Code and the Come on Board campaign emphasis that board diversity is essential.

Jemma Bere from Brecon became a Tenant Board Member for Wales & West Housing last year. Jemma aged 31, who lives with and is a Guardian to her teenage brother and sister said: “My decision was largely down to my own personal experience with social housing and the lifeline that it provided for me and my family in 2008. I wanted to be able to give back to the sector, so I saw being a board member as an ideal opportunity to do this. It has given me a really valuable insight into how the organisation works on behalf of tenants.”

Retired businessman Nick Hoskins, a Board Member and former chair of the board at Mid Wales Housing Association said: “I’m part of a group of equally determined volunteers who have collective capability to bring about change and relish that our joint endeavours help to improve lives.”

Claire Russell Griffiths was the first tenant and woman to be elected chair of the board at Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (CCG). The married mum of three was brought up in the Llŷn Peninsula and had been a tenant at Mynytho for seven years before joining the board in October 2014. She said: “I was delighted and honoured to be elected as Chair of CCG. The association has homes across Gwynedd and provides affordable, quality homes to those in housing need – something I am very proud of.

“I recently graduated as a mature student with a law degree from Bangor University. I’m now studying to become a social worker. I’m also a member of the Wales Tenants’ Advisory Panel and sit on the Housing Regulatory Advisory Group. I get valuable experience and training as a CCG board member. As a tenant on the board, it’s very important that tenants’ voices are heard within CCG, and my hope is that we can attract more tenants to participate and engage with us.

“Like other associations in Wales many challenges lie ahead, not least in the shape of further welfare reform. CCG is embarking on an exciting new phase as we reach the end of our £136m home improvements programme. Key projects include building new homes and developing services.”

Julia Hughes, from Llangwyfan near Denbigh, was formerly the director of adult and community learning at Coleg Llandrillo. After taking early retirement, she became a board member of the newly formed Grŵp Cynefin board in September last year.

Julia said: “I was made extremely welcome by the other board members, the leadership team and staff of the association. The comprehensive induction programme for all members of the newly formed board, which included tours of offices, housing and projects as well as meeting the majority of the staff, as well as the presentations and background information supplied, provided me with an excellent introduction to a sector which was new to me and gave me an ideal preparation for my new role as a co-opted board member. This has given me confidence that my transferable skills and experience will be valuable when applied to the social housing sector and that I will be able to make a good contribution and hopefully help to make a real difference.”

Encouraging others to ‘Come on Board’ CHC’s Stuart Ropke added: “We are always looking to add to our existing board member database. If you want to make a positive difference to Welsh communities and influence the work of housing associations, then ‘Come on Board’ is for you.”

Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister, Lesley Griffiths, said “I welcome the launch of CHC’s Come on Board campaign and their Code of Governance. Maintaining the highest possible standards of governance is essential to ensure the sector remains strong and able provide the very best service for tenants.

“An important element of good governance is having the right people on housing association boards, including tenants themselves, who reflect the diversity of our communities and have the right skills and experience. I am encouraged by evidence which shows housing association boards are becoming more diverse and made up of people from all walks of life. I hope to see this positive trend continue.”

** The Come on Board website will be launched tomorrow at CHC's Governance Conference. The URL will appear here once the site is live.**