Home News Commonweal strikes seven partnerships for innovative feasibility studies

Harry Williams

Harry is the Policy and Communications Manager at Commonweal Housing

Commonweal strikes seven partnerships for innovative feasibility studies

Commonweal Housing has partnered with seven front-line organisations as part of its 2021 Call for New Ideas, the charity’s partnership programme. It has agreed to support and fund the feasibility studies to test the suitability of new innovative models that seek housing-based solutions to social injustices.

The new partners are:

  • Homelessness organisation, C4WS
  • Irish Methodist Church, East Belfast Mission
  • Gateway, a Haringey-based NHS Trust pilot scheme
  • Refuge, the UK’s largest provider of refuges for survivors of domestic abuse
  • Hackney community interest company, SWIM Enterprises
  • Youth employment charity, Adab Trust
  • Hertfordshire social enterprise, Rocknplace

Commonweal will be working with C4WS, a network of 12 churches launched in 2005 which offers vulnerable people 28-day shelter between November and March, as well as a variety of services that support their journey back to independent living.

With the support of Commonweal following a successful feasibility study, C4WS will be creating a new social lettings project ‘Launchpad’, which addresses insufficient funding, housing and support for people who have experienced homelessness by providing safe and supported accommodation. Launchpad is designed to give clients greater personal autonomy in their day-to-day living while improving their financial capacities through a matched deposit saving scheme.

Nikki Barnett, Director at C4WS, said, “The money from Commonweal allowed us to write a plan on how to start a short-term letting scheme to invite guests to stay in for a period of 6-9 months after the shelter, to continue receiving our support, and to ensure stability for them in longer term accommodation. We are very grateful for this funding, as it has meant that we will be launching the project itself in the new year, and can put into practice the research we have done. Thank you, Commonweal.”

Commonweal is set to fund a new feasibility study by homeless service East Belfast Mission. The study will investigate the viability of a project that will provide affordable rental accommodation and tenancy support services within the community of East Belfast, as a route into housing for people in transition who cannot access social housing or private rented accommodation.

Aidan Byrne, Homelessness Service Manager at East Belfast Mission, said, “Delivering homeless services in Belfast for over 20 years, we have frontline experience of housing injustice and the suffering that it creates. The Call for New Ideas has given us the resources to research and develop an innovative housing solution to tackle these injustices. Throughout this process the support from Commonweal, and the current Commonweal project partners, has been invaluable. We now hope to deliver this project, test its effectiveness, and to share any learning so that other organisations can replicate any successes and play a part in tackling social injustice.”

Commonweal will also provide funding and support to Gateway, a project launched by the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey NHS Trust. Gateway is a specialist enhanced liaison and diversion (L&D) service that provides psychologically informed, multi-level well-being interventions for 10 to 25-year olds presenting within court and police custody in the local community.

The service aims to divert young people away from the criminal justice system through a combination of: treatment of unmet mental health needs, increased accessibility of services, increased access to education and employment support, and improved overall stability.

Charlotte Wilson, Clinical Psychologist at Gateway, said, “Gateway is excited to be working in partnership with Commonweal to pursue our shared goal of finding solutions to social inequality. Working with young people involved in serious youth violence means we are supporting some of the most marginalised young people in the country, most of whom have experienced severe poverty, housing insecurity and/or homelessness. Our feasibility study aims to develop an innovative and effective way of supporting these young people to change their lives through the delivery of a rapid and novel model of housing provision. This model will be co-produced with young people enabling them to design for themselves the services that can best meet their needs.”

Domestic abuse accommodation providers Refuge will investigate best practice for a dispersed refuge model with Commonweal’s support. Women escaping domestic violence with multiple or complex needs often find their access to mainstream refuge services restricted. The single-occupancy housing and network of support provided by dispersed refuge models offer women both the support available in a communal refuge and the specialist support catering to their specific needs.

Angie Airlie, Head of Development at Refuge, said, “The Domestic Abuse Act, which became law earlier this year, has highlighted gaps in the national provision of safe accommodation for some groups of survivors of domestic abuse, such as women with disabilities; those with large families or women with older teenage boys. The use of dispersed accommodation – property that is situated in a community and stands alone from a wider refuge service – looks increasingly to be the option for many local authorities who are looking to close this gap. Refuge is keen to ensure survivors in dispersed accommodation are able to access the same level and type of support as survivors in mainstream refuges. With the support of Commonweal, Refuge is excited to have the opportunity to develop a potential best practice model in relation to supporting survivors of domestic abuse in dispersed accommodation.”

Commonweal will support SWIM Enterprises to assess the feasibility of housing and resettlement support for African and Caribbean heritage (ACH) prison leavers. The proposed project would support prison-leavers immediately upon release, through the provision of stable housing, psychosocial interventions, and help into education, training, and employment (ETE), and volunteering.

Peter Merrifield, Chief Executive at SWIM Enterprises, said, “Social, economic and health outcomes for men of African and Caribbean (ACH) heritage leaving prison are consistently poorer than for other groups. Officers and serving prisoners tell us that resettlement is more difficult for ACH men because interventions lack culturally competent and capable support for their housing, finances, physical and mental health, substance abuse, family and social challenges. In the absence of relatable Black peers with lived experience to guide them, many re-connect with self-destructive behaviours and criminal associates, which lead to their return to custody.

Our feasibility study will help us understand the challenges and reality of our proposed solution. We will review similar programmes to identify levels of success and reasons for failure. We will use this information to design out the more glaring pitfalls, while mitigating other problems, ensuring we use lessons learnt from previous projects to develop and design one which will be a success.”

With Commonweal’s support, the Adab Trust will evaluate the effectiveness of residential accommodation in the delivery of training for looked-after children in local authority care. It will then produce a plan to improve current outcomes and disrupt current market provision.

Its research will assess the practicability of 11- or 16-week residential training schemes, implemented within existing local authority arrangements for accommodation provision. After assessment of the cohort’s requirements, it will develop a specialised housing intervention model, co-produced with young people and specialist housing organisations.

Dermot O’Brien, founder of the Adab Trust, said, “We welcome the opportunity to be partnering with such a forward-thinking organisation as Commonweal. We want to create a step change in the life chances of Looked After Children. We believe their challenging journeys have equipped care leavers with many of the key success skills and attitudes. Our role is to help them harness and direct these attributes to realise their true potential in society.”

Finally, Commonweal will be supporting Rocknplace to assess the feasibility of providing housing and support for young BAME people who have interacted with youth care services or the criminal justice system. The proposed project aims to prevent recidivism, enhance employability, and improve quality of life. Rocknplace’s founders have worked with young adults in this field for a number of years and have established links with related charities and housing providers.

Sue Whiterod, Co-founder of Rocknplace said, “Rocknplace homes address the traumatic lived experiences of young men leaving the care and prison systems – those caught between ‘a rock and many hard places’.  We are proud to be partnering with Commonweal Housing. The Call for New Ideas chimes with our mission: to support the most marginalised, socially deprived young adults in society. Rocknplace homes will offer a new way of living, with purpose.”

Amy Doyle, Deputy Chief Executive at Commonweal Housing, said: “We are always looking for cutting-edge, fresh ideas that go right to the heart of social injustices and that are rooted in providing stable housing and real support to the most vulnerable people in the country. These new partnerships exemplify our values and our thinking, and we are greatly looking forward to investigating these projects and hopefully working closely with all our new partners.”  

All seven partnerships were established as part of Commonweal’s 2021 Call for New Ideas. The Call for New Ideas has now closed, but will reopen in 2022. The charity is determined to forge new, exciting and innovative partnerships around its core themes. These are the criminal justice system, violence against women and girls, as well as systemic injustices that occur at points of transition in people’s lives. Commonweal is also particularly keen on new partnerships with BAME led organisations and projects focusing on BAME issues related to our current core themes.

If you are interested in learning more about how Commonweal Housing can help support your organisation, project or research, please contact: info@commonweal.org.uk

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