Home News Commonweal presents 2023/24 Annual Review: ‘Digging Deeper’
AR 24 front cover

Lauren Aronin

Lauren is the Communications Officer at Commonweal Housing

Commonweal presents 2023/24 Annual Review: ‘Digging Deeper’

Commonweal Housing has today launched its 2023/24 Annual Review, ‘Digging Deeper’, capturing the charity’s activities and achievements over the past 12 months.

The prominent focus of Commonweal’s efforts has been delving into the causes of, and solutions to, social injustices related to its themes – the priority focus areas for the charity’s work. These are: the criminal justice system, young people, and the migration, asylum, and human trafficking systems.

Notably, this year, the charity took the first steps towards finding new housing solutions to help address these areas of injustice through the Call for New Ideas – the funding mechanism designed by Commonweal to find new housing models to fund and support into reality.

For the first time, the Call ran with an exclusive focus on each theme separately, in an effort to better streamline resources. Through Call for New Ideas: Criminal Justice, which ran from August to September 2023, the charity funded four feasibility studies evaluating housing initiatives seeking to address injustices facing individuals in contact with the criminal justice system. 

The Call re-opened in March 2024, focusing on young people, specifically young adults who have experienced the care system, mental health challenges, and difficult school experiences. This iteration saw Commonweal partner with three frontline organisations seeking to test new housing initiatives to support young people. Call for New Ideas focused on the migration, asylum and trafficking fields will open in September 2024.

This year also marks the first 12 months since the launch of the ‘You’re Home’ project, which provides affordable housing and tenancy support to homeless people in east Belfast in partnership between Northern Irish charity East Belfast Mission and Commonweal. The interim evaluation of the You’re Home’s housing model is currently underway and will be published later in the year.

The charity has a wave of upcoming projects on the horizon, with a new housing pilot in collaboration between mental health charity Servol Community Services and Commonweal set to launch this year. This project, based in the West Midlands, will provide tailored housing alongside wraparound support to male prison leavers with severe mental health illnesses and complex needs.

In addition to commencing new projects, this year saw three longstanding legacy projects conclude after pilot periods of up to seven years. Following the scheduled end of Move on Up, which housed young adult carers in partnership between Quaker Social Action and Commonweal, the charities commissioned a report highlighting the housing needs of this vulnerable cohort. This past year, Commonweal has help draw attention to the injustices facing young adult carers by engaging with stakeholders to improve visibility of their housing needs.

While projects are the primary focus of Commonweal’s work, the charity also allocates resources to funding research on a wide range of social policy issues and their intersections with housing and homelessness.

Over the past year, the charity has funded an array of research, including a study by the Human Trafficking Foundation exploring the housing landscape for survivors of modern slavery and a report outlining a new standard for families in emergency accommodation by architects Morris + Company, among other pieces. More recently, the charity has also commissioned research investigating the impacts rising rent prices have on move-on options for single homeless services, set for publication in August.

To gain a deeper understanding into the causes of injustices across the charity’s thematic areas, Commonweal also commissioned sector experts to undertake research into the injustices facing young people, those in contact with the criminal justice system, and those in contact with the migration, asylum, and trafficking systems, and how the injustice intersects with housing and homelessness.

The Annual Review also details Commonweal’s internal changes over the past year. Fiona Mactaggart, Commonweal’s former Chair, stepped down from the Board of Trustees in September 2023 after 17 years on the Board. Fiona served as Chair for 13 years from 2006 to 2019, significantly shaping the charity’s vision and trajectory, followed by a subsequent four-year spell as a Trustee. In recognition of her remarkable legacy, she now serves as an Honorary Patron where she will offer her ongoing support.

Commonweal has also appointed Amarjit Bains as Vice-Chair of the Board, having been a Trustee since 2021, alongside two new Board members. Experienced property solicitor Gerald Kelly was appointed Trustee in March 2024, and Aphra Mactaggart, the great-granddaughter of Commonweal’s founder, Sir John A. Mactaggart Bt, joined in June 2023.

Jack Mactaggart, Chair of Commonweal Housing, and Ashley Horsey, Chief Executive said: “This year has been yet another fantastic year of activity from Commonweal Housing, underpinned by our unique approach to exploring the roads less travelled, understanding the nuanced needs of those too often overlooked, and digging deeper into the causes of social injustice.

“We extend our immense thanks to our projects and research partners, social investors, friends, and colleagues who make Commonweal’s quest to unearth gemstones we call housing solutions possible. A special thank you also goes to Fiona Mactaggart, Commonweal’s former longstanding Chair, who has been a pivotal part of our mission for almost two decades.”

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