Impact investment: it cannot be just about the wow …… look at the fairness!
Housing solutions to social injustice – a phrase I have used countless times since first joining Commonweal back in 2010. Our strap line continues to say it all for me – housing as part of the solution to bigger, sometimes more intractable problems in people’s lives that mean they are systemically and repeatedly getting the less desirable end of the stick. Housing can provide some stability that enables other support or interventions to have real traction – hopefully speeding up an upward trajectory.
As Commonweal comes to the end of its first decade in 2016 we have helped project partners to assist an upward trajectory for people facing a wide range of different social injustices. People such as mothers separated from their children, former rough sleepers, women exiting a life of prostitution, and young people leaving care. There are undoubted wow factors for each of these groups and major headline benefits that can be described – avoiding re-offending, improved health and mental health, reduced anti-social behaviour and interactions with the law.
But I am pleased that Commonweal has also supported projects and beneficiary groups where perhaps the positive outcomes might be a bit less shouty; groups that are likely to be flying below the radar. As one of my insightful colleagues brilliantly described it; “Making the invisible visible”. Our project about housing support for victims of miscarriages of justice and our current project supporting failed asylum seekers and tackling destitution fall in to this category. As does a project we are hoping to get off the ground next year providing housing options for Young Adult Carers.
The evidence base is not necessarily there about the headline grabbing negative medium to long term outcomes (drugs, imprisonment, homelessness) for this group. Instead as a group these young people are frequently very able to ‘cope’, they are mature beyond their years – but this maturity has frequently come at the cost of them not putting themselves first in terms of education and social networks. The outcomes for young and young adult carers are too often lower paid jobs, limited educational achievement, limited social networks, older age loneliness and a sense of isolation …..all the sorts of less dramatic, less wowwy detriments that perhaps could be reduced or avoided if this particular difficult transition to adulthood were better planned and supported.
The fact that many of them don’t even realise they are disadvantaged because no one has told them otherwise is an injustice in itself in our eyes.
Social injustice is ultimately about fairness or the lack of it.
Ashley Horsey is Chief Executive of Commonweal Housing