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Ashley Horsey

Ashley is Chief Executive of Commonweal Housing.

Our year in numbers and words

To misappropriate the words of John Lennon and Yoko Ono “So this is Christmas, what have you done?” As we start to draw down the curtain on 2021 we do ask ourselves this important question and thankfully we feel it has been another year of achievements and learning – continuing to focus on those too often overlooked, ignored or marginalised by society.

From migrants with no recourse to public funds, women and their children fleeing domestic abuse or sexual exploitation, young adult carers making steps into independent living, and individuals trapped in the cycle of unemployment and homelessness, we’re proud to have enabled a difference in the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable people.  Here are a few of the things we hope you are interested in from 2021.

Housing solutions to social injustice

We’re proud to support our partners with our expertise and resources, so that together we can provide housing solutions to a range of often overlooked social injustices. We’re immensely proud to have run five active projects this year.

26 survivors of domestic violence and their children were accommodated and supported in our Rhea project in collaboration with Solace Women’s Aid (SWA) this year. Meanwhile our Amari project, also with SWA, accommodates and supports 11 women who have escaped sexual exploitation. Both Rhea and Amari create a foundation for tenants to recover from trauma and regain independence.

Coming into my own flat it has given me such a boost… All the things I’ve been doing, they’ve all helped me make peace with the past.”

Amari Client
NRPF project clients

Our No Recourse to Public Funds project with Praxis housed 46 destitute migrants with their children, living in London without the safety net of public funds. The secure base offered by the accommodation fosters wellbeing and confidence, whilst Praxis provide specialist immigration advice: this year, all immigration cases dealt with by Praxis and finished by the time an individual left the project received positive decisions.

Winning recognition

This year, we’ve been proud to win two leading awards. Freedom2Work, our project with Rentstart. Through stable accommodation, employment support, and a matched-savings scheme for homeless individuals, the project helps break the cycle of homelessness and unemployment won Homelessness Partnership of the Year at the prestigious UK Housing Awards.

Even to receive the finalist nominations felt affirming for a project that we have put so much effort into over the last five years: one that we hope will grow and replicate.”

Ben Phillips-Farmer, Head of Community Engagement at Rentstart

Every year we demonstrate the impact of our work with an annual review. Our latest review, In it Together, showcased our work throughout 2020-2021 – a year like no other. Designed by Ian Cuthbert of Cuthbert Design, it won a Gold Award at the International Annual Report Design Awards.

Learning together

Back in February we appointed two new trustees: Amarjit Bains and Sheldon Shillingford. Amarjit is a senior leader with extensive experience of delivering strategy, operations and transformation in both the public and private sectors. Sheldon is a surveyor and consultant with 20 years’ experience and a keen interest in construction law and human rights. They join our nine other trustees who support and guide Commonweal with their invaluable dedication and expertise spanning parliament, academia, social housing, development and regeneration and finance.

“I look forward to working with colleagues to continue the exciting and rewarding work of exploring innovative housing ideas, opportunities and solutions.”

Sheldon Shillingford

Our Call for New Ideas programme gives frontline organisations large and small the freedom to investigate imaginative, housing-based projects addressing social injustices.

As part of our 2021 Call for New Ideas, we’ll be supporting seven organisations, from SWIM Enterprises, which supports people of African and Caribbean heritage in Hackney, to Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic violence organisation.

We’ll be supporting and funding studies, so these organisations can establish the feasibility of their ideas for housing projects. Some are already completed or underway. East Belfast Mission is engaging with Commonweal to begin a pilot project while C4WS has completed its study and will be launching the project with a housing association in the new year.

”Throughout this process the support from Commonweal, and the current Commonweal project partners, has been invaluable.”

Aidan Byrne, Homelessness Service Manager at East Belfast Mission.

Every year, we support undergraduate students at the University of Birmingham conducting research into housing-related fields with £2,500 each to complete their dissertation. We award these bursaries in memory of our late trustee and dear friend, Jane Slowey CBE, who was a member of Commonweal’s Board of Trustees from 2007, until her passing in October 2017. Jane was committed to contributing her skills, knowledge and experience to helping others, and we’re proud to continue putting that into practice and support talented students explore housing and social injustice.

Michelle, a 21-year-old Criminology undergraduate and one of this year’s three recipients, will be researching the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on young people with poor housing situations.

“As an aspiring social worker and someone who has struggled with housing as a young independent woman, this award and Commonweal mentoring will assist my research to a higher calibre. When I present to Commonweal Housing next year I hope I can make an impact not just to the panel but to the wider field and into my career as I look to help young individuals just as Jane Slowey did.”

Michelle Anderson

Action learning in practice

At the UK Housing Awards, the judges said that Freedom2Work was a “great example about how tackling homelessness is not just about the bricks and mortar”, describing it as “an innovative approach – and great to see a commitment to spreading the learning.” The judge’s summation of our work – capturing as it does what we hope we are all about – combining housing with the right kind of support, innovation and fresh thinking, and sharing learnings – made us smile.  At a time when so much in the world seems like hard work and a struggle acknowledging success is important.  We look forward with renewed energy to doing more in 2022.

– Ashley Horsey, Chief Executive at Commonweal Housing