Most of our residents (84%) consider their neighbourhood a good place to live and 81% agree with the statement "I feel I belong in my neighbourhood." The HACT social value bank attaches a figure of £3,753 per resident to this feeling. In addition almost a fifth of our residents atend social/voluntary groups. Our Neighbourhoods programme seeks to harness this sense of neighbourhood through a number of different strands, all share a common aim to promote social action and empower tenants.
We provide small grants of up to £5,000 to individuals and local groups for a range of social action projects. Grants are awarded to projects that will deliver sustainable benefits rather than one off activities. Recent beneficiaries include support for Chelmsford’s first BMX track for young people, funding services provided by Bromley’s Gypsy Traveller Project and the creation of a community garden as part of the regeneration of a South London Estate. Last year we provided over £200,000 of funding for 53 community projects.
With 50 community assets up and down the country we recognised that many were not being used to their full potential or that tenants were struggling to manage them effectively. Our community asset transfer programme seeks to support and empower local communities to maximise the use of these important resources and the contribution they can make locally. So far we’ve supported eight community centres to transfer into long-term community management and helped many others resume their place at the heart of the community.
Cultiv8 supports our residents to utilise, manage and grow in their communal spaces. As well as improving these areas, Cultiv8 aims to change perceptions of communal spaces, encouraging tenants to see them as extensions of their own homes and a source of local pride. To date Cutliv8 has transformed 11,377 m2 – more than the equivalent of two football pitches - into new gardens, playgrounds and allotments. The benefits go far beyond this though as community gardens have been shown to reduce incidents of anti-social behavior and create community engagement. Plus the health benefits of gardening and being outdoors are well recognised too. As part of Cultiv8 we have developed a unique partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and appeared on both the BBC and ITN Local News and in the Mail on Sunday’s You Magazine.
We believe that young people in our communities have a positive impact on their area and last year almost 40% of our residents thought so too. However, our young people often recieve a bad press unfairly and face greater social and economic disadvantage than the general population. Many are struggling to live independently for the first time, with a third of our lettings last year to 18-25 year olds. Our enhanced housing management offer, ‘First Base’ provides an intensive service to help. Young tenants receive support to settle their home and manage their rent account.
This is really important as many experience financial hardship with 32% of young people saying they run out of money before the end of the week or month and increasing numbers turning to quick cash loans. Young tenants are also given opportunities to get involved and support with work and training through Ready2Work.
Although many of our residents believe that young people have a positive impact there are still those that have negative perceptions of young people, especially under 16s. We have developed our Community Ambassador programme to tackle these perceptions and support children to volunteer their time and undertake social action projects in their communities.
Over 300 young residents up and down the country made positive changes in their communities in our Summer of Action. Events ranged from estate tidy ups, surveys on the needs of the community, food planting and open mic sessions. And behind the scenes our new teams of Community Ambassadors identified their priorities for next year.
We also wanted to give our young people a voice in our governance structure and have recruited nine young residents aged 16 – 25 to become National Ambassadors and form a Young Peoples’ Consultative Panel. The Ambassadors will look at three key areas over the year ahead – communication, community investment and anti social behaviour.