From my experience in housing, I am acutely aware of the effect of poverty on children’s physical health, emotional wellbeing and educational attainment. My worry is that despite all the main political parties continuing to commit to eradicate child poverty by 2020, it is likely that the figure will rise from its current level of 3m to top 5 million by this date.
Over a quarter of children in areas where Orbit works are growing up in poverty, and we know it will increase in our communities over the coming years. Orbit has developed profiles on its core communities to further its understanding of the socio-economic picture within them. These are being used to inform our community investment to tackle the issues our residents face.
Our community investment activity focuses primarily on two broad areas to help people break the cycle of poverty; financial inclusion, and employment & skills. Our employment support programmes are helping people get back into work and our energy and financial advice for residents struggling to afford to heat their homes and pay their bills all helps to reduce poverty.
Orbit is not on its own in committing to the expanded role housing providers need to play in our communities beyond that of being a landlord, especially in these challenging economic times. Many other associations up and down the country are engaged in similar activities.
There is much overlap between the housing and child poverty agendas and I feel collaboration between agencies can and does help and support children. Importantly we must work to break this cycle of poverty in many communities which condemns future generations to suffer a similar fate.
Housing is linked to poverty in many ways:
• Housing providers operate within low-income communities, we know the scale of poverty as a result of our community profiling work, and we know this will worsen
• Housing providers are key community anchors, which makes us well placed to take the lead in securing better outcomes for children with many associations supporting schools such as with breakfast clubs
• Housing costs are the biggest driver in the rising cost of living, for many rent takes up the majority of their money leaving them struggling to pay for other essentials such as food and energy.
• Research by Shelter has found that in the Private Rented Sector median rents are unaffordable in more than half of English local authority areas reducing peoples options or forcing them into sub standard properties
• Investment in affordable housing can mitigate the impact of poverty on people’s lives reducing fuel poverty and providing better conditions to live and learn for children
• Housing quality – cold and damp homes can impact on children’s health which can in turn affect school attendance, educational attainment and employment prospects.
Paul is Group Chief Executive of Orbit, an organisation with the purpose of 'Building Communities'. It does this through the provision of a wide range of housing care and support services, the delivery of over 1,000 new homes annually, and investment in creating vibrant communities for people to live in.
Orbit manages 38,000 hoes providing services to nearly 90,000 people, and has a culture which is focused on generating 'profit for a purpose' which is reinvested in its core mission.
The Group has a federal structure consisting of housing associations that manage property, a property development company, a capital treasury vehicle, and a transactional services organisation.
Orbit recently completed its '2020 Vision' research and has established its direction and outcomes for the next 6 years as it responds to a very challenging g and changing world. Details are available through the attached link www.orbit.org.uk.
Paul is a Board member of HouseMark, a commercial organisation providing services into the housing sector and Board Member of CIH Canada
His particular interests include enhancing the quality and range of service provided by housing organisations, the transformation of businesses to respond to the new world, and promoting the values and value of our work.