Thames Valley Housing’s Residents’ Training and Employment Manager, Emildah Chabata explains the benefits of the housing association’s approach to tenant employment and training.
With responsibility for 15,000 properties across a number of local authorities Thames Valley Housing (TVH) has had to design its own approach to the delivery of employment and training skills. Unable to deliver to a wide audience in one area, the association has had to adapt and target areas with anti-social behaviour problems and high unemployment.
The challenge of service delivery is also made more difficult by the diverse range of needs that have to be catered for. TVH’s Residents’ Training and Employment Manager, Emildah Chabata and her team have to target new graduates looking for their first job, those leaving college looking for work and mothers who are looking to return to work as well as the long-term unemployed.
With many of the association’s residents classed as long-term unemployed, attending classes is often one of the last things on their mind. However, as Chabata explains, the most effective way to reach these residents is through a tailored one-to-one service. Using the example of IT classes, Chabata states that while the class proved popular, the delivery was ineffective. “Some of the residents felt they were holding the class up because they were asking too many questions,” she explains. “We took a different approach and partnered with an organisation called IT at Home to teach users specifically what they wanted to learn. We experienced a similar problem with our job club, the group environment prohibited people from coming to us and telling us about the issues preventing them from entering the world of work. Group work made sense financially but not practically so we implemented a tailored service for residents.”
While one-to-one delivery is expensive, Chabata and her team are now delivering high quality services at a low cost. When entering a new local authority the first thing her team does is identify gaps in employment and learning delivery for residents. The cost of these support services has been calculated at £219 per person, this figure compares favourably with the £674 per person it is estimated to cost similar sized housing associations.
Aware of the fact that the organisation is not a silo, Chabata values the relationships that have been developed with other organisations over the years and knows these relationships with the supply chain have delivered many unique advantages for the service. One of these advantages has been the ability to talk to repair contractors and stipulate in contracts that work placement and training opportunities must be guaranteed to residents. “This helps increase access to training and jobs for our residents,” states Chabata.
Having delivered these services since 2009, it was 2013 before the impact of the services was assessed. The assessment studied 50 families who had used the services and had been in work for 12 months or more. The report highlighted the positive impact the services have had on the quality of residents’ lives and the benefits of the business model.
“It has raised the profile of our work and everyone in the business can see this has a positive impact on the bottom line and it is something that we have to continue to do,” said Chabata. “The 50 families report states that 47 per cent of residents report an improvement in their health and 66 per cent note the positive impact that their work has had on their families including factors such as increasing the aspirations of their children, increased happiness and motivation.”
Looking ahead, with financial support from the Big Lottery Fund, Chabata and her team will soon expand their reach. No longer focused on only targeting Thames Valley Housing residents, services will soon be open to everyone living in the communities in which they work. “This extension of services will prove beneficial for the whole community and will encourage engagement further increasing the benefits of our services,” says Chabata. “In every area we enter, we partner with local authorities and job centres to deliver support in training and employment for the residents and the more partners we have the better.”
However, despite this expansion in scale, Chabata is aware that the challenge of welfare reform is one that will need to be addressed soon. “Our future plan is really focused on responding to welfare reform,” admits Chabata. “Rent cuts will see our income as a housing association decrease and when that happens we need to focus on accessing external funding and supporting people to partner with organisations so that we are able to offer support to our residents going forward.”
Triangle’s range of services
Accommodation, Support and Care Provision
Triangle is a registered Housing Association with the Department for Social Development and a significantly sized provider of support services. It employs over 400 people and has a turnover of approximately £12 million, as well as a significant capital build budget. Its vision is to ‘build better lives together’ with service users and a range of other statutory and voluntary partners. In doing so, it provides over 800 units of accommodation throughout Northern Ireland and will start to build or purchase a further 300 units over the next three years. Over half of its accommodation is provided to people with learning disabilities. Triangle has been one of the main providers of resettlement accommodation and support for people leaving hospital environments in recent years.
Floating Support Services
Triangle also offers a floating support service, finding accommodation and offering temporary support to over 600 clients each year, often in private rented settings. Many have a range of complex needs.
Triangle also provides supported employment and enterprise services for individuals with learning disabilities and autism. It supports approximately 350 people on these services, working with approximately 150 employers.
The organisation is committed to continuous improvement and has secured accreditation through Investors in People (Gold Award), ISO 9001:2008 and Customer Service Excellence Awards. It is also an All-Ireland Quality Award Winner under the European Foundation for Quality Management Model.