Sure enough, Kevin from CoControl was true to his promise, turning up at his third consecutive roadshow. Despite being warned by Barry that all the roadshows follow the same format, Kevin was no doubt conscious there are regional and national differences that emerge through the discussions we have at roadshows. Glasgow proved to be no different.
A small but perfectly formed group joined us at the office of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations on 2 November - a big thank you to Lorna and everyone involved for hosting us.
The turnout was a reminder that, especially when setting up a new organisation, we mustn’t assume that people will come to us. We must get out there and seek the viewpoints and best practice of people doing this work, with passion and expertise, across the UK.
Personally I learnt two useful lessons about the Scottish operating environment. First, they use a range of phrases to describe the work they do with residents building communities, with “the wider work” being the most common. Other phrases include “community regeneration”. In England regeneration brings to mind projects relating to the built environment. “Community investment” is a relatively recent term in term in Scotland, although one that didn’t seem a completely nuisance English import. Phew!
The second learning was around the size and number of organisations. Scottish housing associations haven’t faced the same pressures that English ones have to merge. Consequently, there are a few large organisations, and a huge number of very small housing associations with anywhere from 100 to 500 properties, often in the same area. Similarly, the amount of community investment carried out by organisations varies massively.
One of the key missions of the Centre for Excellence in Community Investment is to make community investment a part of the core business of housing associations, and not an expendable add-on. To an extent, the different regulatory environment in Scotland enables this by design. For example, before evicting, a Scottish housing association must prove they have done everything they can to act in the wellbeing of the resident. The law doesn’t therefore require community investment, but it does set the stage for it be carried out.
Community Investment colleagues in Scotland nonetheless described an ongoing fight the maintain their services. Interesting stuff indeed, and another roadshow that proves how community investment really does need to be at the core of social housing.