Hexagon Housing Association makes investing in communities a key business priority. We want to create and support long term sustainable communities by providing homes people want to live in and by improving the prospects and opportunities of residents living in those communities. We want to support and inspire residents to fulfil their potential through skills, jobs, confidence and wellbeing activity.
There are different things we could do to help improve the prospects and opportunities for individuals, and to help create communities people want to live in.
In order to focus our investment and direct our resources to where they are most needed, we have identified four priority areas for funding:
• Money Matters
• Thriving Communities – Active, Safety and Wellbeing
• Employment, education, skills and training
• Digital inclusion
Much has changed since the last Community Investment Strategy was put in place, in the development of this strategy we have considered these changes and how they may impact on our residents, the communities they live in and us as an organisation.
We have taken into consideration a number of factors. These include:
• How we performed in delivering the last Community Investment Strategy
• What residents have told us, including which issues are important to them.
• Our own information, including housing data and resident satisfaction surveys.
• Where we feel we can make a difference, based on our skills and experience and those of other partner organisations.
The following section highlights some of these key factors which help explain the context in which this strategy is written.
The last Community Investment Strategy covered the period 2016 to 2019, in the strategy we set out a number of goals; this section looks at how we performed against our goals.
It is useful to have a look in the rear view mirror when developing a new strategy as it provides a useful indicator as to where there is a continued demand for services and where the service offer is working well.
Areas where we have not performed so well suggest either there is a reduced demand for the service or we need to rethink how we promote the services to residents.
Goal – 80 residents receive support from Financial Inclusion Advisor each year.
Achieved – An average of 90 residents received support from Financial Inclusion Advisor each year.
Goal – All Hexagon residents identified as at risk due to the transition to Universal Credit will be offered face to face or telephone support.
Achieved- Residents identified as struggling with move over to Universal Credit are referred to the Financial Inclusion Service and offered 121 support.
Goal – 420 residents will access Employment Support Programmes by end of year 3.
Achieved – 146 residents accessed employment support.
Goal – 130 residents will secure employment by the end of year 3.
Achieved – 45 residents secure employment.
Goal – 600 residents will access digital skills support by Jan 2019.
Achieved – 590 residents have accessed basic digital skills support.
Goal – Partnerships with different IT Training organisations and Centres established which can benefit our residents.
Achieved -Hexagon is now a registered UK Online Centre, residents can benefit from a wide range of free online digital courses.
We secured £20,000 seed funding through the One Digital Programme to develop our Digital Champions Programme, working in partnership with Clarion Futures as part of the wider One Digital Programme
Goal – Each year we aim to complete concentrated community outreach activity in at least 8 different locations.
Achieved – We completed community outreach activities an average of 10 different areas each year
Goal – We aim to actively engage a minimum of 400 residents each year through community outreach activities.
Achieved – We actively engaged an average of 258 residents each year through community outreach activities.
5.1 The first phase of Universal Credit rollout has been completed, at the time of writing around 500 residents have moved over to Universal Credit, residents are moving over to Universal Credit at a rate of around 45 a month.
5.2 Arrears are notably higher in households that have transitioned to Universal Credit than those households on legacy benefits.
5.3 We have recently recruited an additional Financial Inclusion Worker; the expansion has enabled us to adopt more of a preventative mind-set, working to identify problems and issues before they happen. At the time of writing, work has just commenced on a new preventative approach, around 500 residents have moved over to Universal Credit, all residents are being contacted by the Financial Inclusion Service and support offered. Early evidence from this work is demonstrating this preventative approach is having a positive impact with around 25% of calls converting to position action.
5.4 The managed migration of Universal Credit is scheduled to commence in 2020. This means residents on legacy benefits would migrate to Universal Credit. Residents in this group are likely to be more vulnerable residents and we expect there will be a number of residents who struggle with this process. This presents a big risk to residents and to Hexagon.
5.5 We are increasingly identifying residents struggling to make ends meet. Whether residents are in employment or not, household expenditure is rising while household income is staying the same or dropping. We are increasingly witnessing residents not having money for travel, food on the table or other essential items.
5.6 There are a number of reasons for this, benefit levels have been frozen since 2016, food and energy prices are continuing to rise, low wages, high childcare costs.
5.7 Residents living in social housing are more likely to be low paid. The weekly wage for housing association residents is just over half the average for all other tenures. (IPPR Report 2018)
5.8 The Love London Working Project is an employment and skills project funded through the European Social Fund. We are one of 13 partners delivering employment support as part of this pan London project. The project funding is due to end at the end of September 2019. The work of this project concentrates on participants who were either unemployed or economically inactive, providing employment support and skills development to help support people into employment. Being part of this wider partnership opened up many opportunities for Hexagon and its residents, however we did not attract the number of unemployed residents we expected to.
5.9 Unemployment levels continue to drop, however wages are remaining low, and we are seeing residents managing two or more jobs to try and make ends meet. We want to support employed residents to further develop their skills to secure employment progression.
5.10 A lack of digital skills can have a negative impact on someone’s life, it can lead to paying more for goods and services, less access to jobs and education, less access to public services, increased loneliness and isolation.
5.11 Digital Inclusion has been a priority area for community investment since 2014. During this time the % of residents online has increased from 65% in 2014 to 77% in 2018, the 12% increase is a positive step forward, however we are still behind the national average of 85%.
5.12 Of the 23% of residents who don’t use the internet, 14% said they would like to use the internet, and 81% of those said they would like some support to get online.
5.13 The overwhelming majority (86%) of residents who are not online do not want to get online. At the time of writing we are awaiting the final report from the 2018 Digital Inclusion Survey, we expect this report will provide some deeper analysis.
5.14 The survey results reflect the findings of the Lloyds Bank Consumer Digital Index 2017 which found that 51% of individuals who are off line aren’t interested in getting online, the document also cited that 68% of those offline say nothing can motivate them to get online (this rises to 74% for over 60s) and 73% of those offline don’t believe you can save money online.
5.15 It is likely to prove very difficult to motivate and connect with those who are not already online. The index suggests that those of are not yet online are likely to be less engaged, and less likely to be persuaded to get online. 90% of digitally excluded people are socially excluded. Helen Milner recently stated that “people are left behind for a reason”, she went on to stress the importance of engaging with people in communities, adding that it’s all about “local faces in local places”.
5.16 Of the 77% of Hexagon residents online, 82% said they felt very or fairly confident sending an email, 88% felt very confident or confident browsing the internet.
5.17 Only 66% of online residents reported they felt very of fairly confident filling out an application online. This presents a risk to Hexagon given the digital by default approach of Universal Credit. This risk will increase with the planned managed migration of Universal Credit expected to commence in 2020.
5.18 In 2018, we secured £20,000 funding through Clarion Futures to develop a Digital Champions Network. We now employ a team of residents as volunteer and paid digital champions who can provide digital skills support for residents on a 121 and small group basis. The emphasis of this work is about local faces local places, employing residents to provide digital skills support for residents.
5.19 The Housing Green Paper and the Hackett Review were both produced following the Grenfell Tragedy. The Housing Green Paper published in 2018 sets out a big priority of ensuring homes are safe. The central idea is about HAs working with residents on this area more closely. This is a very important area as the safety of our residents is paramount and we will want to ensure we are doing all we can to ensure their safety.
5.20 The Hackett Review published in 2018 set out a number of recommendations including clearer resident’s rights and obligations for residents to main the fire safety of buildings with the duty holder, residents’ access to fire safety training and building safety information to residents.
5.21 This echoes the thoughts of residents, we have found that the Grenfell tragedy has heightened residents awareness of fire safety, and with it a desire to be more pro-actively involved in fire safety.
5.22 Through our work with the Neighbourhoods Team we have also identified common issues regarding residents behaviour and fire safety ie bulk rubbish, door mats in hallways, bikes and buggies in communal areas, propping open of fire doors. We know that repeated letters and notices from the landlord have limited impact. We want to trial a new approach to fire safety, working with residents to raise their awareness of fire safety and have conversations with residents about why some residents’ behaviour impacts on the fire safety of where they live.
6.1 Working in Partnership
6.1.1 We are just one resource that is available to residents. There are various other resources, services and organisations (assets) that exist within different communities, much of which is ‘under the radar’. We will seek to work with residents, organisations and others in communities to identify the resources that already exist, to build relations and explore how these ‘assets’ may benefit residents and our work.
6.1.2 We will continue to work in partnership with organisations such as WEA (Workers Educational Association) to promote community learning opportunities based on residents’ interests and/or needs. London Learning Consortium, Love London Working Partnership.
6.1.3 We will make contact with and explore the development of partnerships with different services and organisations operating in the area which could benefit our residents.
6.1.4 We will forge links with our Lenders and explore opportunities to work in partnership. We will also seek to access to the value added benefits offered through the HALA Partnership.
6.2 Community Connections
6.2.1 Central to this strategy and key to its success is our direct connection with residents and the communities in which they live.
6.2.2 There is a wealth of skills, knowledge and experience amongst residents, we want to connect with and build on this valuable resource, seeking to connect with residents who are already active in their communities and work to organise activities and services with residents as co developers and users of services, volunteers and as employees.
6.2.3 We want to reach as many residents as possible, connecting residents with information, support, a service or activity that is of relevance and interest to them.
6.2.4 We know that the best way to actively engage residents in services is through conversation. We also know that the best activities within communities are developed and delivered by residents themselves. We know we need to make connections to make this happen, we are therefore launching a new programme called Reconnect, designed to do just that. (See 7.2.6)
6.3 Integrated Approach
6.3.1 Community investment work has become increasingly integrated with the Neighbourhoods Team and we want to build on this work. This work has provided opportunities to place residents at the centre of any works to improve their area, playing an integral role to identifying the underlying issues and working up solutions that will work and last, providing improved outcomes for both residents and Hexagon.
6.3.2 We also work closely with the Rent and Revenues Team through the provision of financial support to residents to help prevent problems occurring, and support in dealing with more complex matters. This integrated approach ensures residents are placed at the centre of our services and helps us to ensure the best outcomes for residents.
We have identified four priority areas for funding:
• Money Matters
• Thriving Communities – Active, Safety and Wellbeing
• Employment, education, skills and training
• Digital inclusion
7.1 Money Matters
We aim to play a positive and proactive role in ensuring residents are informed, confident and able to manage their finances and able to access the tools and services required to manage their day to day and long-term financial circumstances.
We also aim to ensure effective tenancy sustainment and protect Hexagon’s revenue stream through a strong financial inclusion offer including 121 financial inclusion casework, and management of welfare reform impacts.
• Support residents to plan for the future and cope with financial pressure, by managing their finances to protect against short-term variations in income and expenditure, and to take advantage of longer term opportunities, and deal effectively with financial distress, should unexpected events lead to serious financial difficulty.
• Develop a Universal Credit Support Framework setting out how we can best support residents moving over from legacy benefits over to Universal Credit in the process known as ‘managed migration’.
• Help residents who may need a little extra help with budgeting, managing debt problems, maximising income or receiving the right benefits, as well as one-to-one support plans.
• Provide advocacy support for residents in the preparation of appeals against benefit decisions (i.e. Employment Support Allowance and Priority Independence Payments) by helping residents to put a submission together and support them at Tribunal hearing.
• Assist residents in accessing appropriate debt, banking and financial product advice
• Support residents who are struggling to make ends meet to access welfare grants and other services designed to help people who are struggling to make ends meet.
• Help to reduce fuel poverty through the provision of information and advice on how residents can make savings on energy costs through a range of measures including tariff discounts, debt advice, energy switching, energy efficiency installations, grants and energy saving behaviours.
• Support residents (including those affected by Welfare Reform) to build their capacity to manage their money effectively, securely and confidently
• Maintain partnerships with debt advice agencies and other money advice services which complement our Financial Inclusion offer.
• Support residents to develop their digital skills to enable access to online banking and financial services.
• The service also seeks to support our low income residents with money advice/support measures to ensure they can sustain their tenancies.
• Explore the viability and benefits of the development of a new service working collaboratively with Neighbourhoods Team to support residents who are considering moving home. The support offer would include digital skills support, money advice to advise residents how they can save money/access reduced cost furniture/utilities cashback deals. Report to be produced September 2019.
• At least 80 residents experiencing financial difficulties will receive 121 support from our Financial Inclusion Team each year.
• All Hexagon residents due to transition to Universal Credit will be offered face to face or telephone support.
• At least 100 residents per annum report a financial saving or other positive outcome as a result of accessing the preventative financial inclusion support offer.
• No residents lose their home due to a lack of support with their transition to Universal Credit
7.2 Thriving Communities – Active, Safety and Wellbeing
We aim to make long term quality of life differences and help to build more sustainable neighbourhoods that bring direct benefit to our residents and drive up resident satisfaction.
We aim to ensure that our communities are safe places to live and are equipped with the infrastructure they need to shape their aims and aspirations.
Throughout the next three years we will develop and deliver a range of activities that are designed to promote activity, safety and wellbeing
We will deliver a range of activities designed to actively engage residents including:
7.2.1 Priority Communities
• Continuing to work in close consultation with residents on the Priority Communities Programme. This sees the emphasis placed on intensive neighbourhood management, environmental enhancements, promotion of community investment opportunities and sustained resident involvement.
7.2.2 Fire Safety
• Through our work on the Priority Communities Programme we have identified developments where residents behaviour is presenting fire safety concerns for the organisation, residents in the same developments have expressed an interest in fire safety. We want to pilot a couple of fire safety initiatives work during 2019 to explore how adopting a more resident focused approach to fire safety can have a positive impact on the management of fire safety within our developments.
• We will have meaningful conversations with residents about fire safety. During 2019 we will organise at least two activities designed to actively engage residents in conversations and activities concerned with fire safety.
• We will work collaboratively with residents and other stakeholders to develop a strategy for resident engagement in fire safety. (To be published June 2020)
7.2.3 Growing and gardening
• We will launch a three year programme themed around growing and gardening. Gardening is healthy, not just from the fruit and vegetables you can grow, but from the physical exercise you get, it is also a great way to meet people and it’s an ideal way to relax and unwind, and of course it’s fun. Gardens can grow everywhere and anywhere, big or small, pots on a patio, boxes on a balcony, back gardens, hanging baskets, window sills and more.
• We will work in collaboration with residents, Workers Educational Association (WEA) and others to develop a programme of activities focused on gardening and growing your own food.
• In 2019/2020 we will develop and deliver the Incredibly Edible, Growing and Gardening. Activities could include:
• Gardening groups; gardening competition; grow your own fruit and veg; workshops to learn more about gardening
• In 2020/22 we will work with residents, the Neighbourhoods Team and other stakeholders to identify common spaces within communities where food and plants can be grown, this will also include residents gardens including shared gardens where residents are struggling to maintain their gardens.
7.2.4 Grow Your Idea
• Grow Your Idea is a new programme where we will work with residents to turn their ideas for making a difference in their community into a reality.
• We will develop a new scheme where we will support residents to develop their idea of how they could improve the area where they live or something that can benefit Hexagon residents.
• Residents with ideas on how to improve the area where they live or something they want to do which will improve the lives of Hexagon residents, who are wanting some help to further develop their idea are encouraged to contact us to tell us about their idea. Residents are asked to tell us about their idea and the difference they want to make, a member of the Community Investment Team will then be in contact within one week to discuss how we could help. Some ideas may not fall within Hexagons remit, but we will be able to discuss with resident and signpost them to someone or somewhere who can help.
7.2.5 Recognition Awards for Residents
• We will launch a new Awards Programme which aims to recognise the contribution individual residents make to their community. We will work with a group of residents to help us develop this programme. The programme will be launched in spring 2020.
• The Reconnect programme supports residents wellbeing, developing personalised programmes to help them to get back into learning, volunteering, employment and other activities. Reconnect will also help improve access to and take up of services, to provide space for residents to get to know each other and learn more about their area.
7.2.7 Community Champions
To help us deliver this, we will recruit and train a team of residents as Community Champions. The Community Champions will work alongside the Community Investment Team. Community Champions will seek to connect with residents in locations close to where they live and through door knocking.
• We aim to connect with a minimum of 400 residents each year through the community connections programme.
• We aim to register a minimum of 100 residents each year on the Reconnect Programme.
• We will engage a minimum of 50 residents in fire safety awareness and fire safety arrangements.
• We will work with the Neighbourhoods Team to seek to measure the impact of our fire safety activities and whether it reduces the level of reactive management required.
• We will improve residents satisfaction by at least 50% through our work as part of the Priority Communities Programme
• We will demonstrate increased social value and value for money as a result of our work as part of the Priority Communities Programme.
7.3 Employment, education, skills and training
We aim to support residents in developing skills and accessing training opportunities in order to enter into, sustain their employment. We aim to shift our focus to support more employed residents to progress their employment and career opportunities.
• We will provide support for employed residents to support them in securing employment progression through skills development, mentoring and employment related support.
• Support residents who are unemployed, economically inactive in developing skills and accessing training opportunities in order to get nearer to, enter into, and sustain employment.
• Provide sustained support for residents who are further away from the labour market, supporting them over a period of time, helping to remove barriers to work. We will offer a mentored approach, focusing on the strengths, skills and aspirations of individuals; we then work with them to develop a pathway to their goal(s), identifying any barriers that may prevent them from moving forward, and developing plans to help get over the barriers and reach their goal. We believe this approach will help to increase the number of residents who move into sustainable employment.
• Successfully deliver our Love London Working programme to the end September 2019 when the programme comes to an end.
• Actively explore opportunities for partnership working at a local level, this will include opportunities for co-investment in services and opportunities to enhance the service offer.
• Continue to work to increase residents jobs and skill opportunities within Hexagon and with our supply chain businesses.
We will work in consultation with other Hexagon Teams to explore the opportunities for reviewing the mechanisms for seeking social value through our supply chain.
• Work in partnership with organisations such as London Learning Consortium, Workers Educational Association and National Careers Service to offer a range of learning opportunities for residents, and opportunities for residents to develop their skills.
• We will provide employment support for 80 residents each year
• We will support at least 20 unemployed or economically inactive residents to secure employment each year.
• We will support at least 25 employed residents to secure employment progression each year.
7.4 Digital Inclusion
Digital inclusion is key to social and economic equality. We aim to increase the number of residents online with at least basic digital skills so they are better able to participate in this increasingly technological world. We will also seek to increase the confidence of residents in using online resources. This is particularly important with increasing moves towards a ‘digital by default’ approach to Universal Credit and many Local Authority services.
• We will offer digital skills support to all residents who are due to migrate to Universal Credit.
• We will seek to identify and engage with residents who are not online to help residents to find ‘their’ reason for getting online.
• We will launch a new ‘Digital at Home’ service providing digital skills support at home for residents who are unable to access digital skills sessions in the community settings.
• Digital Champions
We will continue to provide digital skills support for residents on a one to one and small group basis using our Digital Champions team, who are all residents recruited and trained as digital champions.
We will further develop and expand the offer of digital skills support provided by digital champions to include: employment related support: money matters: internet safety and security
• One Digital
We will continue our partnership with Clarion Futures and the One Digital partnership to support us in the further development of our digital skills work and development of the network of digital champions
Basic digital skills assessments completed for a minimum of 200 residents each year.
100 residents will report improved digital skills each year
8.1 In the development of this strategy, we considered the needs and priorities of residents and those of Hexagon as an organisation. We assessed the environment we are working in, spending time considering what opportunities may be ahead, but equally what threats.
8.2 The Financial Inclusion Service raises at least £100000 each year in the form of benefits, reinstatement of benefits, discretionary housing payments. Some of this income is repaid direct to residents, some of the income is repaid to Hexagon which in turn has helped a number of tenancies be sustained. The Financial Inclusion Service helps to sustain an average of 5 tenancies per annum.
8.3 We use the HACT Social Value Impact Assessment Tool for measuring Social Value. The tool provides a systematic method to understand and display the social impact of our community investment work. We measure the social impact of our investment in Employment and Skills and Digital Skills. For every £1 we spend, we aim to generate at least £7 in social value.
We believe it’s important to be open, transparent and accountable. To this end, we will report on our community investment activities, impact and expenditure quarterly.