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Housing associations 'must do more' to help tenants ahead of Universal Credit

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Housing associations 'must do more' to help tenants ahead of Universal Credit

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing

Housing associations Housing associations "must do more" to help tenants ahead of Universal Credit

Housing associations need to do more to assist tenants in using the internet and to support their communities in setting up social enterprises, a conference has heard.

Speakers at the PlaceShapers’ Community Investment Conference in Birmingham this week, highlighted the sector’s role in educating and supporting tenants ahead of the online Universal Credit system being introduced next October. The benefits of setting up and supporting social enterprises were also discussed as a key way to build social impact.

The event was attended by 90 delegates from the group’s 87 community-based housing associations.

Speaker Dean Sadler, co-founder of TribePad, highlighted the challenges in assisting tenants in the use of technology. Studies show around 50 percent of social housing tenants have never used the internet.

He said: “Things will only get tougher for tenants over the next five years so providers need to think about this now to help them as much as possible and not least to ensure they can pay their rent.”

Delegates also heard from John Picken and Dave Child who are piloting the website ‘Neighbours Can Help’ with the aim of bringing people together using technology.

John said: “The website is a social networking platform that enables people to connect with neighbours and make requests and receive help for a range of things such as gardening, borrowing DIY equipment, childcare and general advice.”

The pilot will run in Sheffield from December working in partnership with South Yorkshire Housing Association although the social enterprise is keen to work with other housing associations nationwide and urged interested organisations to get in touch.

Mark Richardson, strategic lead on Green Light, a partnership between the National Housing Federation and Groundwork UK, which was set up to help the sector engage more effectively with social enterprises, called for more organisations to get involved.

He said: “PlaceShapers have got a key part to play in advocating social enterprises. Green Light is developing an Academy – a virtual network to improve access to information on social enterprises and to put organisations in contact with existing schemes.”

Dr Chris Handy, a member of PlaceShapers' Steering Group and group chief executive of Accord Group, chaired the event and closed with a final rallying call.

He said: “Welfare reform is here and now and rapidly accelerating. We have a lot of work to do to ensure the financial inclusion of our tenants, education of technology, action over doorstep lending and in supporting them to set up social enterprises. We need to get our act together and share learning and information as we go.”

To contact 'Neighbours Can Help' visit: www.neighbourscanhelp.org.uk

To find out more about PlaceShapers visit www.placeshapers.org

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