A report published in May 2019 by the Sustainable Housing & Urban Studies Unit (SHUSU) at the University of Salford, highlights Housing Associations as offering “vital” employment-related support, with related investment “positively affecting” employment levels.  Whilst this report is welcome, as it helps keep employment for those who are more likely to be living close to or even below the poverty line in the news, it tells us what many working in this sector already know.

At Enham Trust, the link between housing and employment has been at the heart of its activities for almost 100 years. This was a ground-breaking approach to supporting World War 1 wounded soldiers rehabilitation back into society, with their families. Whilst the client group is now focused on disabled people, the link between the housing the charity provides and the employment opportunities available through its supported businesses remains strong.

Central to this relationship is the pastoral support provided by the charity both formally and informally, such as welfare checks, form filling, assistance in paying bills and signposting to other services. Such housing related support can make the difference between holding or losing a job, for someone who is not on top of housing related issues is unlikely to see employment as a priority. 

Likewise, unemployed tenants with a disability can benefit from work experience and job search skills, making the prospect of paid employment more likely.  The structure made within the person’s life through employment often makes them ‘better’ tenants, such as paying rent on time, respecting the property and being a good neighbour.  Again, at Enham Trust, by taking an holistic approach to supporting disabled people to live full and active lives as part of the community, we have low levels of people defaulting on rent, as well as a stable and happy workforce within our Supported Businesses.

Let us hope that our government has a vision wider than Brexit and places both housing and employment (with a focus on supporting those disabled people who want to and are able to work) to enter employment, recognising Housing Associations can play a key, positive, role in peoples’ lives wider than only housing.