It’s always been a privilege to represent the housing association sector, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt prouder than over the last few months, seeing how, as a sector, we have stepped up during the coronavirus crisis. The crisis has shown the very best of our sector – your commitment to providing more than ‘just a home’, to delivering vital care and support, offering guidance and advice for vulnerable residents, helping to bring rough sleepers in off the streets, and adapting your services to new and uncertain times. I’ve spoken about your work multiple times in the House of Lords, and will continue to do so as our sector plays a vital role in recovering from the crisis.
There’s no doubt we have been challenged in ways we never could have predicted. Your businesses have had to flex and change, as you adjust to new ways of working, redeploy staff, focus resources in different places, and respond rapidly to new challenges. At the heart of your response, though, has always been your commitment to helping the residents and communities you serve.
As board members, you’ll have been feeling the heat in the last few months. Your leadership and guidance has been crucial to navigating the crisis, and to helping the sector adapt to this ‘new normal’. And you are key to shaping our sector’s role in recovering from this crisis, for your own businesses and in enabling the country as a whole to emerge stronger and more resilient.
The problems we faced before the crisis have not gone away. There’s still an acute shortage of social housing, rising homelessness, an uncertain future for support services, and inequalities between communities.
In particular, the coronavirus crisis – and events in recent weeks – have highlighted the ongoing injustice and inequality in our country. A disproportionate number of BAME people have died from coronavirus, and many more are struggling with structural inequalities within our society. In social housing, we’ve always been committed to tackling injustice and inequality. But this is an important time to reflect and respond, and look at what more we can do as a sector to tackle racism and discrimination.
We can’t claim to hold all the answers, but we do have an important role to play in building a fairer, more prosperous and sustainable economy and society.
That’s why the NHF has launched Homes at the Heart, a new campaign to put social housing at the heart of social and economic recovery.
As board members, you have a key role to play in delivering our campaign. Through your leadership and governance, you can help shape a future in which your organisation and our sector can deliver on these ambitions. And using your influence and networks, you can make sure we’re telling our story to the people that need to hear it – so our sector’s contribution and potential is fully understood. I’m looking forward to what we can achieve together.