Harry’s Pledge – the commitment to carers one year on

Julie Doyle, 02 June 2021

Next week marks the one-year anniversary of the Harry’s Pledge campaign, the housing sector’s commitment to carers.

Employers who sign the Pledge commit to supporting those who need care and those who provide it. As with its launch, the campaign’s one-year birthday comes during National Carers Week which - much like Harry’s Pledge - raises awareness of caring, highlights the challenges unpaid carers face and recognises the contribution they make. The theme of this year’s campaign is to make caring visible and valued and these ambitions absolutely chime with the principles and the purpose of Harry’s Pledge.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen carers face unprecedented challenges, and I’ve been inspired by how we’ve been able to mobilise such fantastic support across the housing sector during this time. This has included the involvement of influential organisations like the National Housing Federation, Chartered Institute of Housing, PlaceShapers and Inside Housing, as well as 46 organisations signing up to the Pledge with a further 35 providing their public support. Of these, 63 are housing associations that have either signed up or are supporting the Pledge.

Harry’s Pledge focuses on the following four areas where we can support those who need care and those who provide it:

  • As employers: we will be a carer friendly employer, supporting people with caring responsibilities by making policies carer-friendly and ensuring they can work flexibly.
  • In our workspaces: we will make offices and community spaces as accessible as possible.
  • In the homes we build: we will ensure more fully accessible homes are built, routinely considering accessibility in general needs stock and how more homes can be adapted.
  • In our training and career progression: we will professionalise care further with clear qualifications/career paths and lobbying for changes in pay and rewards.

By signing up to the Pledge, organisations have committed to making progress in at least one of these areas. This has seen businesses carry out a range of measures, including an audit of their existing offer to unpaid carers, the introduction of new carer-friendly policies, establishing carer networks to better support staff, as well as making tangible commitments to the number of accessible homes they’re going to build.

Our partnership with Carers UK, has provided fantastic insight and enabled housing associations and tenants to access to a range of free digital resources. Many members also supported Habinteg’s fantastic work to call for a change in the law around accessible housing in response to a government-led consultation on improving the accessibility standards for new homes.

From a personal perspective, I understand the huge challenges faced by carers as my daughter Hayley and her husband Andy provide care for their son and my grandson, Harry. Harry is severely disabled and has had complex care needs since birth. Hayley also provides emotional and practical support to other parents of severely ill or disabled children through Harry’s Pals, and the demand for this kind of support is higher than ever.

As a society, we just don’t do enough to support those who provide care and those who need it, and that’s something I’m passionate about changing. As well as learning from the experiences of the carers we employ, we can gain a better understanding of the requirements of carers and disabled people that live in our homes, ensuring we provide the environment and the services they need.

As a sector, our voices and our efforts have more impact when they’re united and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody that’s been involved in the Pledge so far. We’ve made fantastic progress in our first year but there’s still so much more to do.

For more information about Harry’s Pledge please visit our website.