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Sahil Khan, Director of Community Strategy, Partnerships and Funding at Peabody tells us about how housing associations and partners can support low-income Londoners through the current cost of living crisis.

Published: 16/12/2022

Sahil Khan, Director of Community Strategy, Partnerships and Funding at Peabody tells us about how housing associations and partners can support low-income Londoners through the current cost of living crisis.

The Peabody Index was first published in June 2018 and has tracked the experiences of our social housing tenants, including throughout the pandemic, making evidence-based recommendations to policymakers, and shaping our approach to supporting our communities.

We launched the latest reports at an event earlier this month and Lara Oyedele, President of the Chartered Insitute of Housing and Naomi Phillips from the Learning and Working Institute, joined Peabody colleagues Stephen Burns, Greg Windle and Chair Lord Bob Kerslake, to discuss the findings and how we might be able to work with others to help residents through the current cost-of-living crisis.

Our latest insight on working families

Attendees joined us to hear about our latest research, which focuses on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis for our working-age residents.

Given the challenging financial times which our residents and many in the wider community are facing, the event discussed the interesting findings that there has been a substantial increase in our residents leaving the labour market (from 15 per cent to 27 per cent). Long term illness and the cost of childcare were key factors cited in this decision, and the panel discussed the need for flexibility in work to allow people to return to the labour market. The latest index also found substantial concerns around the cost of living for our residents. These have only worsened since the research was undertaken, due to rising inflation meaning a real-terms cut to both Universal Credit and many wages.

The Learning and Work Institute has looked at wider labour market trends. It has been particularly focusing on rising rates of economic inactivity, largely caused by those who are unable to work due to long term illness, both mental and physical. Whilst this is a rising trend across the board, there are disparities in this inactivity across ages and location, with more inactivity across younger ages and the over 50s, and the intense disparities between areas within London.

How the cost-of-living crisis is impacting our capacity to support residents

As registered providers of social housing, we face several competing objectives, with limited resources to achieve them. These include the basic functions we fulfil; providing and maintaining good quality affordable homes. But also include wider priorities, such as meeting net zero and the additional work we undertake to support low-income residents. With costs of operation rising for us too, balancing these objectives is becoming harder than ever, but our community investment teams are working creatively to bring tangible outcomes for some of our most vulnerable residents.

There is also a need to think about the diversity of our residents, and how the cost-of-living crisis may have affected them differently. We recently undertook an analysis of our previously published Index Reports, which compared the experiences of white residents and those from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds. These found that on most metrics, including food bank use and unstable work, ethnic minority residents fared worse than their white counterparts. As Stephen Burns, Peabody’s Executive Director for Care, Supported Housing & Inclusion, explained during the event, this research is crucial to allow us to target our resources as housing association with a social purpose.

Going beyond buildings; Peabody’s customer facing support

While the panel highlighted the immense challenges our residents are facing at the moment, it is important to discuss what we as social housing providers can do to support residents above and beyond our core purpose.

Going beyond buildings and promoting economic inclusion is also at the core of our strategy. We are looking to support residents to become economically active, with a person-centred approach that looks to help those furthest away from the labour market to become more active. Our motto is ‘A job, a better job, and a career.’

Through training sessions, business support programmes, childcare initiatives, and employer engagement, we have helped 400-500 people a year into work.

Whilst local authorities, charitable organisations and housing associations are all feeling the pinch, there is a clear space for targeted partnership work to really make a difference to the lives of the least well-off Londoners.

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