Putting our people front and centre - Tom Norris

October had more than its fair share of initiatives designed to heighten awareness of societal need. Challenge Poverty Week, World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day all fell within the month, closely followed by COP26 in November.

Pictured left to right are customer Dawn Pocklington with Dave Burrell at Places for People Scotland’s The Pantry in Craigmillar, Edinburgh last month.

The focus on lowering carbon emissions, headlines mentioning rising fuel costs, unemployment, and mental health all highlight the need to do more to drive positive change for current and future generations. It’s in everyone’s interests that we all do what we can to challenge economic inequality, address climate change, and improve health, happiness, and build resilient communities.

Affordable housing providers like Places for People Scotland are already tackling a major social issue at root cause, yet our communities continue to face many challenges because of poverty, unemployment, crime and cuts to public services. What is clear is that we need to come together as a sector, learn from each other and share resource to have the best possible chance of creating positive change. Together, we will be much stronger, more efficient and better able to meet the varied needs of the communities we serve. There is a business case to ensure we provide genuine help to secure financial and emotional stability in the lives of our tenants. It is a vital part of our corporate sustainability strategy to invest in delivering a programme of activities with these objectives in mind.

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Some of the steps we have taken over the past year to help include making regular phone calls to nearly 1,000 customers to see how they are coping and if they need help. 1,100 people have received emergency support with food and essentials. ​Almost 200 customers have been helped with debt advice and 1,396 people received financial support and accessed £2 million of income.

Tom Norris, managing director, Places for People Scotland

We consult with communities, which in one area has resulted in us providing physical space for a local hub which is now home to a clothing charity, a community charity and provides a digital access point for people in the area. It is also a venue for events and provides youth work drop-ins as well as support for young mums.

​We also support Fresh Start, a fantastic charity which helps people at risk of homelessness to become financially secure, more connected and engaged with services and opportunities in their community by linking people through cooking and eating together.​

Through our Group charity Places Foundation we have invested in the Power Up programme in Scotland which provides investment and mentoring for social businesses and is delivered by Big Issue Invest. ​Other partners in the programme include the University of Edinburgh, The Scottish Government, Aberdeen Standard Investments, Experian and Brodies. So far, 18 social businesses have received backing, including ​Hey Girls which aims to tackle period poverty. ​

World Bank stated climate change is a threat to global development and efforts to end poverty. Without urgent action, climate change impact could push and additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030. We are acting now to lower carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency in the homes we manage to help reduce the numbers of homes in fuel poverty.

Social landlords today must put people front and centre to sustain operations for the longer term. To do our bit, and truly deliver social value, requires a robust strategic approach coupled with investment and sleeves-up activity in our communities. And, by collaborating with other housing providers and working together with the wider community, the impact we will have on lowering carbon emissions and improving wellbeing will be even greater.

Tom Norris, managing director, Places for People Scotland

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