How did this partnership form?
At the end of the noughties, Andrews Charitable Trust (ACT) was exploring how it might engage with charities supporting those in housing need. Dom Wood, then CEO of Priority Youth Housing (PYH) (one of the pre-merger organisations that later became 1625ip) helped ACT by providing data on local needs in Bristol and formulating some delivery options. Initially ACT focused support towards struggling families and funded attempts to tackle intergenerational homelessness - this project was outside of PYH’s area of focus at the time. The project did however help to ignite interest in Andrews Property Group (Andrews), whose profits provide a large proportion of the Trust’s funding, nurturing ideas about how ACT and Andrews might work together to address housing needs.
ACT remained interested in PYH and followed their progress as they merged with WayAhead in 2009 to become 1625ip. Alongside this 1625ip maintained a relationship with Andrews.
It was in 2014 that the idea for the Establish project began to crystalise, with the ambition to support young people with housing during the transition to independence – with a particular focus on care leavers. ACT were looking for a reputable local charity that had the skills, focus and capacity to test the ideas and pilot a project with them. ACT approached 1625ip to pilot a new model of delivery that would bring together the resources and skills of each organisation, as well as Andrews. If successful, the pilot was to lead to a long term programme, aiming to support a network of 50 houses to provide move-on accommodation for young people aspiring to work as they transition to independent living.
The project was intended as a modern interpretation of the wishes of Cecil Jackson Cole who founded Andrews and who was a passionate believer in charity-minded business and business-minded charities. The programme was designed to engage Andrews in charitable work by creating a network of ACT-owned houses across the same geography as the business. Each house would be leased, at an affordable rent to reliable youth-focused housing charities for use by young people who have experienced homelessness who would struggle to access the mainstream property market without help.
From the initial meetings, 1625ip has helped to define and refine the model so that it adequately met the needs of young people and to ensure buy-in from the relevant authorities. This engagement between the partners further developed supportive formal and informal relationships and a sharing/learning culture in the knowledge that the programme will be here in the long term. It also helped to build a sense of ownership and pride in the project by Andrews staff, which continues to the present day. The levels of active local involvement by staff is increasing; becoming volunteer mentors, sourcing donated goods for the project, getting involved in small gardening or other volunteering projects, and fundraising for 1625ip more generally.
The model has developed over time, but the initial principles roles of each organisation have remained broadly as follows:
- ACT provides capital funding to purchase and refurbish the properties to a high standard to lease at an affordable rent to youth-focused housing charities based in the areas where Andrews has a business presence. ACT also commits to helping to fund the costs of housing management and subsidising young people’s costs as they start work.
- 1625ip, the first youth-focused delivery partner, provides expert knowledge and experience in housing-based support in employment, education and training for young people at risk of homelessness and care leavers. The property is used as move-on accommodation for young people who continue to receive key worker and employment-oriented support as residents.
- Andrews provide professional pro bono skills for the property search, purchase and lease management, including expertise on a wide range of property services and advice. The business is also building opportunities for work experience for young people in the programme, ably supported by staff from the business who would volunteer their time. Opportunities for staff engagement are developing but are intended to build strong links at the local level.
Establish what works well?
What have been the challenges?
- Identifying the right young people for whom this project can work– some learning in the initial stages – this also linked to the issue of ‘identifying the right young person’ vs managing void levels. With time this has been managed successfully.
- Building links and understanding with other stakeholders to ensure that referrals to the project are appropriate for move-on accommodation that has low levels of support and is aimed at young people ready to sustain education or employment.
- Cultural differences within the 3 organisations – learning a common language.
- Understanding what affordability means for young people and the partners involved.
- Synergizing attitudes to young people’s outcomes across the 3 partners – for example, reaching a shared understanding of how availability of social housing for young people in different areas can vary significantly and affect how the project needs to be shaped locally.
- Rents are pitched at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to enable affordability. However, LHA rates are much lower than market rents and this can create challenges in creating a financially sustainable model in high cost areas.
Affordability for YP alongside challenges of sustaining employment, means we wil need to continue to have a flexible approach
- The charity and corporate needs to be a good fit – charities need to understand the culture and way the business works, and the corporate needs to understand the charity. Fundamentally, values and aspirations need to have enough commonality to balance what will be the differences – Some differences are inevitable and shouldn’t be seen as ‘negatives’ but reflect the different strengths partners can bring to the partnership.
- A mix of activities in the relationship is crucial – funding, advice and in-kind work or volunteering keeps it flexible and meaningful.
- Getting the financial modelling right is crucial for schemes to have genuine sustainability – and this can take time.
- There was a recognition of the importance of colleagues in different partner organisations having the confidence and mandate to represent the interests of ‘their part of the partnership’ to others e.g. a YP support worker helping Andrews Property Group colleagues to understand the financial realities of living on benefits.
- In some areas, Bristol being one, care leavers still get priority for social housing, where rents are below the LHA. The project may, therefore be more attractive to other young people who are more likely to be moving into the mainstream rental market, but who need some support as they begin independent living. This is currently being tested.
[Establish] has survived and thrived as a model because all three partners have taken a flexible iterative approach. Changes recently implemented in the model (spring 2020) are as a result of that process.
“We are continuing to learn as a partnership and improve delivery but as a charity we know that ACT and Andrews will support us along the way in many areas as an organisation not just the Establish project. Working with ACT has opened up other funding and development opportunities, this is a partnership to last that is really focussed not just on Establish but the organisation as a whole.”
Dom Wood, CEO, 1625ip
“1625ip have been instrumental in the success of the Establish programme. As our first delivery partner, we have been so grateful for their willingness to test and learn; to work with us and the Andrews Property Group on what was just, initially, an idea! A partnership like this needs patience in order to develop trust and to hone a set of common objectives that work for everyone. I am so excited by what we have begun together and the potential that this now has to be rolled out across the communities where Andrews works”.
Siân Edwards, Executive Director, Andrews Charitable Trust
Continued progress towards ACT’s vision of 50 properties in 50 years through:
- move to a shared housing model to improve affordability for young people who are not reliant on housing benefit.
- move to opening up to non-care leavers due to their greater difficulty in accessing affordable housing once they advance from higher needs supported accommodation.
ACT are now exploring ways of leveraging their funding through borrowing and/or attracting other social investors. This will enable ACT to continue to grow the capital assets of the programme, whilst continuing to invest in other housing and poverty projects around the world. They have attracted support from a couple of other funders to explore financial models that would be applicable for both other charitable investors to on-lease, and also for supported housing providers like 1625ip to purchase directly. Initial research has been done by Resonance and results from this should be available shortly.