Taff Housing Association is one of 3 long established community based HAs in Cardiff, we’re 41 years old this year! 41 years and we find ourselves at the beginning of another transformation journey. A journey which has several key pillars – these include leadership, innovation, collaboration and working smarter with the resources we have.
A Guest Blog from Elaine Ballard, Chief Executive of Taff Housing Association | As featured in Welsh Housing Quarterly

We are more than a housing provider, we recognise that it’s essential to look at how other sectors operate and embrace innovation, especially when we are considering just how we do more with less.

These are common challenges we face and we recognise that it’s important to collaborate and work in partnership with others, especially those outside our sector where we can add value by making connections and avoiding duplication.

Sometimes you must test the water, other times take a leap of faith, but always adopt an approach that says ‘we will seek opportunities and take on new challenges’.

We have recently been commissioned to deliver the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme in Cardiff. Whilst it’s a great sense of pride that we are entrusted to deliver this valuable service and indeed recognition of the work of our support services, it’s a reminder to me of the need to align services to best support needs of individuals. Working in isolation simply is not an option.

This  belief is central to  one of our latest projects, the European Homeless Mobile Citizen Network. A project that has seen Taff engaging with key support agencies across the breadth of Europe in creating a network committed to assisting  with the needs of EU homeless migrants.

This network has given opportunity to share best practice and likewise learn together. It really has been a collaborative process set over two years, generating significant outcomes for managing the challenges of homeless migration and sees our support service, drawing policy with nations across the EU.

The European Homeless Mobile Citizen Network is a project in conjunction with the European Commission and its delivery organisation, Feantsa. Its inception follows findings that in several major cities of North-Western European countries, EU mobile citizens are amongst the most affected by homelessness.

Additionally, according to Feantsa’s ‘On the Way Home’ study, homeless services from a large number of EU Member States report a growing proportion of immigrants among service users, this includes the UK.

Not only is the network a forum for exchanging approaches and best practice of individual and collective strategies but it  seeks to create a comprehensive picture of EU homeless migration; and develop a holistic approach to how it is managed at local, national and European policy level. The outcomes and practice are to be disseminated to professionals across the EU through the creation of a website resource (communication tools) and local dissemination events.

Further aims of the network include the development of a secure login to allow organisations to provide seamless assistance  to   homeless citizens between states.

In working to realise these outcomes, Locality Solutions were commissioned to produce the invaluable resources for agencies to share best practice, communicate on policy and identify trends of movement.

Equipped with these tools, agencies and policy makers will be best placed for informed decision making and enabling swift processes for managing the movement of homeless migrants across Europe.

We utilise Localitys’ ASB case management product, it can link housing providers to Police, Councils, Support agencies and others, so they understand the need for effective communication between services like no other. In sensitive areas like child protection, domestic abuse, and vulnerable adults, this system enables a real time, whole case view of the agencies involved and what their input  and responsibilities are. It may be that this provides  the silver bullet that could be the vital link to avoid some of the tragic cases we have seen over the years.

Locality work through a focus of co-production with clients, they can flex to any task, offer insight and are not bound by the ‘off the shelf’ approach adopted by so many technology providers.

Both Taff and Locality have a track record of problem solving through collaboration, and sharing our practice for the benefit of others. In working with Locality, our digital journey into European homelessness seems less exploratory but more energising, stoking our passion for being more than a housing provider.