Mark Beach, Managing Director at Calico Homes
The past year has been incredibly difficult for many of us. Although Calico Homes is primarily a housing association, our commitment to our customers and the wider community lies much deeper than simply providing affordable homes.
COVID has created, or amplified, issues such as loneliness, isolation, financial difficulties, poor mental health, relationship breakdowns, homelessness and many more hurdles. I wanted to share with you how we have adapted and utilised our teams to increase our support offer for residents in response to these challenges.
In March 2020, we played a leading role in creating a brand-new community hub. Through Burnley Together, to date we have taken 15,956 contacts and supported 3756 households in our local area, using a collaborative partnership approach to deliver this crucial service for the families and individuals who need it the most.
Burnley Together provide food parcels (including during school holidays), help people stay active, collect prescriptions for those who are shielding and signpost into other support services, providing a lifeline for some of our most vulnerable residents.
We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact the project has had, and our teams have been there throughout, with some even volunteering their own time to assist the people of Burnley. We know that this pandemic will have long lasting impacts on the health and wellbeing of our communities, and alongside our partners, we will continue to invest time and resources to sustain this invaluable initiative.
Empty Homes Project
Early in the pandemic, it was identified that there was an urgent need to provide safe, secure accommodation for those at risk. This includes those who were street homeless, enabling them to shield and isolate safely when necessary. We knew we had to maximise the resources and skills of the Calico Group and respond quickly to this challenge.
I’m proud of the dedication displayed by our front line teams who continued to work during lockdown in challenging circumstances to ensure that our Empty Homes Scheme continued. As a result, we refurbished and repurposed more than a dozen formerly disused properties to be used by our Calico Group partners Gateway and SafeNet Domestic Abuse Support Service.
These homes are providing safe refuge for victims of domestic abuse and / or those who are experiencing homeless across the North West.
We all know that people’s circumstances can change quickly, especially with potential economic challenges on the horizon. It’s vitally important that we can support our customers and help them stay in their homes, despite the difficulties which have arisen.
Our Tenancy Support Officers are doing an amazing job to help our customers stay connected and are offering real, valuable support without judgement. We pledged earlier in the pandemic that none of our customers will be evicted because of arrears caused by the pandemic and that’s something we’ll continue to stand by.
Domestic Abuse Support / DAHA
When it comes to supporting our customers with domestic abuse, we take our responsibilities incredibly seriously. Back in February 2020, we were the first Housing Association in the North West to be awarded a Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) accreditation. This is the UK benchmark for how housing providers and landlords should respond to domestic abuse in their neighbourhoods and communities.
According to DAHA, a lack of housing options is one of the main barriers when it comes to people leaving an abusive situation and we’re continuously working to ensure that isn’t the case with our customers. Sadly, during lockdown, many people are finding it much harder to access the help they need due being isolated with their abuser.
We have been working closely with our group partner SafeNet Domestic Abuse Support Services to provide bespoke training sessions to our Homes teams, enabling them to recognise signs and help those in vulnerable situations when needed. We also provide practical support and housing advice, help victims access refuge provisions, and work closely with other local authorities, the police, and other agencies.
I know that domestic abuse doesn’t discriminate, and my colleagues within The Calico Group are offered the same level of support as our customers are, with 10 days additional paid leave in situations involving domestic abuse. Many of those are White Ribbon ambassadors, making a long-term commitment to stand up against domestic abuse and this ethos is something that’s deeply ingrained through the wider Group.
There are several ways to get in touch with us if you need to pay rent, book in repairs, for debt and rent arrears advice or anything else you’d like to discuss.
SafeNet Domestic Abuse Support Services
It’s important to remember that if you’re living with domestic abuse, you are allowed leave your home to seek support, despite COVID restrictions.
If you are in immediate danger, always call 999.
Burnley Together is a community hub set up by several local groups, including Calico Homes and Burnley Borough Council, offering free support to those in Burnley, including food parcels, mental health support and more.