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TAI 2016 Day One

Welcome to WHQ’s coverage of what’s happening on the first day of TAI. Check for more updates through the day.

Health and housing

How the two should work together is one of the hottest topics around at the moment. So it was no big surprise to find that this session was packed. Andrew Goodall, chief executive of NHS Wales, set out some successful examples of partnership working including the way barriers were broken down through In One Place. He also looked at challenges and opportunities for the future presented by recent legislation.

Neil Ayling, chief officer (social services) at Flintshire, set out the social care side of the relationship and some of the health impacts of housing. On the one hand, the lifespan of a homeless person is 30 years shorter than the UK average; on the other extra care can reduce NHS costs for that person by 47 per cent over 12 months.

Dr Tracey Cooper, chief executive of Public Health Wales, set out challenges including a population ageing to the point where there will be as many people aged over 80 as under 19. She quoted a study showing that health problems directly linked to poor housing cost NHS England £2.5 billion a year.

It seems that, 70 years after Aneurin Bevan was housing minister in the time he had spare from founding the NHS, health and housing are once again ‘best friends’. Perhaps they would be anyway but demographic and financial pressures mean they have no choice but to be.

In the Q&A afterwards, the panel were asked what was the one thing they thought Welsh Government could change to turn the rhetoric on health and housing into reality. For Andrew, it was about having an outcome focus and changing behaviour. Neil quoted two: sorting out funding problems associated with extra care rents; and significant investment in housing and mental health. Tracey said it was about alignment between different social policy areas and giving people the freedom to innovate at local level.

Mutual friends

TAI heard from four pioneers in an inspiring session on housing co-operatives. Mike Owen updated us on the birth of the first employee-mutual in Wales at Merthyr Valleys Home. The official start of the new organisation is on Monday. Gareth Swarbrick told the story of the first in the UK in Rochdale (also the birthplace of  the co-operative movement). As he said, there were no textbooks or route maps for what they’ve done and many of the reference points came from outside housing, from health and social care and leisure services. He’s also that rare thing: a housing chief executive telling a conference that his organisation will become smaller.

Read more from Mike and Gareth on mutuals and the role of small local housing organisations in an era of regional devolution in the latest WHQ. 

The conference also heard progress reports on two of the pilots for new co-operative housing sponsored by Welsh Government: Vicky Watts of Gwalia/Pobl on the Old Oak scheme in Carmarthen; and Bron Lloyd of Charter/Pobl on the co-operative shared ownership project at Loftus Garden Village in Newport. It didn’t sound like there were any textbooks for them either but the common threads were giving people a reason to co-operate – and then finding that they did.

Rising Stars make their debut

TAI heard three great presentations from the Rising Stars Cymru finalists on how to attract more young people into the housing profession. The common themes in the talks from Donna Williams, Jamie Roberts and Louise Kingdon were the sheer variety of roles on offer and the way that housing can make a real difference to people’s lives. The judges, who include the TAI audience, will have a tough task this year.

Striking a balance

Helen White, chair of the independent Regulatory Board for Wales, told the conference more about how the new system of regulation will work. The whole issue has been thrown into sharp relief by the decision of the ONS to extend its inquiry on reclassification of housing associations from England to the other UK nations. Helen stressed the importance of striking the right balance between deregulatory measures showing the sector’s independence from government control and protecting the interests of tenants. She also said that the Board had commissioned work on value for money in the sector to see what work is going on and who is doing what.

Read more from Helen in the latest issue of WHQ.

Opening shots

New CIH director Kevin Howell kicked off the conference by setting out his vision for the future of the profession and the role of the CIH. He also took time out to name check the impressive array of Welsh ‘power players’ who made the list produced annually by 24 Housing magazine. Might be an idea to prepare for the English, Scottish and Northern Irish backlash next year.

Read Kevin’s article in the latest WHQ.

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