Colleen Rowan: Supporting communities through COVID - the response from community controlled housing associations

Colleen Rowan: Supporting communities through COVID - the response from community controlled housing associations

Colleen Rowan

A new report from the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) has highlighted the crucial local role played by Community Controlled Housing Associations (CCHAs) during the coronavirus health crisis, says Colleen Rowan.

Throughout the pandemic crisis and subsequent lockdown local housing associations have worked tirelessly, alongside local people, third sector organisations and public sector colleagues to support their communities.

At GWSF we’ve been keen to capture this ongoing work in a new publication Community Controlled Housing Associations: supporting communities in the COVID crisis, which highlights the crucial contribution CCHAs have made on the ground and features case studies from several member associations who were funded through the Scottish Government’s Supporting Communities Fund (SCF).

Acting with speed and agility, and doing what they do best, CCHAs harnessed these collective efforts to provide or facilitate others to provide a range of direct supports which responded to immediate, crucial needs. In these extraordinary times, the response of CCHAs and their local partners has also been extraordinary.

Thirty GWSF members received SCF funding, 16 of these in Glasgow and 14 in other local authority areas in the west of Scotland. The total amount awarded was almost £2.7 million. And we know that other associations are offering COVID-related help and support locally, with or without specific funding.

Things have moved so quickly, and often with an air of surrealness. The pandemic itself and the challenges of lockdown have created a set of unprecedented circumstances for all of us. In the midst of this CCHAs have stepped up as true community anchors. We thought it was essential to use this publication to document their contribution.

The SCF funded a wide range of activities, and the case studies featured in the publication capture key themes around emergency and ongoing needs, including innovative approaches to food and fuel provision, tackling social isolation, working with BAME communities, and local partnership working.

CCHAs, and other community anchor organisations funded through the SCF, share core characteristics including longevity, trust, reach, and a track record of responding quickly to deliver change. It’s these same qualities which have enabled them to get SCF funding to where it’s needed most in their communities.

As we move tentatively towards recovery it’s clear that the health, well-being, economic and societal impacts of the pandemic will continue for a long time, especially in disadvantaged communities. Inevitably, community anchors will continue to play an important role in helping to build resilience locally.

By placing community anchor organisations at the heart of the SCF the Scottish Government recognised their value. As we move into recovery, we would like to see the lessons learned from the SCF approach being carried forward.

CCHAs’ response to how the COVID crisis affected their communities has emphasised, perhaps like nothing else could, the value of being truly local.

  • Colleen Rowan is policy & research lead at Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations
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