UK EO Awards: People focus drives community impact

A housing provider with a focus on people not just houses has become the first ever winner of the Employee Owned Positive Impact of the Year Award.

Spinning out from the council in 2012 with a housing stock that needed significant investment, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) became an Arms Length Management Organisation separate from the council, before Chief Executive Gareth Swarbrick embarked on a journey to make RBH the UK’s first tenant and employee owned mutual housing society.

With a vision of ‘people succeeding together to provide better places to live and work’ RBH’s 590 employees now do much more than manage property and collect rent: alongside its support for the homeless, asylum seekers, safeguarding around domestic abuse, modern slavery, FGM and other social issues it is also accredited by the Charted Institute of Housing for Neighbourhoods Together working with tenant and employee members to identify projects that support community it serves.

UK Employee Ownership Awards Judge Beth Carruthers, Non-Exec Director, Remploy Ltd said: “What really struck us about RBH was a deep rooted set of values which epitomised ambition, activity and impact. The breadth of the work that they do in gtalvanising the entire community whether employees, tenants or partners in the community is what is making such a difference.”

Projects including the ‘Local Pantry’ provide customers with access to low cost healthy food and nutritional advice. ‘Gardens’ is the mental well-being scheme that provides gardening as therapy to reduce social isolation and RBH’s after school clubs are driving educational attainment and promoting young citizenship.

In fact in the past year the RBH team has hosted 29 volunteering training sessions, has supported 16 community organisations, and funded 33 projects that have run 500 activity sessions with themes including: digital inclusion, health and wellbeing, employment and skills, families and young people and environmental projects.

This work is alongside investing in the renovation of its properties including 5,580 homes being double glazed; 7,200 new doors; 1500 new kitchens; 2,519 new bathrooms; 3,919 new central heating systems and 549 homes receiving adaptations to ensure the wellbeing of residents as well as building 79 new homes and a new community hub in Kirkholt.

With 75% of its workforce being from Rochdale, being a Living Wage Employer, using as many local suppliers as possible, and providing support to employ people with additional needs, it is calculated that an additional 85 pence is generated locally on every £1 spent by RBH.

UK Employee Ownership Awards Judge Anne Buckley, Head of Partnership Assurance for the John Lewis Partnership said: “What was really interesting about RBH was their mission which is about providing a holistic experience right through the community, rather than just being about housing and collecting rent.”