My experiences…

Guest blog by Emma Leigh MBE

Emma is currently a Public Engagement and Communications Manager for NHS South Cheshire CCG.
Previous roles have included working for Public Health, in particular working with veterans and offenders for which she was awarded an MBE.
When not chattering, Emma enjoys reading and going to the theatre.
Emma is married to Glen and has 2 grown up children.

My experiences…

I offered this blog post some time ago, I was excited to share my thoughts, then got an attack of nerves, how do I really feel about reliving some of my teenage years?

So where do I begin, I guess a bit of back story. I was born into a fairly typical working class family, homeowners and proud to work all the hours that god sent to pay the mortgage. I was lucky in the sense that I enjoyed school, but lacked any longer term goals, aspiration wasn’t really promoted at home.

Like many families, my own had it’s resident skeleton in the cupboard, in the shape of one of my parents problems with alcohol and while it didn’t put me on the path to ruin, it hardly helped me enjoy a normal upbringing at times. Anyway, I thought I was rather grown-up, and found myself both married and pregnant (yes in that order) at just 17.

Sadly my intelligence didn’t quite stretch as far as working out somewhere to live, looking back I rather think I was in denial, hey there was a lot happening at the time, so I started married life and subsequently brought my baby home to my parents home, which was certainly not ideal.

After much cajoling, our names were added to the councils waiting list for a house. At first it seemed fruitless, 24 years ago the lists seemed just as long, but the squash at home meant I was soon motivated enough to press for action.

When our daughter was 4 months old we we’re finally allocated a house, an end terrace with a typically huge garden, which many council homes enjoy. Ah the joys of our very first house, the coal fire, the single kitchen unit and not a great deal else. But that didn’t deter us, with some begged and borrowed furniture, we set up home.

So what did my council house do for me and my family? It taught me the sense of community, memories of Jessie the old lady two doors down still make me smile now, it gave me the responsibility of paying my own bills and learning how to budget, it taught me how a myriad of families can rub along together when the drains block. The council and latterly, the housing association also provided me with a valuable back-up, like the time all our pipes froze and water came crashing through the ceiling, support was just a call away. The repairs team we’re always practical and and came and sorted problems out.

Over time, the house became a home. It wasn’t just a council house down a council street, it was where my family belonged. In 1999 we we’re lucky enough to be able to purchase the the house, meaning that I could afford to finish my education as well as keep the house going. I hope that by gaining not one, but two degrees and now working for the NHS I am able to repay, in some small way, the support I received over the years.

So there it is, actually I think I can look back and feel quite proud.

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Simples…

Simples ….

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Tamsin Stirling is an experienced housing researcher with 25 years in housing practice, policy and research. She has worked within and with Welsh Government, local authorities, housing associations and third sector organisations. She was editor of Welsh Housing Quarterly (www.whq.org.uk) for more than 15 years and specialist policy adviser on housing, regeneration and planning issues to Welsh Government Ministers Huw Lewis AM and Carl Sargeant AM between April 2012 and April 2014.

Tamsin’s specialties are research, evaluation, policy analysis, strategy development and information dissemination. Her areas of interest include housing, social policy, governance, tackling poverty and inequality, devolution and policy divergence.

Simples…

I didn’t grow up in a council house – for most of my young life, we lived in tied accommodation linked with my Dad’s job. He was, to use the terminology of the time, a ‘special schools’ teacher, working some evenings and weekends, as well as in the classroom, with accommodation provided by his employer. By the age of 12, I had had six addresses – no particular hardship, but not great either.

Work-wise, my first encounter with things housing was as a Community Service Volunteer in a bail hostel in West London. There were two main reasons for people being in the hostel – some had committed pretty serious offences and the court wanted to see them somewhere with a curfew, various other rules and an element of supervision. But for others, it was simply a lack of a settled home that meant weeks, or maybe months, in the hostel. I remember one young man who had been sleeping rough – he had stolen some bread and milk from a shop doorstep and was remanded to the hostel as ‘NFA’.

Skip forward a few years and I got my first job in housing as a housing officer for a housing association in south Wales. 25 years later, I still work in housing – thoroughly hooked!!

For me, the case for government investment in social housing comes down to a few basics:

• housing is a fundamental human right – Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right to housing as part of the right to an adequate standard of living
• some people cannot meet their housing needs within the market – this may be particularly so given the way housing markets are working in many parts of the UK
• emotionally, we all know how important a safe, secure home is
• economically, the case for capital investment in social housing with rents affordable to people on low incomes is sound, particularly when compared to pouring in revenue subsidies to support ever higher rents which are not necessarily invested back into the homes or related services (see LSE and IPPR for example). Investing in a collectively owned asset certainly makes sense to me

Having just worked within Welsh Government for two years, I am proud that our national politicians remain committed to investing in social housing – linking this both to tackling poverty and to the jobs and growth agenda. However, our politicians, and in particular, our Minister, Lesley Griffiths, along with all of us involved in housing,have a significant challenge to find ways of building more social housing within what it a very hostile emotional and political environment at a UK level, as well as a context of decreasing budgets.

We live in an affluent country in the 21st century – it should not be beyond our collective capabilities to house our people at least adequately. Those of us who feel angry that we are not doing this can direct this anger positively – to counter stigma, unapologetically keep making the case for social housing and work with others to find ways to build more. Council Home Chat is a great example of taking such action, an initiative being driven by young Welsh housing professionals.