By David Cowans, Group Chief Executive at Places for People

The Government published its green paper for social housing in August last year. Tackling stigma and celebrating thriving communities was one of its five core themes.

One year on, social housing stigma remains a deeply engrained issue. This has led to the announcement of new measures to help tackle it as well as end the segregation of social housing residents in mixed-tenure developments.

Unveiled by Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, these include putting a stop to so called ‘poor doors’, toughening up planning guidance and a new design manual to promote best practice in inclusive design.

With the government taking positive steps to address the stigma social housing residents have experienced, the housing sector must step up too.

For too long, the conversation around social housing has focused on the negatives, not helped by some of the language used.

This has overshadowed all the positives that can be seen throughout housing communities across the UK and that we need to shout much louder about. We need to promote the strength of our communities more.

There are some fantastic examples of community spirit, kindness and selflessness. This is something that as a sector, we witness all the time, but don’t talk about as much as we should.

That’s why nine years ago, Places for People launched our Good Neighbour Awards which take place annually to celebrate the unsung heroes in local communities and give them the recognition they deserve.

These provide just a snapshot of how people from a variety of different communities are making a positive difference and going the extra mile to make their neighbourhoods a better place to live.

Awards are presented for activities ranging from organising social activities through to dog walking and inviting people for Christmas lunch who would otherwise spend it alone. These simple acts of kindness make a huge difference to people and their local communities.

The British Citizen Awards is also helping to showcase some of the exceptional individuals who work passionately to make a positive impact on society.

From people who have founded local support groups through to those who give up their time to volunteer for local charities and good causes, there are many examples of great things happening behind the scenes that are improving the lives of others.

As highlighted by these awards, people are the key to making our society and communities the special places that they are. From meeting lots of Good Neighbour Awards winners, most of them don’t realise what they do is so special, which makes them all the more deserving of recognition.

Initiatives like this play a really important role in changing negative perceptions and we need to build on their success.

That will require all housing providers to take a bolder approach to tackling stigma, including finding new ways to proactively and consistently showcase the people that live in their communities and who make their neighbourhoods work.

In doing so, we can begin to steer conversations away from those that dwell on the negatives and which can fuel the stigma, to those firmly focused on the positives and that rightly celebrate everything that’s good about people and the places they live.

This blog was first featured in Inside Housing on 31 October 2019.

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