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Derwent Living was the first housing provider in the Midlands to sign up in the summer, and colleagues from across the business have been hard at work implementing key elements of the campaign. We caught up with project champion Gemma Trowbridge to ask a few questions about what the initiative means for Derwent Living and what’s been achieved so far.
What’s your role in helping implement the Make a Stand initiative at Derwent Living?
My role is to make sure each of the four pledges is delivered effectively by the team here. I’m keen to embed a culture of support around these issues that helps people break free from the cycle of abuse. As a member of the senior management team I’m working to ensure the themes of the campaign stay on the agenda for each area of the business.
What steps are Derwent Living taking to make the campaign a success?
We’ve assembled a team of key people from around the business to help embed each of the pledges and drive the project forward. Our team includes safeguarding leads as well as representatives from our housing, customer engagement and organisational development teams. Getting specialists from every corner of the business means we can address policy and strategy at the same time as conducting training and communicating the initiative.
It’s still early on in the overall implementation, but we’ve had positive feedback so far about the work we’re doing. Last month we ran a session at our customer forum on spotting the signs of abuse which residents found really useful.
We’re also teaming up with other providers to share best practice and hope to work alongside the Police too, the idea being that a collaborative approach will benefit everyone.
Abuse doesn’t just affect those who live in our communities, it affects those who we work alongside too. So internally we’re adding to the tools colleagues and managers have at their disposal and using our internal communications mix to push support messages and embed key policies.
Why do you think the campaign is important for housing associations?
Housing associations house nearly six million people across the UK and employ around 140,000, so we have incredible scope to help those affected by domestic abuse. The role of housing associations has never just been to provide a roof over someone’s head - it’s about keeping people safe and well too. The campaign’s success and take-up so far shows you how well it resonates with the sector, and a cohesive approach across so many different organisations can only be seen as positive.
Why are housing associations like Derwent Living well placed to help support those suffering from abuse?
Housing associations are in a unique position, as they often provide a very personalised service across lots of touch points. The contact we have with people on a daily basis means we are able to form relationships that other organisations cannot. Being part of the Places for People Group gives us massive opportunity to support people, and the framework and pledges laid out by the Make a Stand Campaign should make it easier for associations to do so.
Do you think recent revelations in other industries have made people more willing to talk about issues like abuse?
Yes definitely, I think abuse is finally getting the coverage and focus it should. For years it’s been taboo to talk about and some of those reporting issues have found themselves ignored or marginalised.
What’s clear – especially over the past couple of years – is that physical, mental and sexual abuse can happen anywhere, in all walks of life and to all types of people. My hope is the more it is talked about through campaigns like Make a Stand, the more opportunities there are for people to get help.
What long-term outcomes would you like to see from the initiative?
There are two long-term outcomes we want to see. Firstly, we want awareness of abuse to become part of everyone’s role who works for and on behalf of Derwent Living. Secondly, we want every customer and colleague to know that there is support available and you are not alone.
If we can do that, then I hope it can have a substantial impact on the lives of those in our communities. If every housing association across the country can do similar, then we can affect a transformational shift in our society for decades to come.