Announcement: – The #HousingDay NewsRoom

Sponsored by Lewisham Homes

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#HousingDay is approaching fast. The annual opportunity for people who live and work in social housing to celebrate what they do and show the world the positive sides of their lives and work is now in its third year, and, in 2015, it falls on Wednesday 18th November.

This year’s #HousingDay theme is “Proud to be a Tenant”, and social landlords are being asked to work with tenants to celebrate the positive aspects of being a social housing tenant and provide a platform to counter all the negative mainstream media stereotypes.

For #HousingDay last year, I ran the #HousingDay RoadTrip when I drove over 700 miles visiting social landlords from Leeds to West Kent and South Wales to highlight some of the great work they were doing. The trip was sponsored by Documotive, software supplier to the sector.

The RoadTrip was great, it was invigorating, inspiring, and educational. But it was also exhausting. So, this year, my plan is different…. and static.

For this year’s event, I am planning the #HousingDay NewsRoom. I am going to get together with some other social media users to run a news room which will curate, highlight, and amplify some of the best content coming out of the day. There will be an hourly, live-streamed news bulletin running through the events so far and providing a high profile platform for great stories emerging on the day.

I am already very grateful to the support of Comms Hero founders Resource for agreeing to provide the base for the NewsRoom at their offices in Leeds. What I need now is other social media users with an interest in social housing to come and join me on the day to help run the NewsRoom. It will be a lot of fun and we will all learn a lot. Come and join me in Leeds on 18th November.

A momentum is building from year-to-year and each #HousingDay can be more prominent and high profile than the last. Help me make the NewsRoom a success and contribute to the best #HousingDay yet.

ReMindMeCare – An aid for dementia

I am very pleased to be live-streaming the launch of ReMindMeCare this coming Monday, 26th October.

RemindMeCare enhances the lives of people with dementia, their carers and families. It works by stimulating long term memories through a personalised library of the images, sounds and music that shaped their lives. There is a free version for family carers and subscription based packages available for care provider organisations which work on any Internet-enabled device. The system learns through use and interaction and stores its history, becoming customised to each person and is always immediately ready to use.

There’s still time to grab a free ticket if you’d like to attend the launch in person at IDEALondon in Shoreditch. But, if you can’t make it, then tune it to the live stream from 2pm on Monday, and join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #ReMeCare

“Non-Core” – An Urgent Call to Save Social Housing’s added value services

The last few months have not been good for social housing. Or at least not good for those who believe that low-cost rented accommodation provides people on low incomes with a vital bit of stability in their lives. It has become clear that the current government doesn’t share this view, and, indeed, as Jules Birch pointed out recently, it appears that their view is that social housing actively contributes to people’s poverty by diverting them from the aspiration of owning their own homes. Whether you share this latter belief or not, you cannot ignore that major changes are happening in the sector, with funding being shifted away from subsidising rents to encouraging low-cost home ownership, a 1% rent cut being imposed across the board, and Right-to-Buy being extended to housing association tenants, albeit the latter now being arranged via a “voluntary” agreement brokered by the National Housing Federation rather than by legislation.

And now housing magazine “Inside Housing” has produced a survey [paywall] which suggests that 72.1% of social landlords are cutting back on “non-core” activities as a result of the changed situation. They have decided that reduced funding and an uncertain policy environment mean that concentrating on managing the bricks and mortar is their best chance of survival. And so, community development, employment generation, and digital inclusion are just some of the activities which are being jettisoned as the hatches are battened down.

But if social landlords are not going to deliver these services who is? It can be argued that people who live in social housing need these services more than ever in the current climate, and, certainly in the case of digital inclusion, cutting back on such services is classic cutting-off-the-nose-to-spite-the-face territory, as the advent of Universal Credit will severely threaten landlords’ ability to collect rents if tenants are unable to manage their finances online. And I can tell you this is happening as I am experiencing loss of work myself as organisations disinvest from such actions.

Local government is hardly in a position to step in and pick up these services as it has experienced its own series of drastic cuts since 2010. And, despite the current Prime Minister’s early championing of the Big Society, it has always been clear that unpaid voluntary activity thrives in leafy suburbs and villages, not necessarily on social housing estates. So, activities which aid tenants’ well-being, incomes, and ability to pay their rents are starting to disappear. This will surely exacerbate the situation.

Something needs to be done about this. I am therefore starting a “Non-Core Watch”. If you know of a social landlord cutting back on activities which improve tenants’ lives beyond the provision of a house then please describe it in the comments below, and raise awareness on social media using the hashtag #noncore. We need to understand what is happening and begin to organise action to save such services before it is too late for our communities.

Digital Commonwealth – More Proof of the Power of Storytelling

Last Thursday I travelled to Ayr for the final event of the Digital Commonwealth project. I have really enjoyed working on this project, led by the University of the West of Scotland, which used the Glasgow Commonwealth games as a hook to encourage school children, community groups, students, and individuals to tell digital stories about themselves, their hopes and aspirations, and about their relationship with the Commonwealth.

If you haven’t seen it yet, the project documentary film is at the bottom of this post, and this provides a really great overview of what digital storytelling is about.

One of the key parts of Thursday evening was when some residents of a sheltered housing complex in Rutherglen were given the opportunity to read some of their own poems and stories, and to sing songs which they had contributed to the project.  I found this extremely moving, and it further reinforced my view that storytelling is vital to older people’s health and well-being. There were some really poignant and moving stories being told, and almost all the people involved started the process by asserting that they had nothing of interest to say. That is rarely the case as Digital Commonwealth has proved.

A Personal Story about the vital use of Skype in German Healthcare

I still encounter so much resistance to the adoption of new technologies in public services. One particular battle is about the use of remote consultations in healthcare.

Yesterday, Hilary Garner told me a very powerful story about what happened when a family member was taken ill in Germany recently. He is sure that the care given was dramatically improved by the doctors’ ability to remotely consult with an expert remotely via Skype, at 1 o’clock in the morning. It was all done in perfect English as well, and, as Hilary explained, the remote consultant was able to reassure him directly about the course of action taken.

People think that remote consultations are impersonal. But, would you rather have access to the expertise of one doctor, face-to-face, or the collective expertise of many doctors via Skype?

Here’s Hilary’s story.