Blog by Ade Bakare, Public Affairs Officer at the National Housing Federation.

Starts at Home Day is back this year on Friday 30 August 2024. After recent local elections and with a general election around the corner, now is the time to invite your local political representatives (parliamentary candidates, mayors and councillors) to visit the supported housing schemes you provide. This is a great opportunity to show the value of the care and support you provide, and the difference that having a safe and secure place to call home makes to people’s lives. 

As the housing crisis worsens, suitable and affordable housing has continued to be a significant issue for the public. A poll commissioned by the National Housing Federation shows that more than three quarters of the public think living in a decent quality, affordable home should be a right for everyone in the UK, and that 70% of voters think the government should do more to house local people on very low incomes and people with disabilities. 

Supported housing does just that. Research commissioned by the National Housing Federation found that were it not for supported housing, 41,000 more people would be homeless, with a further 30,000 people at risk of homelessness. And in 2021, the BRE Group calculated that inadequate housing costs the NHS at least £1.4bn per year. 

What can I do? 

With a large number of MPs not running for re-election, a significant number of the newly elected MPs will be new to parliament. This, coupled with changes in local government, gives us an opportunity to help local political representatives understand what supported housing is and the vital role it plays in communities across the country. There is no better way to achieve this than by helping politicians see for themselves the value that supported housing has in their own constituencies. We encourage you to invite parliamentary candidates to visit your supported housing. 

Like last year, we are also including councillors and mayors in the campaign and encourage you to invite your local mayor or councillor to visit your services. Councils are key commissioners of supported housing and so local councillors have a direct role in decisions that impact supported housing in your area. Councils play a key role in assessing local need for supported housing and there must be collaboration between local councils, providers and local delivery partners to assess, plan and deliver supported housing. You can find out who your local councillors are by using this tool. 

How do I organise a visit? 

First, you’ll need to invite your local political representative to a visit. We’ve created a template invitation you can use, but feel free to edit it or draft your own. Often local candidates will have an election website or social media account which will have contact information. If you are unable to find an email address, contact us and we can help.  

Try to be as specific as possible in your invitation, thinking about location and timings for the event. Make it easy for the local political representative to get in touch with you and don’t be afraid to chase the invitation after you’ve sent it. 

Next, you’ll need to think about an agenda for the visit. It is good to provide the local political representative with this information ahead of the visit, so they know what to expect. They are likely to want to see a scheme firsthand, talk to staff and to a resident or residents. You will need to think in advance about who those people will be so you can prepare them for the day. 

On the day, don’t forget to bring a camera to take of plenty of photos and come prepared with any key messages you would like to share. You can also to talk to them about local and national policy changes that will make it easier for you to deliver supported housing for the community. You will know best what changes need to happen in your area. 

Finally, don’t forget to post photos of the visit on social media on Starts at Home Day using the #StartsAtHome hashtag. You might also want to let the local newspaper know that the visit is happening to see if they would like to cover the story. 

If you do secure a visit with your local candidate, mayor or councillor, please let the NHF know. You can email me and we can provide you with a concise briefing or answer any other questions you may have about organising a visit.