ASSOCIATION C: ABILITY HOUSING ASSOCIATION
Ability Housing Association is a specialist association that provides housing and support services to disabled people living in the South of England. It works in partnership with local authority housing, social services, and Supporting People teams, the Homes and Communities Agency, and mainstream housing associations to help deliver flexible and tailored housing and support for people who want to live more independently. The Ability Housing Association operates in London, Essex, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Dorset, and West Sussex. Its housing stock comprises mostly either wheelchair-standard housing or supported housing for people who need additional care or support.
The association was set up in 1999 when the Cheshire Foundation Housing Association changed its name and relaunched as Ability. At this point it had 285 homes under management, employed 47 staff, and had a turnover of £1.86 million. In 2003 the national Supporting People program began, and Ability entered into Supporting People contracts with 18 local authorities. In 2004 Ability set up its first mental health support services, in the London borough of Merton, and in 2004 Ability was rated as the second most efficient registered social landlord (RSL) in England. In 2007 it was selected to provide mental health support services in Surrey and new supported housing in Swindon. Over the next 10 years it grew steadily, and in 2009 the REAP resettlement agency transferred its activities to Ability. By 2012 Ability had over 550 homes under management, and had a turnover of £8.8 million. In 2012, for the second year running, Ability was recognized as one of the Sunday Times' 100 Best Not-for-Profit Organisations to Work For.
In its corporate plan Ability states its values as follows:
Our pursuit of our visions is underpinned by the following values which permeate the whole organisation:
We focus on ability not disability
- We focus on what each person can do – on their ability – rather than what they can't do. We work together with our customers to help them overcome barriers to their own personal independent living goals.
We engage actively for feedback
- We engage actively with our customers, colleagues, and partners to seek feedback that helps us to understand how we can improve what we do and how we do it.
We value difference
- We respect and value the individuality of each person; we believe that differences are strengths and that diversity enriches our lives and communities.
We demonstrate integrity
- We encourage a culture of openness, honesty, and personal accountability; we respond to a challenge by asking ourselves what we can do to help and always deliver on our promises.
Ability provides the following services:
Housing with Support, to promote independent living, for example:
• Assistance with learning independent living skills
• Advice and assistance with claiming welfare benefits and housing benefit
• Advice and assistance with budgeting and managing bills
• Advice on aids and adaptations
• Assistance with reporting repairs and managing tenancies
• General counseling and support with day-to-day living
• Assistance with arranging personal care and contacting other agencies involved in care and welfare
Most of the Housing with Support is provided in self-contained flats or bungalows, although some of it is in shared housing or studio apartments with some shared facilities.
Floating Support, similar support to that just described but provided without housing. This service helps people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, or mental health-related support needs to manage their homes.
The Accessahome database, to enable disabled people, housing associations, and local authorities to make better decisions about housing. Accessahome records details about accessible features of properties – for example, if a property has been purpose-built to a wheelchair standard, lifetime homes standard, or mobility standard, or it has been specially adapted for a disabled person, for example, with a stair lift, level-access shower, or adapted kitchen. The database offers a matching service for both landlords and applicants and support information for disabled people, so that a landlord with an accessible or adapted property that is available for letting can search the database for applicants whose needs match the features of the property.