How Northampton housing association’s social enterprise company is helping members of the community

The company runs a number of services, which aim to ‘meet unmet needs’

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 7:57 am
Josh has recently started as a handyperson for the company.
Josh has recently started as a handyperson for the company.

A social enterprise company linked to a Northampton housing association is running a number of services to help the community, which many people may not be aware of.

Happy to Help is a Community Interest Company, run as an offshoot to Northampton Partnership Homes (NPH).

The company has its own board of directors, which includes seven members who are NPH tenants, as a way to give residents the opportunity to be involved in Governance and have a say on how community investment is delivered.

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The community fund helped to buy waterproof coats for a walking group.

Since it was launched in 2018, six services have been added, including a food bank, a crisis service and a community fund.

Cam Wild, Happy to Help director and vice chair, said: “We wanted to invest more in the community and community groups.

“We are trying to provide additional services to tenants and address needs that were not being met elsewhere.

“It comes at no additional cost as well as when we agree a contract or use a procurement framework we request a donation in respect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The paint shop has been a success for Happy to Help.

"These donations, along with any grant funding or in-kind support that we secure by virtue of being a not-for-profit entity such as a CIC, are then invested into the Happy To Help services.

"At its simplest, we use corporate donations to do things like buying beds for children to sleep in, providing food for and more."

Happy to Help runs a food bank that offers support to tenants, which started in a cupboard behind a member of staff’s desk as employees brought in food to give to people they knew were in need.

During the pandemic it has grown to the point where 980 people have been helped by the resource.

Similarly, the company also has a crisis service whereby essential items such as beds and crockery are given to tenants who have nothing or very little.

There is also a community fund where groups can apply for funding of up to £250 to help support their activities, as a payment or as items purchased by the fund.

So far, the fund has helped 27 groups including providing waterproof coats for a youth wellbeing walk group, gardening tools for green-fingered projects and food ingredients for a healthy eating project.

Cam added: “For us, the company and the services it provides are must-haves. It is a fundamental about working in housing and working here.

“It is something a lot of housing organisations used to do as standard, but now many have become more focused on the bottom line, which leans away from the community ethos.

“At NPH we are local and tied to one geography, which helps us to be more focused on what people need.

“We can support what is important to our tenants and give them a say in what they need.

“We don’t always get everything right but we do try to do the right thing and we want to make a difference.”

More recently, the company has launched a handyperson service, whereby services are offered at a discounted rate to meet the circumstances of each person who may not normally be able to access these services.

In March last year, a paint shop in Kings Heath was also opened by the social enterprise company, whereby leftover paint is collected from businesses and tradespeople and sold back to the community - not just NPH tenants - at a low price.

Almost 1,300 litres of paint have been sold since the shop opened, despite it having to close during several lockdowns.

“It gives people low cost decorating," Cam continued.

“If we can help people from a few homes decorate a child’s bedroom, that small luxury will help people with something that might be just beyond their reach.

“The more people we can help, the better as it really makes a difference to people’s mental health.

“The shop also provides volunteer opportunities for tenants who want to get shop experience or just want to get out and about.

“Even with lockdown, we have provided 260 hours of volunteering at the shop.”

Cam is expecting the demand to remain in place and even grow, particularly for the food bank, so Happy to Help will continue to provide the schemes they already have in place.

The team is also ready to adapt and provide other services to meet any new needs that may arise that are not covered by other organisations.

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