Tuesday 18th July 2023: Yesterday Danny Beales and Steve Tuckwell, the Labour and Conservative candidates for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, visited a local housing charity on a trip organised by leading social impact investor Big Society Capital demonstrating how investment can support communities.
Uxbridge United Welfare Trust (UUWT), a charity which has run an Almshouse in the constituency for over 500 years, rebuilt the facility with social investment funding from Charity Bank in 2019. The loan allowed the Trust to create better quality housing for elderly Uxbridge residents, freeing up social housing stock for families in need of housing.
The visit gave Danny, who experienced homelessness himself in his youth, and Steve, who serves on the Property Committee at Hillingdon Council, an insight into how social investment can support frontline organisations like UUWT to address concerns over housing availability, loneliness among elderly people and the cost-of-living crisis. With a General Election coming soon, both will be looking for cost-effective solutions to local challenges.
Uxbridge South and Ruislip is no exception to the UK’s housing crisis, with a median affordability ratio (average house price compared to the average wage) of 13.86, above the average in England of 8.281. Residents of the socially affordable units at UUWT must be eligible for state pension and housing benefit amongst other criteria, to make sure that the Trust serves those in the constituency who most need it.
The loan from Charity Bank was vital in financing the redevelopment, after UUWT was turned down by many high street banks due to a perceived lack of commercial potential from the properties in future.
The site is a mixture of social and commercial lets (20 and 10 of each respectively) which provide purpose-built apartments to allow elderly people to live in high quality accommodation at affordable levels, with the 20 social rents set to Local Housing Allowance rates. Any profit made by UUWT is reinvested into the local community, with over £100,000 donated a year to individuals, smaller charities, resident groups and children’s uniformed groups.
The units are designed for independent living and the courtyard structure of the site allows for community and interaction between residents should they want it. Recent research from Bayes Business School at the City University of London showed that living in an Almshouse comes with greater life expectancy, which could be due to that sense of community and wellbeing which mitigates the loneliness highly prevalent among older age groups. Residents at UUWT also have a monthly lunch with trustees of the charity in order to share concerns and ideas for the site should they arise.
Big Society Capital is calling for all parties to consider social investment as part of its policy plans for next year and beyond. With the market growing steadily, social investment can play a critical role in tackling the most pressing issues of today, delivering better value for money for the taxpayer.
Danny Beales, Labour’s candidate for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, said:
“It’s been fantastic today looking round the project, seeing what the partnership has done in terms of unlocking these amazing new homes for residents – they’re fantastic facilities and we need to do more projects like this. Unlocking that funding to invest back in local communities is something I’ll be very happy to support and something we need to do.”
Steve Tuckwell, the Conservatives’ candidate for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, said:
“This is a real jewel in the centre of Uxbridge that needs to be supported, and if I’m elected I will be back to doing as much as I can to support this wonderful facility.
One of the things that I’ve been in conversations about today is the importance of the social investment, the support that it would have for the local authority so that the community can benefit. Getting the investment needed is something that I’ll work on with the team here and the wider partners that support this facility.”
Dominic Gilham, Chief Executive of Uxbridge United Welfare Trust, said:
“We are very proud of the work we do within our local community. The numerous grants we give, along with housing the elderly in our Almshouse, really does make a difference in Uxbridge.
It was good to showcase our services to both candidates, as whoever wins this by-election will be able to turn to the Trust, knowing how we support their constituents.
The next MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip must be willing to help organisations like ourselves and advocate for funding sources to continue to improve the outcomes for local residents.”
Carolina Pinzon, Investment Manager at Big Society Capital said:
“It was a pleasure to showcase what social investment can help achieve and hopefully whoever becomes Uxbridge and South Ruislip’s next MP will champion funding for organisations like UUWT in parliament. Social investment can help tackle serious social problems and contributes to positive change and growth in communities, at the ease of the public purse. We were delighted to show this to the candidates today.”
Ed Siegel, CEO at Charity Bank said:
"Charity Bank is delighted to see cross-party support for Ossulton Court, a new development of state-of-the-art Almshouses for older people in Uxbridge. This project is a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone at Uxbridge United Welfare Trust (UUWT), and we are proud to have worked with Big Society Capital to finance it.
For over 20 years, Charity Bank has provided finance that makes a social impact, and we believe that Almshouses are a key part of this work. They provide affordable, secure housing and a sense of community for older people, which is essential for their wellbeing. We are excited to see how these homes continue to support the needs of their residents and the community for many years to come."
Press contact: Ian Young firstname.lastname@example.org
About Big Society Capital
Big Society Capital is the UK’s leading social impact investor. Our mission is to grow the amount of money invested in tackling social issues and inequalities in the UK. We do this by investing our own capital and helping others invest for impact too.
Since 2012, we have helped build a market that has directed more than £8 billion into social purpose organisations tackling issues from homelessness and mental health, to childhood obesity and fuel poverty, a ten-fold increase in ten years.
Further information about Big Society Capital can be found at www.bigsocietycapital.com