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‘Left-behind’ Places: The Levelling Up Commission’s Housing and Homelessness Inquiry

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Next week, Curia’s Levelling Up commission is holding its third inquiry session based on housing and homelessness. Chaired by the former Shadow Minister for Social Care and Mental Health and Former Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Paula Sherriff, the Housing and Homelessness Inquiry will take place over a two-hour sitting. The panels will be divided across three sessions.

Alongside the collation and analysis of relevant data, case study submissions, and regional sprints, four inquiry sessions will be held, spanning the four themes of the report. These sessions will bring together leaders from local, regional and national government, together with service providers, service users and more to discuss the issues at hand, but more importantly, the solutions.

Session 2: ‘Left-behind’ places

The second session of the inquiry is titled “Improving wellbeing in neighbourhoods experiencing greater deprivation and homelessness”. This panel will look to address regional inequalities within levelling up, with a focus on place-based deprivation and the role of infrastructure in this.

With the levelling up agenda rolled out to reduce geographical disparities in the UK, the approach thus far has been centralised, and fragmented. The UK has been described as “almost certainly the most interregional unequal large high-income country”. In light of this, significant differences among cities become apparent with post-industrial and rural areas sidelined to prioritise development in larger urban cities such as London. Different left-behind places have been identified in the UK; cities outside of London and the South East, coastal towns, districts and disadvantaged rural communities. Here, ‘left-behind’ neighbouroods are understood as areas that experience a mix of high ranking on indices of multiple deprivation, poor social infrastructure and economic stagnation.

Panellists Include Lucy Dixon, Head of External Affairs, Karbon Homes, Daniel Paterson, Director of External Affairs, Make UK Modular and Nicholas Boys Smith, Director, Create Streets Foundation.

The panel will look to focus on how policies can be improved to address challenges in left behind communities and how different infrastructures – care homes, schools, community centers, the high street etc. can work together so that levelling up manifests the same for all cities in the UK. Specifically, the panel will look to understand how affordable housing, through the support of local authorities, can be adequately provided in these spaces by using community infrastructure in a more efficient way. For example, the role that schools can play in utlising fallow space to encourage business activities, provide housing, serve as spaces to encourage community interaction and development.

The Housing and Homelessness Inquiry

The sessions will begin with 3-5 minute speeches from members of the panel before the session is opened to questions and/or evidence submissions from attendees. Questions will be pre-submitted by attendees when they register for the session and will be moderated and shared with the panel in advance. The two sessions will last one hour each. These sessions are not intended to be exhaustive and will not be the extent of the Commission’s work in this area. The Commission will be conducting ongoing data analysis and regional sprints in 2023 to further our evidential basis in this area.

Invites to this session will be issued to land development federations, housing regulatory bodies, manufacturing organisations, third sector organisations working in social housing and housing reform, relevant civil society bodies as well as local, regional and national government.

A key focus of the session will be the ways in which participants feel that national government can best facilitate, and create amenable conditions for, the scaling-up of best practice on issues surrounding housing and bridging gaps widened, especially during and post pandemic. A further concern will be the appraisal of cross-departmental policy at the national level via engagement with devolved public bodies, housing federations other relevant organisations.

Findings from this session on Housing and Homelessness, in conjunction with ongoing case study submissions, regional sprints, and quantitative data analysis, form the evidential basis for one of the four chapters of the final report, to be published in February 2024. We intend for these sessions not to simply re-state the problem, but to drive the discussion of solutions and examples of best practice.

The research does not attempt to restate the problem, but instead to provide solutions, and to consider what is needed to turn the admirable policy ambition of reducing health inequalities, into practice on the frontline.

The Levelling Up Commission

The Levelling Up Commission is considering how the valuable aims of the levelling up agenda can be achieved from the perspective of local and regional government, as well as service providers across all four areas of public policy detailed below. All too often, levelling up is being done ‘to and for’ communities, rather than in partnership. The Commission intends to ensure this is led locally.

To engage with each issue in-depth, a conceptual understanding of the framework at hand is warranted. As such, the Commission defines levelling up as:

“The process of extending opportunities, improving wellbeing and reducing inequalities to empower citizens across the UK, through reducing disparity in resources and access to services. It involves concerted effort to bridge the gap between different regions and communities, with the ultimate goal of creating a more equitable and prosperous society.”

In particular, the Commission will consider how improved public service and infrastructural provisions can help to drive down regional inequalities across England. Through a series of inquiry sessions, written submissions, regional sprints and quantitative data analysis, the Commission will set out a series of recommendations, and an accompanying implementation plan to consider how regional inequalities can be reduced from the perspective of public service design and provision in four key areas:

  • Health and social care
  • Education, skills and training
  • Housing and homelessness
  • Criminal justice and rehabilitation

The Commissioners of the Levelling Up Commission include:

  • Hilary Spencer (Chief Executive of the Ambition Institute and former Director of the Government Equalities Office)
  • Jeffrey Matsu (Chief Economist at CIPFA)
  • Neil Carmichael (Former Chair of the Education Select Committee)
  • Janet Budd (Chief Executive of the NHS Transformation Unit, NHS Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit)
  • George Coxon (Director and Owner of Classic Care Homes)
  • Lara Newman (Chief Executive of LocatED)
  • Anita Dockley (Research Director at the Howard League for Penal Reform)
  • Lord Denis Stevenson (Crossbench per and founder of MQ: Transforming Mental Health)

Sign up to join the inquiry session here:

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Watch our most recent inquiry session on education skills and training here:

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