Ashley Community Housing tackles the refugee crisis

Social Investment Business
Ashley Community Housing

We are currently facing the most serious refugee crisis in modern times, with more people displaced now than at any point since the Second World War. Media portrayal often paints refugees as a burden to society, or at best a charity and humanitarian issue, and this negativity makes resettlement and integration even more of a challenge.

Ashley Community Housing (ACH) works to change this perception, delivering the #rethinkingrefugee resettlement and integration programme throughout communities in the West of England and the West Midlands. 

Since 2008 ACH has successfully resettled over 2000 individuals from refugee backgrounds – developing their independence, promoting their positive contribution to the community and easing their integration into UK life.

Many of the ACH staff, including the CEO, have lived experience as former refugees, resulting in a tried and tested resettlement and integration service that is culturally responsive.

To help provide themselves with greater control and financial resilience and to address housing waiting lists that outstrip supply, ACH wished to diversify its property portfolio into a freehold model. This meant that they would have complete ownership of their properties and would have more security.

A change of this scale requires significant funding though, and social investment was seen as a potential solution to enable ACH to establish a freehold model across their estate, while continuing to deliver on their humanitarian promise to their tenants. They researched the available options and decided that Big Potential could meet their needs.

After completing the diagnostic tool and presenting a powerful case, they were awarded a £26,088 preliminary grant to help them analyse the scope for an investment proposal. This was then followed by a £48,912 investment plan grant which helped them build a comprehensive business plan.

“The funding provided us with the support to present a new product into the marketplace, transforming a faith based financial agreement into a 21st century FCA compliant ethical legal agreement suitable for social investors from all backgrounds. It made a huge difference and we would certainly recommend the programme to other charities or social enterprises.”

Richard Thickpenny, Business Development Manager, Ashley Community Housing

After working with their approved Big Potential provider ACH were able to create a new social investment product, suitable for both ethical and faith-orientated social investors.

From funding a business plan aimed at 30 people, ACH are now hoping to secure £5.5m worth of mixed income by 2020 to deliver services to 2,500 beneficiaries.

In terms of social impact, they have managed to have a life-changing effect on the lives of their tenants. This has resulted in several award nominations, including Social Enterprise of the Year in 2014 and 2015, and Outstanding Campaign of the Year in the UK Housing Awards 2017 for their #rethinkingrefugee campaign.

You can find out more about the work of Ashley Community Housing via their website: