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Housing Rights' response to the Consultation on NIHE Community Involvement and Cohesion Strategy 2024-29

July 2024

At Housing Rights, we believe it is key that experts by experience (people with experience of housing problems and homelessness) are meaningfully involved in decisions made about preventing and ending homelessness.  

We therefore welcome the development of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s (NIHE) new Draft Community Involvement and Cohesion Strategy 2024-29.

NIHE note that this Strategy will provide the roadmap to achieve their commitment to involving their customers in decisions and services that affect their lives.  Housing Rights believes that the Strategy needs to be strengthened in the following key areas in order to provide such a roadmap, as well as to meet NIHE’s legal requirement to consult with those likely to be impacted by its policies. 

Involving underrepresented groups 

The evaluation of the last Community Involvement Strategy recommended that NIHE should focus future efforts on broadening the participation of underrepresented groups, including LGBTQIA+ people, the Irish Traveller Community, people with refugee status, people seeking asylum and other migrant communities. However, none of these groups are mentioned in either the aims or action plan for the new Strategy. 

We therefore recommend that the Strategy is strengthened to include aims and actions to which NIHE commit to develop new ways of involving each of these groups. 

Involving people using NIHE services who cannot access social housing 

Alongside social tenants, NIHE customers include private renters, low-income homeowners and people experiencing homelessness. Housing Rights therefore strongly recommends that either the draft Strategy be expanded to also cover the involvement of these groups or that it includes a commitment to the timely development of separate strategies to engage with them.  

Monitoring and Evaluation 

Housing Rights sees it as crucial that the Strategy includes a commitment to developing a framework to monitor and evaluate NIHE Community Involvement engagements, which captures the following: 

  • the demographics of those involved, and the extent to which this reflects the population impacted by the decisions made by NIHE 
  • the experiences of those involved in NIHE engagements, as well as the experiences and views of people for whom the existing structures have not been accessible or who have not engaged for another reason. 
  • the impact that NIHE Community Involvement engagements have had on decisions made by NIHE regarding policy and services 

Training for NIHE staff  

Housing Rights believes it is important that NIHE staff in decision-making roles throughout the organisation have a strong understanding of participation and the skills and knowledge of how to develop accessible opportunities for people to participate. Therefore, Housing Rights recommends that the Strategy include a commitment to providing participation training to NIHE staff in decision-making roles within year 1.  

Valuing the time and expertise of experts by experience  

Where people with first-hand experience of housing problems or homelessness are sharing their expertise and insights to help NIHE improve their policies and services, we recommend that NIHE recognise this expertise and thank people for their time, for example through gift vouchers.