At Sovereign Housing’s Foyer on the Isle of Wight, we’ve had one of our most exciting years creating new opportunities and projects with our residents. It has also been one of our most challenging with residents telling us that the cost of living crisis continues to be a main area of concern for them. Where there are challenges and barriers though, it usually means ourselves and our residents getting all the more innovative about creating opportunity!
Last year, Sovereign started to look closely at how we could transform the experience of our Foyer residents, understanding that this could be best achieved by utilising their lived experience to help shape the Foyer’s future direction. After speaking with residents and hearing their views for what the Foyer should offer, it was clear that young people being able to bring their ideas or lived experiences to benefit one another was key.
The Resident Wellbeing Fund
On the back of these discussions we received a donation from a local charity, and together with our residents, we created ‘The Resident Wellbeing Fund.’ The idea of the fund is simple; a pot of money that is available to support residents' ideas, incentivise engagement and celebrate wins no matter how large or small. We wanted the fund to be accessible to all residents and to keep the application process as simple as possible whilst still allowing flexibility in how the fund is distributed.
Residents can apply by filling in a quick form; telling us their idea, who it would benefit and which of our outcomes it would fall under. From there, our team and a group of residents authorise the application and we allocate the funding.
Our residents have created so many sessions and activities as a result of this initiative. Over the last year we've supported:
• art sessions
• games nights
• sports sessions
• hosting a local LGBT+ charity workshop with us
• activities in our in-house gym
• funding travel to job interviews on the mainland and items such as uniforms
• funding items for moving on to new accommodation
• rewarding residents who form part of our resident scrutiny panel to provide feedback on our policies and procedures
At Sovereign Foyer our team is on hand throughout to help and guide residents in promoting their idea but, ultimately, the projects the residents come to us with are often based on their skills and talents – so it’s usually them helping us!
One of our residents, Andrew, used some of the funding to create an arts and crafts session for people who may find it difficult to socialise or engage in larger groups – he told us “organising that was one of my most memorable moments of living at the Foyer. Staff encouraged me to push myself and as a result I made some really good friends and socialised a lot.”
Move On and Thrive Panel
It’s not just the Resident Wellbeing Fund we have up and running. In partnership with the Blagrave Trust we have also created the ‘Move On and Thrive Panel’. The panel is made up entirely of Foyer residents who have been meeting each week over the last six weeks in preparation to receive pitches from members of the community for projects they would like funding for. Each application needs to say how it will benefit the local community, in particular young people aged 16-25. It’s then down to our panel of young people to determine how best to allocate the funding. The total grant is around £250,000 so the meaningful impact that these projects are having on our community is huge. As the projects develop and thrive, leaving a lasting impact for years to come, we hope the participants will proudly shout about their involvement.
We also can’t wait to share our Foyer iCard which we are preparing to launch that will see residents receiving their own reward cards. The system will be digital with touch screens in communal areas for residents to check their balances and grant themselves points whenever they feel they have done something that deserves some recognition. As well as this, our team can reward residents using points. As they build, these points can then be traded in for fun activities like cinema tickets or, mainly, for items that residents can collect when they’re ready to move on.
When we started our FOR Youth Journey three years ago, we were at a point when we wanted to become a truly resident-led service that created meaningful opportunities for our young people to engage with. With these projects and more in the pipeline, we really feel we’re well on our way to achieving this.
Guest Blog Author: Chris Story, Foyer Team Leader, Sovereign Foyer