Public Affairs Campaign
- #ForAccessibleHomes had a clear objective – to increase the number of accessible homes using a whole-system approach across government, local government and stakeholders. Creating innovative research, Connect provided the first dataset showing accessible housing disparities across the country. They used a range of creative PR techniques, including engaging residents to amplify their campaign. Importantly, the campaign has a legacy, both with the client and the implementation of change for people locally.
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Brief and objectives:
There are 11.6 million disabled people in Britain and our society is ageing rapidly, yet only 6% of our homes provide even basic accessibility features. Habinteg gave Connect a brief to raise awareness of and achieve policy and legislative change to increase the number of lifetime homes and wheelchair standard homes that are built in the UK.
Rationale behind campaign, including research and planning:
The success of the campaign was dependent on a multi-audience approach – government, parliament, local government, tenants, the media and members of the public. We recognised that we needed to win hearts and minds by persuading people of the need and urgency. Our core argument was that accessible housing is not someone else’s issue or problem, it is an issue for all of us.
We undertook an audit of government guidance on accessible homes and researched parliamentary interest. We then identified the opportunities for legislative change that would have the maximum impact and scoped who we would need to target to achieve this.
We researched and shaped key messages to win hearts, using case studies telling positive stories about the impact of accessible housing, and win minds by highlighting the economic advantages and social care savings of increasing the supply of accessible homes.
Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:
The campaign was multi-layered, engaging with a wide range of audiences at the same time.
At a high level, in terms of government, early on in the campaign we secured a meeting with Justin Tomlinson MP, then Minister for Disabled People. He agreed to raise the issue with ministerial colleagues and, crucially, he committed to raising accessible housing as an agenda item at his next bilateral ministerial meeting with Gavin Barwell MP, the Minister for Housing and Planning.
As well as direct engagement with Ministers and officials, we worked with a wide range of other parliamentarians to build pressure for change. At meetings with the Chairs of the Women and Equalities Select Committee and the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, we positioned Habinteg to successfully lobby for parliamentary inquiries. Together, these inquiries raised the profile of accessible housing, engaged a wide range of organisations and led to government Ministers being put on the spot. Habinteg themselves gave both written and oral evidence, powerfully making the arguments.
In Parliament, we identified the passage of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill as the best opportunity to change the law in the short term. We worked with MPs, particularly at Committee Stage, to help draft amendments and the government were persuaded to introduce Neighbourhood Planning Bill Amendment 18, which stipulated that the Secretary of State must issue guidance for local planning authorities on how their local development documents should address housing needs that result from old age or disability. This amendment was passed by peers.
Implementation of tactics:
Alongside government and parliamentary engagement, we identified local government as important stakeholders in affecting change, particularly as local plans and planning policies are finalised across the country. Through a major survey of councils, using Freedom of Information requests, we revealed that only 3% of councils outside of London have plans in place to deliver and monitor the number of accessible homes built in their area. As a call to action, we created an interactive map to clearly show the best and worst councils, and we sent all local authorities a local scrutiny toolkit to help them review and improve their policies.
We organised a national day of action for Habinteg tenants and members of the public to get engaged in the campaign. We made highly effective use of social media to capture activity and increase the impact of the day. We launched a thunderclap, got the hashtag #ForAccessibleHomes trending, used Instagram to tell the story of the day, and delivered our message 311,874 times. We also gained national, sector and local media coverage, including using a letter co-signed by 15 highly influential organisations.
On the day, the Cabinet Minister for Equalities, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, visited Habinteg tenants in their own homes and learned first-hand what accessible housing meant to a range of disabled people. Across the country other MPs were engaged in the lobby day and shared their own messages of support.
Outline the distinct role and results of public affairs and lobbying:
We worked on a cross party basis, with constructive lobbying that all led towards action. We used our knowledge and experience of how parliament works to achieve a high impact in a short space of time.
Working with Select Committees raised the issue high on the agenda. It also helped Habinteg to engage Ministers and officials across Whitehall. This was crucial as our initial research revealed a problem of accessible housing cutting across different departments and not being ‘owned’ by a specific Minister.
The Freedom of Information exercise we undertook gave us the first national dataset looking at availability of accessible housing in the country and was key in enabling us to persuade the government of the need for change. Our local scrutiny toolkit is a significant tool to enable change at a local level, creating on going pressure for change.
Most crucially, the amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill was a hugely significant win for the campaign and Habinteg are now working closely with the government to help develop the guidance for local planning authorities.
Measurement and evaluation:
In six short months the campaign achieved a huge amount. We engaged directly with more than 50 target parliamentarians to raise awareness of the need for change and to build pressure on the government for action. We successfully engaged with key Government Ministers and officials and helped to create ongoing relationships and long term commitment. We mobilised tenants and the public, helping them to engage with the political process and make their voices heard. We achieved significant media and social media coverage. All of this combined to achieve a change in the law and new guidance from the government which will have a major and long term impact on the availability of accessible housing.
We were able to record and demonstrate impact by showing the level of media and social media coverage and the level of parliamentary interest, both in qualitative and quantitative terms, such as capturing mentions in Hansard, references in reports, and the use of our key arguments and research in debates. We also captured contact information for stakeholders using a shared database with the client, so that Habinteg can build and maintain relationships in the long term.
Budget and cost effectiveness:
Our campaign strategy was specifically designed to achieve legislative change and a step-change in political awareness of accessible housing on a relatively small budget. Using Habinteg tenants and partner organisations to help promote the message enabled us to achieve significant reach without large costs.