Launching the Exempt Quality standards has been an exciting few days and the culmination of years of work. BVSC alongside many others in Birmingham has been hearing from people we work with who live in circumstances of multiple disadvantages about the conditions they live in for many years now.

We have heard the stories of feeling unsafe, the inappropriate placements of victim and perpetrator in the same housing setting. We have also heard loud and clear the voices of people living in communities who do want people to be supported but need this to be in well-managed accommodation which can add benefit to the community by giving a quality offer to local people who need support or experiencing tough times and need a chance. Contrast this with a story in some areas of huge levels of imported need that cannot possibly be met within the communities leading to ASB and poor relations between local people and accommodation providers as well as stigmatisation of the people who are actually in need of support. For all of these reasons and many more, we decided that we needed solutions.

We have trusted partnerships with many support providers in the city and projects such as the No Wrong Door network to ensure that people with complex needs are signposted to the right support when they need it and not bounced around confusing systems where they get a "computer says no response". BCC invested in BVSC, specifically the Changing Futures team to produce a set of quality standards using our partners, stakeholders, housing experts, people with lived experience, and our research from running programs and being part of national responses to addressing multiple disadvantages. The Quality standards were produced by Alana Raybould who was tenacious in sticking with the goal despite setbacks, delays, and challenges and who ultimately produced an excellent set of Quality Standards which have been endorsed by government and local politicians of all persuasions and we hope to have the broad support of communities though this will play out in the impact we see on the ground.

Registered Providers will be asked to pay to be assessed and the assessors are based at BVSC which is an independent voluntary sector lead organization and has no stake in any housing offer so remains an objective assessor. We are currently talking to 25 organisations mostly registered providers and 17 have signed up to go through the assessment process, we are at the start of the journey to implement and embed the standards. There are a clear set of standards with explanations and examples for organisations to work through. We intend to highlight and share good practice where demonstrated, there has been a worrying trend of negative stories about this sector and these are reflective of peoples concerns. However many charities that are well known, well respected, and supported by communities operate in this space but do not draw attention to this fact as they have well-run establishments which offer quality support, and the association with the word Exempt has become mainly negative, this is a balance we hope to redress, one such example of a well-known charity to have signed up is YMCA Heart of England, they could see the benefit in being able to demonstrate the quality of the offer they provide whether commissioned or not and are currently fully signed up and going through the standards.

Being in a city that has received funding for the Exempt Housing Pilot has meant there has been targeted additional support from across vital areas such as social work, benefits, planning, and community safety even including seconding a Police officer which has meant that every aspect of this sector can be scrutinized and supported in a way that was not possible before. We hope to receive additional support to expand the scope of the offer to be able to assess more providers, run a providers forum and offer training on essential topics such as person-centred support planning in collaboration with key partners. Also, it's important to mention the Charter of Rights which has been developed by Thea Raisbeck at Spring Housing alongside 50 collaborators including people with lived experience to set out the rights and service offer that people should expect and is aimed at enhancing the customer experience and involvement. These form part of the suite of interventions that Birmingham has made available to the sector.

The end goal is that there is legislation that will be able to respond to the learning from the pilot areas and that with support from the Housing Regulator the balance can be struck between a much-needed support offer, quality housing, and supporting communities.

Written by Sharne Maher Head of Multiple Disadvantage at BVSC.

For full details go to