05.02.16

Transforming futures in Salford through revitalisation

Source: PSE Feb/Mar 16

Mike Wright, head of housing choice at Salix Homes, talks to PSE about how a £2m flagship centre in Salford will help young people transform their lives.

Housing association Salix Homes has revealed plans to convert a disused homeless hostel in Salford into a state-of-the-art training centre with live-in accommodation to help young people transform their lives. 

The now-empty Petrie Court site had previously provided supported accommodation to young homeless people in the city, but closed down in 2014 as part of Salford Council’s funding cuts. 

Platform for Life funds 

Following an application to the government’s Platform for Life initiative, the Salford Working Out project, which includes a full refurbishment of the disused site, along with a state-of-the-art training centre, gym and ICT suite, has received £1m funding from the Homes and Communities Agency. This will be match-funded by Salix Homes. 

The centre, which will provide people aged 16-25 with a stable place to live while they work, complete their education or undertake training, will be the first of its kind in Salford and Great Manchester, according to Mike Wright, head of housing choice at Salix Homes. 

“We want it to be a flagship regionally and nationally for how we can engage with young people and raise their aspirations,” he said. 

Something the council couldn’t do 

PSE was told that explicit local authority support was needed for the project, which was supplied by Salford City Council. 

“One of the things that is pleasing is that it [Petrie Court] was a scheme that was previously successful [under the local authority], but hit the dust under previous government cuts,” said Wright. “And we have actually been able to bring it back to life as something different and new. Going forward we will clearly be at the mercy of funding programmes like this.” 

He added that it is “critical” that housing providers take advantage of this type of funding opportunity. 

“This is something that couldn’t have been done by the local authority, because they couldn’t bid for the funding,” said Wright. “It is about being clear about what our priorities are and taking advantage of what funding is out there.” 

The redevelopment of Petrie Court is the first phase of the Salford Working Out project, and will house up to 14 young people. But there are more than 2,200 people aged 16-25 on the housing waiting list in Salford and more than 6,000 young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs). 

“We are expecting to have a lot of referrals,” said Wright. “We will be putting a prioritisation programme in place. We will be prioritising people with connections to the city who are in work, in education or training in Salford.” 

The local authority’s children’s services department will be a direct partner of the project with regards to referrals. And there is a series of local skills and education providers engaged with the scheme to deliver training programmes and employment opportunities. 

Summer opening 

The first phase of the project, which includes the refurbishment of Petrie Court, has received £418,000 from the Platform for Life funds. It’s hoped the facility will be open by summer this year.

As part of the project, one of Salix’s tenancy support workers will be attached to the scheme. However, Wright was clear to point out that this is “not live-in support”. 

“That is why we need to be clear about the matching process,” he said. “We’ve done some modelling of a young person on the young person minimum wage, and it is still affordable – certainly more affordable than the private sector offer. That is even taking account of some of the future benefit cuts, which have disproportionately affected young people. It is an affordable product, based on what people can earn.” 

It is anticipated that residents will stay at the new facility for up to 12 months, after which Salix Homes will assist them into permanent accommodation, which will form the second phase of the project. 

Salix Homes has also received £650,000 for phase two of the project, which will deliver 31 self-contained units for young people. It is hoped that work could start on these by the end of the year, but the organisation is still looking at development options, including the remodelling of old stock. 

“We are very confident that through the project we will be making a positive impact on the young people in the city, who are going to be our future,” said Wright.

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