The changing face of social enterprise — Ashley Community Housing

Although originating in Bristol, Ashley Community Housing, a social enterprise and housing association specialising in the resettlement and training of refugees, now has dedicated offices in Birmingham (opened in 2012) and Wolverhampton (opened in 2015).

Established as a Company Limited by Guarantee in 2008, Ashley Community Housing believes it is unique amongst UK housing associations in that its primary focus is the care, training, health, wellbeing and employability of refugees, and many of it staff, including Fuad Mahamed its CEO, have personal lived experience as former refugees.

Fuad Mahamed CEO

Fuad came to the UK as a refugee with no English and went on to obtain a first class degree in Engineering from Bath University followed by an MSc in Management from Lancaster Business School. When Bristol-based Euro Hostels collapsed and started evicting people, he stepped in, setting up Ashley Community Housing in 2008 to support the resettlement of refugees like himself.

The service now spans three cities, employs 50 people and has resettled over 2,000 people from refugee backgrounds. Fuad is also a Fellow of the Clore Social Leadership programme and has used this platform to argue for a new and more positive perspective on the settlement and integration of refugees and forced migrants.

Ashley Community Housing now supports around 800 tenants and 500 learners every year. It provides fully supported accommodation in Bristol, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, backed up with training in vocational skills, language, literacy and IT. Its employability support includes specialist coaching, classroom training and work placement programmes (including local volunteering) with multilingual support. A dedicated subsidiary called Himilo Training has been established to deliver its various training programmes.

Ultimately, ACH’s aim is to entirely redefine the narrative around refugees and skills and its #rethinkingrefugee campaign — now in its second year and recently highly commended by the UK Housing Awards 2017 — is central to this. “We want people to stop seeing refugees as a problem and begin to understand the social, civic and economic contribution they are able to make to society. And the best way we can do that,” says Marketing & Communications Officer Matthew Rogers, “is by building individuals’ resilience in the labour market, up-skilling and supporting them into sustainable, higher level employment, helping them towards independence and easing their integration into UK life.”

We want people to stop seeing refugees as a problem and begin to understand the social, civic and economic contribution they are able to make to society

Over the next ten years ACH will support a further 25,000 refugees. “But,” says Rogers, “we’ll be doing this with even more ambitious aims in mind. We want to see those we support making  economic and career progression from entry-level jobs to median-salary roles and we’ll be providing support aimed at enabling this.”

How you can help

 Ashley Community Housing is always on the look-out for possible partners who share its values of working towards system change, race equality and social justice in relation to employment outcomes for individuals from BME and refugee backgrounds.

You can get involved in ACH’s #rethinkingrefugee campaign by attending its #rethinkingrefugee conference in Sandwell on Tuesday 10th October, from 2pm-4pm in the Council Chamber of Sandwell Council House. BOOK HERE.

You can find out more about ACH’s work by contacting Matthew Rogers, Marketing & Communications Officer — send mail or ring 0117 941 5339.

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Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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