Community projects and social housing

Simon Conway, Company Secretary of Thera Trust.

What challenge was the inspiration for your project?

Thera supports adults with a learning disability and finding property suitable for those in need of adapted accommodation is becoming more and more difficult. Such accommodation is essential if the people we support are to be able to lead fulfilling and independent lives in their local community. While Thera has been being asked to support more people, we were often unable to take forward their support until they had found somewhere suitable to live. This inspired us to seek funding to purchase and adapt property – “an ordinary house on an ordinary street” – for people who otherwise would have nowhere suitable to live.

What was your innovation that addresses this problem?

Thera’s housing charity, Forward Housing SW, has a specialist team who work with individuals, their families and carers and wider circles of support to identify a suitable property and adapt it specifically to the needs of an individual. The property is then leased to a housing association to enable the individual to take up an assured tenancy and benefit from the security of accommodation that that provides, while the individual then benefits from the high quality day to day support provided by one of Thera’s care and support companies.

What impact has Triodos Bank had on your activities?

Triodos Bank helped Thera to raise £2 million of investment through a capital raising charity bond. Other than helping to provide a house for some of the people we support – who are some of the most vulnerable in society - Triodos Bank has opened up contact between Thera Trust and a host of new investors, who are beginning to develop an interest in the charity and the way in which we work. Triodos Bank has also helped shape our internal thought processes, helping us consider a broader range of financial options and opening the doors to different funding routes of different levels of risk and complexity.

What impact has your business had on the sector you work in?

We are proud to provide employment opportunities for people with a learning disability in director and other leadership roles across the Group. We believe that we are the only large provider of support to adults with a learning disability in the country that has paid executive directors with a learning disability on our company boards. At present, eight directors in these roles demonstrate the leadership abilities of people with a learning disability which is at the forefront of the organisation’s vision.

What impact has your business had on the community?

We believe that people with a learning disability can be leaders in society. We seek to lead by example. Having governance roles throughout the organisation held by the people with a learning disability and a range of ways in which the people we support are involved in the overall direction and management of Thera is clear demonstration of this. We seek also to support people to develop their friendships and networks in their local community and to reduce their reliance on paid formal support. At the same time we aim to build the capacity of those same communities to welcome people with a learning disability, who historically were hidden away from society, showing them that they are capable of achieving great things with the right support and encouraging the greater inclusion and awareness of the people that we support.

How does Triodos Bank share your vision?

It is important for us to work with organisations wherever we can which have an ethical focus. We were really pleased Triodos Bank was keen to work with Thera, and to involve people we support in a way which was intrinsic to the whole process. The opinions and comments of the people we support help shape what we do and how we work. Triodos Bank wanted to hear from them and were sympathetic to their needs and what they wanted. For us, it’s fantastic to work with a financial institution that is not only invested in the sustainability of our projects, but who share our passion for providing the best possible service which best meets the needs of the people we support.