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Supporting Communities welcomes Circle Voluntary Housing Association

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

Supporting Communities’ membership is growing. Our trading arm, known as Empowering Communities, now has 16 housing associations in Northern Ireland and one new member in the Republic of Ireland.

“We have been in the planning stages with Circle for a few months now,” said Siobhán ONeill, Tenant Participation and Engagement Officer at Supporting Communities. “The pandemic slowed our initial timeline a bit, but we are getting to work in earnest delivering training to the staff, board and tenants this month.”

Liz Clarke, Head of Housing at Circle VHA, explained how her team came to Supporting Communities. “We were eager to find someone with tenant participation expertise that understood Irish housing. We had met with some consultants in the UK, but their approach didn’t match our experience.”

Liz found Supporting Communities’ website and got in touch. After talking with Siobhan, she felt confident that she had found the right match.

“It’s important to have an understanding of our communities. Supporting Communities gave us confidence that they knew what our situation was and how to help us,” said Liz.

Sheenagh McNally, Head of Corporate Services, is enthusiastic about sharing her tenant participation expertise across the border. “We are delighted to be working with Circle to help them create their first Tenant Engagement Strategy and set up a tenant advisory group. We will ensure they have the tools and structures in place that lead to a meaningful partnership between tenants, staff and board.”

Circle Voluntary Housing Association, based in Dublin, has grown a lot in the last four years. Their staff of over 40 people own and manage approximately 2,000 homes nationally across 16 local authority areas, including Dublin, Cork, Kildare, Wexford, Wicklow, Waterford, Meath, and Kildare. They are working on an ambitious growth programme in response to the need for more housing.

Liz, who joined the organisation in 2018, is eager to develop their first full tenant engagement strategy. “This is an exciting time for us to train our growing staff and board, and we look forward to taking on more dedicated tenant participation staff soon!” she said.

John Hannigan, who became Circle’s CEO in 2017, wrote, “We are delighted to be working with Supporting Communities to develop our national Tenant Advisory Group and new Tenant Engagement Strategy. At Circle Voluntary Housing Association, we firmly believe that how we interact with our customers, communities, colleagues, and key stakeholders is of fundamental importance.

We are committed to involving tenants in the decisions that affect them and supporting and enabling tenants’ life choices. The work that we are doing now with Supporting Communities will build on the initiatives that are already in place, creating stronger engagement with more of our tenants by embedding tenant engagement as an integral component of our business and ensuring that we recognise the diversity of our households and our tenants by offering a wide range of opportunities for involvement.”

The first training session with Circle’s staff and one board member was held on 19th November via Zoom. John Hannigan reminded everyone that tenant participation is firmly at the heart of the organisation, and everyone has a role to play.

Sheenagh commented, “The staff at Circle VHA clearly demonstrate a real desire to engage more effectively with their tenants. We had some great discussions - so much so that we ran out of time! I’m looking forward to continuing this dialogue when we reconvene.”

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