Earlier this month, we bid a fond farewell to our Move On Up service. Move On Up was a housing project for young adult carers (external link), offering housing and support. It was small in scale – working with only four properties and twelve tenants at any one time. But it was big in ambition. It remains the first and only project of its kind in the UK.
We held an event at the Museum of Home to celebrate the successes of the project. It was a bittersweet moment. We always knew that the service had to be time-limited, built as it was on fixed term loans from social investors. Even so, it was sad to see it close its doors, and to bring this work to an end.
At the event, I talked about what we had achieved by drawing a parallel with the children’s book, “The Little Engine that Could.” This is a story about a small engine believing that it could do the same work as the bigger engines, facing down its own inner doubts and the uncertainties of the other engines, and going on to do a sterling job!
I believe that, when it comes to Move On Up, QSA has shown itself to be “the little charity that could.”
When we started thinking about the possibility of this service, back in 2015, we didn’t run any other housing project, nor did we run any other services for young adult carers, nor did we have the funds to make something happen on this scale. In other words, we lacked both the money and the expertise! So why did we decide to do it and how did we manage it?
Why and how did QSA start Move on Up?
We decided to do this because innovation is at the heart of QSA. We wanted to set up a demonstration project to showcase that small charities can have big ideas, and that they can come to fruition. We wanted our perseverance and tenacity to be an example and we hoped that the resulting project, built on QSA’s values, would be an exemplar to others.
Of course, we also didn’t want to fall flat on our faces, and we were painfully aware that we lacked the knowledge and the credibility to do this work well. So slowly, carefully, we built this up, talking to young adult carers and to supported housing providers. We listened and reflected and recalibrated our thinking, repeatedly, for nearly two years.
Partners and investors
Given that we knew we didn’t have the funds to do this work ourselves, we were fortunate enough to be introduced to Commonweal Housing (external link), who look for housing solutions to social injustices. Or, to put it less formally, and as Ashley Horsey, their chief executive, phrased it at our celebratory event “hare-brained schemes” that just might work!
We already had some financial backing from Quaker Homeless Action, and, with Commonweal’s support, three more social investors were introduced to us, did their due diligence on us, and ultimately believed in us, to the tune of £2.3million.
So, in 2017, after two years of so much research, and reaching out, all that listening and learning, careful considerations of costs and risks and the sheer task of taking on a 24/7 kind of project, we opened our doors. This particular “hare-brained scheme” was good to go!
Move On Up was a success. We have an independent evaluation (external link) which validates the risks we took. We have a final report which calls for changes in the UK’s policy and practice towards young adult carers, building on that credibility to speak truth to power.
For ourselves, we had achieved on that original aim of testing out a new idea. We had genuinely been “the little charity that could.”
But the final and most important thing to note is that, while it was a big decision for QSA to set up a housing project, it was an even bigger decision for the young adults who came to live with us. They took a bigger chance than we did, they entrusted their housing and their support to us.
Being a young adult can throw up so many challenges. Life throws even more challenges at young adult carers and continued to throw them at our tenants while they were with us. They have had to be so resilient.
Biggest thank you...
So, much as I thank all our partners, and our investors and QSA’s brave trustees for agreeing to do this project, and Move On Up’s wonderful staff for making this project a reality every day for seven years, my final and biggest thank you goes to the people at the heart of this project, the 32 tenants we had over those seven years.
I am in awe of what some of them have gone through and even more in awe of where some of them are getting to, as they move on with their lives.
I wish each and every one of them all of the luck in the world.