The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


The Dunhill Medical Trust awards funding to ARC for the Future

15 March 2022

The Dunhill Medical Trust has awarded funding to Almshouse Resilient Communities (ARC) for the Future, a project led by UCL in collaboration with the University of Suffolk and seven almshouse charity partners.

Dunhill medical trust

Photo credit: Andrea DaGama

The Dunhill Medical Trust has awarded funding of £287,000 to ARC (Almshouse Resilient Communities) for the Future, a project led by UCL in collaboration with the University of Suffolk and seven almshouse charity partners: United St Saviour’s Charity, The Whiteley Homes Trust, Sir Josiah Mason Trust, Bristol Charities, Durham Aged Mineworkers’ Homes Association (DAMHA), Legacy East Almshouse Partnership (LEAP) and Southwark Charities.

The project will explore resilience – the capability to adapt and evolve in response to significant change - in almshouse accommodation for older people. The types of change we will look at range from pandemic lockdown and climate change to local changes, such as in staffing, governance or local facilities. ARC aims to find evidence of ways in which our partners support community resilience (that is, enabling resident communities to support each other in maintaining a high quality of life despite changes), support built environment resilience (that is, ensuring that the buildings and facilities continue to support independent, comfortable living) and support governance resilience (that is, ensuring that charity structures and practices are effective within the local context so that almshouse charities continue into the future).

Principal Investigator, Dr Niamh Murtagh, commented: “I’m delighted that we have won funding for our exciting project which takes a multi-disciplinary perspective on resilience in housing communities for older people. Almshouses in some form have existed for a thousand years and still offer a valuable model of housing and community for an ageing population. We’ll be working with a wide range of sites, from those in operation for over a hundred years to sites which have just received planning permission, and from County Durham to Bristol to East Anglia. Almshouse settings offer a fantastic opportunity to investigate resilience holistically and with sensitivity to context and from which we hope to learn lessons of importance for older housing and community resilience more generally. An important theme in our research will be the connection between diversity, equity and inclusion and resilience."

Zoe Richardson, Director of Operations and Deputy CEO at the Sir Josiah Mason Trust, commented: "SJMT is really excited to be part of this project. Our oldest Almshouse charity is over 450 years old and we know the difference that this housing model makes to our residents. We are delighted to have the opportunity to demonstrate this and be part of a national research project."

Martyn Craddock, United St Saviour’s Charity CEO, commented: “We are pleased that our contribution to the ARC project will result in a toolkit which can benefit the almshouse movement and other social housing providers. As the needs increase to provide older people with safe and affordable housing options, this toolkit will not only inform our best practice but also facilitate a collaborative and shared-learning ethos within the UK social housing for older people sector."

Whiteley Village Community
Photo credit: The Whiteley Homes Trust

Rachel Hill, CEO of The Whiteley Homes Trust, commented: “As a charity for older people in need, giving our beneficiaries a voice is at the heart of what we do. Through our collaborative research with them and our partners, we’re committed to sharing their learning about the benefits of almshouse living and promoting innovative new practice. So, we are especially pleased and proud to be a part of this timely new project – one which will also help inform our own vision to build more almshouses, ensuring this ancient form of social housing remains relevant for the centuries to come.”

Susan Kay, CEO of The Dunhill Medical Trust, commented: "We have made a substantial commitment to support initiatives that develop and deliver suitable living environments and communities for older people. This project comes at a time when issues related to resilience and equity, diversity and inclusion have come strongly to the fore. This project will investigate these issues in almshouse accommodation for older people, and we look forward to working with all the project partners to help them share their learning."