Circle Anglia - Driving Policy Change: Making the Case for a National House Swap Scheme for Social Housing Residents

The Brief

The Circle Anglia Group (CA), one of the UK’s leading housing associations, manages over 61,500 homes and provides care and support services for around 200,000 people. Providing general needs, sheltered and supported housing, they also offer a range of responsive care, support and maintenance services. Their mission is to enhance the Life Chances of residents by providing great homes and reliable services, and building sustainable communities.

One of their key priorities is to improve the mobility of social housing tenants – in other words making the process of moving within the social housing sector, easier and simpler. There are many benefits that result from improved mobility:

  • Empowering tenants to take control of their lives
  • Enabling tenants to move into suitable sized properties - addressing the problems of overcrowding and under occupation
  • More efficient use of existing housing stock saves significant amounts of tax payer’s money.

Having established in 2004 – the UK’s only not-for-profit mutual exchange service – CA had the advantage of being a credible and authoritative voice in the debate on improving mobility. Against this backdrop, we developed a campaign to:

  • Quantify the costs of poor mobility and;
  • Improve understanding about the importance of improved mobility amongst political leaders and the general public.
  • Calling for a Government-backed national housing exchange scheme.

Objectives & Outcomes 

Objectives Outcomes
Apply pressure on Government to introduce a national house swap scheme for social housing tenants – ensuring House Exchange is part of the Government’s mobility solution moving forward. 

1. Government announced introduction of ‘Freedom Pass’ model for social housing tenants and some ‘right to move’ pilots.

2. CA was invited to discussions with the DWP.

3. Invited to attend a Government meeting to set up the national database.

Demonstrate leadership of CA, having established UK’s only not-for-profit house exchange service. All articles and broadcast coverage name-checked CA.
Sign-post CA (and House Exchange) for social housing tenants, to encourage take-up of service.  10 Local Authorities and 30 additional Registered Providers of social housing signed-up. 
Raise issue within national media to increase awareness of problem and stimulate debate.  Impressive media coverage with total audience of over 30m reached throughout campaign. 
Create a credible, authoritative report that will stand the test of time.  In February 2011 the Guardian said that, “The report Circle Anglia published last extremely useful in indicating the economic and social costs arising from housing malfunction.”



  • The Report: We commissioned the expert housing think tank – the Human City Institute (HCI) – to identify the costs of poor tenant mobility in social housing. This would form the core basis for generating media coverage.  
  • Economic Context: It was done against a backdrop of the economic downturn and the Government’s need to look for efficiency savings – making our story about ‘savings’ all the more timely.
  • Timing: The campaign was timed to co-inside shortly after the formation of the new government. Our goal was to make an immediate impact on new policy-makers with an appetite to endorse CA’s ambitious vision and policy ideas for the sector.
  • Audiences: With a focus on both the costs to residents of poor mobility as well as the policy solutions needed, the report was designed to reach out and appeal to the interest and concerns of both our residents and politicians.


Partnerships with expert agencies

CA partnered with two expert print and broadcast media agencies (Insight PA and markettiers4dc, respectively) to ensure a targeted campaign remit and to generate maximum output.

Established headline grabbing news story on the costs of immobility

The research was commissioned to generate high-impact news and audio copy to demonstrate the damaging economic impact of poor mobility. The key finding of the ‘Counting Costs’ report was that the annual cost of poor mobility is over £542 million - equivalent to building 50,000 new social homes over the five year life of this Parliament. We established that some of the components of this annual cost included:

  • £305 million: based on tenants not being able to care for relatives;
  • £81 million: to the NHS for dealing with the physical and health consequences of inappropriate housing;
  • £32 million: based on educational under-attainment from overcrowding;
  • £58 million: to the Criminal Justice System to tackle intensified delinquency, anti social behaviour and crime that results from overcrowding;
  • £48 million: based on tenants wanting to move into employment, but unable to do so;
  • £18 million: based on tenants wanting to move to take up better work but unable to do so.

Print tactics

Capitalising on a wider interest in the economy we focussed our story on the economic impact of poor mobility, to broaden the issue from being mainly of concern to people in social housing to a wider audience.  To ensure local media traction we cut the data to generate estimated figures for the costs to the UK’s regions, and we wrote letters to the editors of key regional print publications.

Broadcast tactics

We set-up a radio-day, offering a CA spokesperson throughout launch day, which secured us a series of in-depth interviews on BBC local radio. We produced an audio package and distributed it to BBC and commercial radio stations. This was picked up in a huge number of news bulletins throughout the press day.  

Online tactics

We commissioned an online video, which included interviews with residents and key CA staff members to establish understanding of the issues and to target a different (online) audience. The video was uploaded to flagship sites that included The Independent, Daily Express, Talk Talk, AOL, Easier Property and 24 Dash.

Media Summary


Media Type Coverage  (Stories)
TOTAL (INC. ONLINE) 56,101,597


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