Head and shoulders picture of Joyce Ward MBE, Chair, Sovereign Resident and Board Partnership

MBE for social housing champion Joyce Ward

Joyce Ward, a former English teacher from just outside Wantage, Oxfordshire has been awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours list thanks to her tireless efforts in championing the rights of social housing tenants. 

Her commitment and passion for ensuring that residents’ voices are heard has had a huge impact at Sovereign Housing Association where she holds the position of Chair of the Resident and Board Partnership and is a founding member of the National Housing Federation’s Tenant Advisory Panel.

Once a homeowner, she became a Sovereign resident in 2009. Her curiosity to know more about her landlord, led to her involvement with the social housing provider.

She said: “I’m a person who likes to keep busy. So, when I retired in 2009 after 45 years as an English teacher, I was rather alarmed at the thought of doing nothing with my days. After I moved into my new home I thought - this is different. How does this work? How do decisions get made about the place that I am living? Who’s in charge?’ and so that’s how I decided to get involved. Sovereign encourage resident involvement in decision making and I have enjoyed offering my views from the get-go.”

A great supporter of Sovereign, Joyce sees herself as a critical friend - not shy about holding the board and executive to account - but acting as a link between the organisation and other residents.

Under her guidance as chair, Sovereign’s Resident and Board Partnership has established resident-led scrutiny panels which examine of the organisation’s services and policies, resulting in changes to working practices, held numerous resident conferences and published regular annual updates for the housing association’s 140,000 residents.

Mark Washer, CEO of Sovereign, said: "We share the government’s vision that anyone who lives in social housing should be treated with respect and dignity and we have worked hard to give more prominence to residents’ perspectives in how we deliver our services. Joyce has been absolutely instrumental in making this happen.

“At Sovereign, her leadership brought together governance, scrutiny and community action, linking them so that our residents can have their say on the things that matter to their quality of life, in an innovative and sector award-winning resident engagement structure. This ensures that residents actively co-create the services we offer.”

Of her MBE award, Joyce commented: “When I first received the letter I thought it was a scam! But once the news had sunk in, I was overjoyed. I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve carried out at Sovereign over the years, especially my input into the resident conferences. It’s my strong belief that all residents can find a part to play, and a voice to be heard.”

Kate Henderson, Chief Exec of the National Housing Federation also backed Joyce’s MBE nomination. She said: “I know from colleagues across the NHF, that Joyce is a joy to work with…It is because of the commitment and determination of Joyce and others that our members are welcoming both our charter and the measures set out in the White Paper. These will ensure that social housing residents can never again be ignored.

“Across the sector, residents are now much more closely involved in how our members deliver services, their governance arrangements and in the work of the regulator. Achieving this significant shift in culture has been made much easier with Joyce’s support as a thoughtful but critical supporter of our sector.”