Big Housing Thank You

Today sees the launch of the Big Housing Thank You campaign recognising the hard work and dedication frontline housing staff continue to show their tenants in these challenging times.

We’ve summarised just some of our good news stories that show the lengths our staff go to ensure quality services. This year we completed our transition to a new housing model which sees every household benefit from their own dedicated officer – which has already proven to be hugely beneficial in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis.

Advocating for our residents

  • Housing officer Beverley Husbands was covering a patch for a colleague when she met a resident who had no heating and hot water and was struggling with mental health issues. When Beverly attended the tenant’s home she discovered he was a hoarder and access to his boiler was blocked. She spoke to the local council and the resident’s GP, but he was placed on a waiting list. Beverley reached out to one of our removal companies who agreed to tidy away some of his belongings to allow the BSW contractor access to fix the boiler. The resident was elated and prompted him to say:

My dear Beverley, bless your heart. I can't believe that I have heating. Thank you so much for your help.

  • After a fall one of our residents called a friend for help but was in so much pain she couldn’t get to the front door. Housing officer Ruth Drinkwater was contacted and arranged for a locksmith to gain access. The resident has physical difficulties as well as severe mental health issues so Ruth also organised for the installation of a key safe so the situation won’t arise again. The resident’s friend was so grateful for Ruth’s help she wrote in to say:

I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am for Ruth’s professionalism and her dedication to the tenants.

Empowering residents

As the pandemic hit in March and the decision was made to move to emergency repairs only, customer services adviser Anthony Miller received a call from a resident who couldn’t use his kitchen sink. After discussing the issue Anthony explained we were only carrying out emergency repairs due to Covid-19. While the resident understood the situation, he was still understandably concerned about his sink, so Anthony suggested that they work on the issue together to see if they could fix it. He patiently talked through how to put a bucket under the u-bend, unscrew the pipe so debris can clear and how to use a coat hanger to clean out the pipe and then reattach it.

Anthony said “It wasn’t an ideal situation but I kept the humour going throughout the call; joking that I could now add qualified plumber to my title! It kept the conversation light and I stayed on the phone until he had checked for leaks and the sink was working again. During this call I helped to resolve a situation and also empowered the resident to deal with a simple repair in his home.

This could have been a longstanding issue, especially when we were still unsure when we would be working in a more normal way, so I’m grateful he trusted me enough to repair his sink together and really happy I could help.

Building lasting relationships

As the Covid-19 pandemic hit, housing officer Jayoti Bassi immediately thought of her vulnerable and older tenants who would be the most affected and feel the most isolated. There was one resident in particular who she was concerned about so she gave her a call just to see how she was coping. It was clear over the course of the conversation that tenant was feeling very down so Jayoti reassured her she wasn’t alone and asked if she needed help with shopping , getting her medication or would like to be referred to a befriending service. She also made clear the resident could call her anytime and that she would check in on her every now and again.

The resident said the call lifted her spirits and was so touched she contacted us to say:

I needed to shield and be isolated for at least 12 weeks. As I live on my own, this situation has made me feel even more vulnerable and emotional. Jayoti took time to listen to me, even through my tears and reassured me. She showed compassion and went above just being a housing officer.

Tackling financial hardship

Housing officer Paula Forrester and welfare benefits adviser Dean Sharpe helped a vulnerable tenant who was struggling with his mental health, was falling into arrears, had let his home fall into disrepair and had little in the way of furniture. His Universal Credit was not enough to pay his rent and essentials, so Paula helped him apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). He received a significant one-off payment from his council and wrote:

I can’t thank you enough for all your support.

Paula said “I have never done a DHP application before, so I feel that this is a real achievement both for me and the resident. I think he was expecting me to only communicate with him regarding his arrears and nothing else, so I’m pleased I was able to deliver much more”.