We are continuing our series in which we sneak a peek into several job roles within the organisation. Today, we have a look at a typical day in the life of Lauren who manages our resident support and partnership programmes.
When did you join Notting Hill Genesis?
I joined Genesis Community, our former community development team back in 2010. I came into a new team called opportunities plus, where we signposted and referred residents to support and employment opportunities.
Why social housing?
I grew up in social housing and also raised my children in social housing accommodation for many years. I understand and relate to the challenges of many of our residents, having been there myself.
I am passionate about supporting and helping people. I actually wanted to be a social worker after uni but was keen to get into full-time work rather than further study so went to work at Citizens Advice and The Mary Ward Legal Centre. I then went on to complete a master’s in project management, so my current role brings all my skills and experience together nicely.
What is your role?
I am currently a tenancy sustainment and partnerships manager. I oversee our resident support programme which is made up of 15 staff across three teams; the welfare benefits , partnerships and volunteering teams. I also oversee fundraising and two funds- our hardship fund for residents and a grant giving programme.
What can a typical day(s) look like?
On a typical day, I’m working with housing teams to troubleshoot complex cases and link vulnerable residents to external support such as debt, budgeting, and mental health support.
I work closely with local authorities and organisations such as Shelter to access homeless prevention funds where possible. I also sit on a panel to review and approve hardship fund applications submitted by housing officers for their residents in financial hardship.
We work with external partners to deliver local projects to directly benefit residents. Some of this is funded by us through our grant giving programme called Love Where You Live and some is externally funded.
These are just a few of the projects and initiatives we are developing and running, we have loads more listed in the partnerships database on our website.
How did the lockdown or COVID 19 conditions changed your job
My team were incredibly busy during the pandemic setting up food delivery and befriending projects for those isolating. For example we worked with Good Gym to fund a project whereby a volunteer runner bought and delivered a bag of items to shielding residents.
The pandemic also highlighted the importance of digital skills and so we’ve partnered with Business in the Community to support residents with low IT skills to learn the basics such as using email or zoom, so they were better connected to others.
Food and energy support continue to be a big need for residents, even now the lockdowns have passed. The cost-of-living crisis is a serious threat to all residents and particularly worrying for those who were already struggling financially before energy costs started rising.
To support residents during this difficult time, we have partnered with Pocket Power to offer 1-2-1 consultations looking for the best deals on their bills and ensuring all grants and discounts available have been applied. We have also funded a second year of our budgeting project with Money A&E offering a 1-2-1 delivering financial education and support with their budgets.
What do you find the most rewarding?
I love being involved in all the events, drop-in sessions and engagement days within our communities. Nothing beats meeting and speaking to residents face-to-face.
I’m a huge believer in social mobility and I’m passionate about connecting our residents to opportunities to enable progression. Projects such as Tutors United support children to achieve highly at school, which in turn improves opportunities and financial education helps people build budgeting skills. I think it’s imperative we think about the longer-term alongside short-term crisis intervention.
What are the frustrations?
I think probably the ever-changing external environment is my biggest frustration. It feels like we never know what’s going to happen next. The various lockdowns meant we had to adapt at short notice and find ways to support isolated and shielding residents in their homes.
We adapted the programme overnight to focus on food support and provide even more benefits advice to help people’s incomes.
Energy prices and the cost of living are the new challenges. I’m really worried about how households and families are going to manage day-to-day. This is our focus as a team at the moment.
What do you do in spare time?
I go for long walks with my two pomerpoo dogs.
Is there a situation that you were able to resolve that stayed with you?
Yes, there are a couple of situations that stand out. We had a resident with high arrears who was not paying their rent or engaging with their housing officer. We were very worried she didn’t have any income to live on and also picked up on signs of mental health crisis, so tried to make referrals to the local authority which were rejected.
Luckily through another contact at the council the case was picked up by their mental health team after I pushed the matter. The resident was eventually so seriously ill she was sectioned and hospitalised. A welfare benefits adviser worked to get her benefits reinstated and arrears cleared so that she was able to return home and have a fresh start.
In another case, I came across a young resident who was unable to read and write. A member of my team has since helped him with his benefits, debts and access to literacy support. We plan to link him to apprenticeship and job opportunities once his literacy has improved.
Funniest thing a resident has said to you?
Erm, probably a resident telling me he has to get a job soon, otherwise he’ll be too old, he was only 22…that made me feel old!
What is the one thing you would like residents to know about a being a tenancy sustainment and partnerships manager?
I’d like them to know that my role is to advocate and look out for the best interests of residents, particularly those who are vulnerable or have challenges.