Quite rightly, many of those across our front line services during the Covid-19 pandemic have been recognised for their efforts, courage and determination whilst carrying out some of the most important and essential jobs our communities require to function.
These jobs, many of which were previously seen as ‘lower skilled’ and underpaid, have been catapulted into recognition, and appreciated on a level greater than anything seen since probably the end of the second world war. From NHS staff and ambulance crew, to carers, delivery drivers and supermarket staff, it is undeniable that without these vital services, most of us would be at a loss during one of the greatest national and global crises the human population has faced.
But there is an often forgotten section of these workers who have not only stepped up and gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic, but who have, even before things changed on such a dramatic scale, remained an almost invisible force, cementing together the very foundations of our communities, and bringing their dedication and fortitude to work every single day, to support and enhance the lives of the people they serve. I am, of course, talking about our very own housing professionals.
Our Heroes in Housing
Without our housing teams, and especially throughout this crisis, many thousands of families and individual vulnerable members of our communities simply would not have been able to get by, and in some cases worryingly, even survive. From delivering vital food parcels, to regular check-ins on tenants’ wellbeing and mental health, to helping people get to grips with new technology in order to continue to receive vital services such as repairs and maintenance work, and their management teams overseeing some of the most tricky logistical and remote processes they’ve ever encountered, our housing professionals at every level have been incredible. Social values have been at the very heart of every support structure within our communities throughout the crisis, and it has never been more apparent just how important these services are, and how essential it is to keep them sustained, supported and valued.
We think our housing teams deserve a big shout out, and a spotlight shined on some of the everyday things they’ve been doing to keep our communities intact, supported and sustained.
Saffron Housing in Norfolk headed by the unstoppable Hannah Harvey, is one such organisation that have always made it their goal to keep their tenants, staff and communities as safe and healthy as possible, so it was no surprise to learn that many of the Saffron team have been regularly volunteering their time and energy into going even further to ensure their most vulnerable tenants were not left behind during the pandemic. Saffron have 68 staff volunteers (which is about a third of their workforce) who have created a network of staff coordinators and become a taskforce to support those most in need.
“Since the outbreak our volunteers have carried out over 200 food shops/food parcel deliveries, undertaken prescription collections, pension collections, made welfare checks on and befriended our most vulnerable tenants, and linked over 550 people to a personal volunteer to ensure they remain a priority.” Lou Chapman, Head of Communications.
They have made welfare calls to each of their tenants aged over 60 (more than 2,000 tenants), and have been making welfare calls to every tenant living in a flat. “Any tenants we cannot make contact with, we have/are sending a welfare letter to, in order to ensure they are not left behind”.
The trust have also introduced a new free, confidential Tenant Support & Wellbeing Service which is available to all their tenants 24/7, providing help and support on a number of topics including Mental health and wellbeing, Relationships, Family Matters, Managing debt, Workplace issues and Consumer Rights.
A special mention goes to Lynne Riddoch, George Bray, Nick Foster, Sam Matthews, Rebecca Holden, Paul Quick and Trevor Murray-Smith in recognition of their commitment to go above and beyond their professional roles.
Another team that has stood out for their dedication and hard work are Brent Homes. Brent, led by concientious Chief Executive Carolyn Downs, have had over 6000 residents on their shielding list during the pandemic, and have gone out of their way to ensure their housing officers, key workers, repairs and maintenance and an army of volunteers have kept in touch with each resident to not only stay informed and up to date on changing circumstance, but also make sure every resident, is safe, supported and looked after.
Take a look at Brent’s YouTube video to hear from some of their amazing volunteers talking about the calls and conversations they have been having with their vulnerable residents and keeping them from feeling isolated, hungry and without vital medication.
A special shout to Peter Gadson, Elaine Cleland-Awity, Matthew Jacobs, Julie Carter, Desnotre Watson, Natalie Gordon and Raj Soni-Alagh for their volunteer services.
Yorkshire Housing, headed by the indomitable Nick Atkin, took the decision to (instead of furloughing) reallocate their staff to assist in different areas of support where it became most needed as the pandemic took hold.
As well initiatives such as their rave reviewed Customer Assistance Scheme, befriending and supporting around over 5000 vulnerable residents, the team has also found time to raise vital funds for charities such as The Alzheimer’s Society, and help their own resident get involved in giving back to the NHS services that have been so fundamental to their wellbeing in recent months, in the shape of presenting food hampers and cash donations to their local NHS teams.
Yorkshire’s adaptive, responsive and inclusive approach has been happening right across the housing sector, which has ensured the focus has been kept firmly on the wellbeing of tenants and the security of employees right across every part and in every heart of our communities.
As a sector, and as communities, it has never been more apparent just how valuable, and how valued our housing professionals, maintenance teams and volunteers are, and we genuinely hope that they continue to get the recognition they so deserve.