I spent yesterday doing a bit of job shadowing with the neighbourhood housing officers in my organisation Northwards Housing.
It was dead interesting and I just thought I’d jot down my thoughts on it. For obvious reasons though, I’ve not gone in to too much detail so you can’t identify who I’m talking about. Needless to say though, it was a busy, enlightening day.
In one of my first posts, I wrote about the difficult task of turning around some of the misconceptions about people who live in council houses. That said though, any sort of generalisation is never positive and dehumanises our tenants, so I think it’s important not to ‘positively’ label all our residents either.
Anyway, I spent the morning out and about with one of the officers on the beat. He was doing some visits to tenants for a variety of different reasons – some were neighbour nuisance claims he was following up, some were repairs and some were very simple post-let visits to see how our tenants were getting on in their new homes. It was a very varied, very interesting morning.
I spoke to my buddy for the morning about this interesting research by Inside Housing about the dangers of being a frontline worker. He was dead honest and told me that, yes, he’d had some threats of violence and verbal abuse. He was pretty matter-of-fact about it, and while I was shocked, he said that actually, it’s not a massive problem. It’s on his radar, but his day-to-day job is fairly safe. Most people, like the ones we spoke to on their six-month visit, were just ordinary people who were making their house a home and were getting on with their lives.
My next task was back at the office, shadowing the housing assistants. They are the first port of call for people who have a query regarding their homes. What I noticed though, is that they had to be the most knowledgeable people in the whole organisation. They had to give directions, explain benefits, book repairs and be a sort of signpost to every agency in Manchester. What interested me here was the perception of ‘the housing office’ as a one-stop-shop, a sort of by-word for authority. People came here to talk about every subject under the sun.
After lunch, I sat in on a meeting where a lady was giving a statement about an incident of domestic violence. I won’t go into the details, but it was pretty harrowing. It was very difficult not to reach out and hold her hand.
In short, then, there’s a balance to be struck between doing a bit of myth-busting about council tenants and being honest about the challenges we face.
Perhaps we need to concentrate on the work being done to help people come out the other side. Certainly Eric Pickles’s statement yesterday about ‘troubled families’ doesn’t help here, but that maybe worth another post altogether…