In this series, our Chair, David Biggs, introduces the seven themes of our new strategy.
In this edition, David explains what “support when life changes” means to us.
This is my third blog on our Better Futures strategy and this time I want to discuss the strategic theme of “support when life changes”, which is my personal translation for what Steve and my housing sector colleagues call “tenancy sustainment”.
Throughout my career my most successful times were when it was seen that the service provided was in the form of a partnership where both partners understood their roles and responsibilities and lived up to their commitments.
I find it helpful to view our relationship with our customers in that way. It can help when stepping away from the paternalistic tendencies which have seen the sector accused of contributing to the same stigmas we stand against.
On our side, we provide safe comfortable homes for them to live and enjoy and where we strive to provide a consistent level of good customer service when they need it. In return our customers pay rent and service charges, but we also ask something more than that. We ask them to look after their homes, play a part in their communities, and act as good neighbours.
But at times things go wrong; to us this may manifest as a tenant not paying rent or through complaints about anti-social behaviour. And, just as our expectations are not purely transactional, it’s at times like this that we need to offer that layer of support beyond simply “providing a home”.
We need to work by first understanding their circumstances and then either finding a route to helping them or signposting them to where they can get support. This is tenancy sustainment: it’s about taking steps to support a tenant through a period of change, taking time to understand, help and guide.
A good example of this is Alan’s story.
Like Alan, many of us have had that experience where a loss brings with it a collection of other upheavals, and we often need someone to help us cope that weight and stop it overwhelming us.
I’m glad that, in Alan’s case, he had both Michelle from our Rents team and a compassionate set of neighbours to step in when he lost a family member.
Life changes are often unexpected, but there are things we can anticipate. We also need to take preventative action, for example as a we can step in when someone struggles with hoarding, or when a customer gets older, our Independent Living service can make it possible for them to stay in their home with some minor adjustments.
At the time of writing our strategy, there were only 167 supported housing units in Broxbourne, but the level of need was higher than anywhere else in the county. Our customers rely on the homes they have with us. That’s why we will be investing further in services that support our customers to thrive in those homes as long as they wish to.
I firmly believe that offering the right support in the right moment, in a way that empowers rather than stigmatises, will ultimately help whole communities to thrive.