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Supporting vulnerable residents during lockdown

Clarion Housing Group

Meet Angela Child, a Tenancy Sustainment Officer working in the southeast region.

Since the start of the covid-19 crisis, Angela and the rest of the tenancy sustainment teams have adapted to the significant changes that lockdown restrictions have introduced by running a countrywide programme to call vulnerable and elderly residents to provide essential support.

So far, Angela has made over 300 calls. We asked a few questions to find out more.

During your calls to residents, did you identify any as needing further support?
Yes, on a few occasions this happened. For instance on one of my calls I found out that a resident was housebound and had no family around to help. Because of the lockdown their helper was also unable to visit them and they weren’t able to get their own groceries or medication.

How were you able to get them the support?

I immediately contacted the local council’s Hub who arranged a food delivery. In another case, I emailed the foodbank directly to arrange delivery of a food parcel to the resident.

Fortunately, on most of the calls we made, the residents were able to get support from either families or their neighbours. For a few of the more isolated residents, we were available to contact local councils and signpost to local agencies to get them help.

We worked with other teams across the business like Clarion Response, estates services and neighbourhood response to find local solutions to support residents where needed.

What type of services and partners have you been using?
During this lockdown, our team have had a great experience working with partner services like community hubs, local councils and food banks. Fortunately, in our area we have the Chichester Furniture Project who support our most vulnerable families. When everywhere else had to reduce or stop services, these organisations were the ones that adapted the fastest to the situation.

Another thing I happily discovered was that the bond between families and communities has grown tighter. This is something I hope continues long after the pandemic has passed.

What sort of feedback did you get from residents? Were they happy to receive the calls?

Many of the residents I spoke to were shocked that we took the time to call them, but were very happy that we did. They all commented that it was such a good thing for a landlord to do. Lots of the residents had coped through harder times. They seem a resilient group, and show a better understanding about the difficulties that will be faced due to the situation.

Are these tenants typically who you would be in contact with on a regular basis?
Our service does provide assistance to older residents, but only on referral from other parts of the business such as Clarion Response or our Neighbourhood Response Officers. Our team made calls to residents in all regions. These would be people that we usually do not hear from much. When we were checking information on CRM it highlighted a whole raft of people that do not have regular contact with Clarion ordinarily. They are more inclined to just get on with it rather that reach out to us. I’m happy that we were able to speak to them and further assure them that we were there to help and provide support.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced since starting these calls?

One of the biggest challenges we faced was that we were calling residents from different parts of the country, so the types of support and services available differed. There were many times where we had to do a lot of calling around to get things done - but we were happy to do it.

To help, the Sustainment Team created a shared spreadsheet for the business to use which was updated with details of services and support we discovered in different regions. This gave us a better advantage when speaking to residents from a different area on each call.

Another challenge was that at times we couldn’t get in contact with some residents. Of course you would get a little anxious because you couldn’t contact them, but we would then try other ways like sending emails or letters.  We would often find that they have been staying with friends or family.

How has your role changed since the social distancing restrictions started in March?
We essentially moved from being able to have face to face visits to offering phone support.   When we see residents in their home we are able to gain more of an insight on what their situation is and are able to pick up on concerns with property management, safeguarding and how the resident is living in their environment.  Meeting someone face to face makes it easier to build a relationship, to better assist the resident with their agreed action plan.  When the lockdown started, we had to assess residents needs over the phone and try to build those trusting without the visual indicators we would usually see.

Do you see your role changing after this pandemic has passed? If so, how?

What my team have done during the lockdown will add a new dimension to the tenancy sustainment role. We have expanded our skills for assessing residents over the phone and expanded our knowledge of the types of services available to residents countywide. Fundamentally, our role as tenancy sustainment officers will remain the same, it’s just that our tool kit has now grown.