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Building trust and embedding resident voice

Category: testimonial, CSR, Housing, Corporate Responsibility, Corporate Social Responsibility, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, Supported Housing, PA Housing, social inclusion, COVID-19, Social Impact, covid

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Coronavirus or no coronavirus, building trust amongst residents always comes down to just three things: the first is listening to what individuals are telling you, the second is acting on it, and the third is reporting back to them, outlining what you have done and why.

The clearest example of this approach at PA Housing is our £1 million investment in frontline services.

Our residents were not seeing enough of us, and, via our frontline team, they were telling us this loud and clear. So, our heads of service listened and took action. They drew up a proposal for the creation of 34 new frontline roles and a dramatic change in terms of the amount of time colleagues would spend out and about within communities. Following a lot of discussion with our Customer Services Committee, they put their plan to the executive team, and then to the Board.

For all of us, taking the huge step of making a massive investment in 'Team Purple' — our existing frontline team members as well as new recruits — was a bold decision, but also a crucial one.

We had to improve our relationships with our existing tenants, and this needed to involve more face-to-face interaction – or so we thought.

Following many discussions, and a great deal of work, Team Purple launched in April 2019, and its members spent the majority of its time out and about within our neighbourhoods, speaking to residents and dealing with problems directly.

Residents told us how good it is to be able to simply stop members of the PA team in their building or on their street, and mention anything that's concerning them.

However, when the coroncavirus pandemic hit, lockdown meant that our face-to-face 'PA Housing on Tour' events had to stop. However, its clear sense of purpose meant Team Purple was able to quickly adapt, replacing its physical visits to neighbourhoods with virtual tours. These involve members of Team Purple scheduling 10 two-hour slots per week, during each of which they telephone around 30 properties.

So far, they have spoken to more than 800 customers – this is in addition to more than 2,000 calls made by the Tenancy Sustainment Team offering residents financial advice.

Residents can spend as long as they need on the phone to Team Purple, talking about any repairs that need to be done to their homes, any housing management issues PA should be aware of, as well as discussing how the coronavirus crisis is affecting their lives, and the support we as an organisation can provide.

Through this work, the team has learned that many residents feel more comfortable opening up over the phone than in-person, so when they are able to restart visiting neighbourhoods, they will be following up each event with phone calls to individuals they did not meet face-to-face. This is an example of the type of innovation we encourage at PA Housing.

Embedding our tenants’ voice within the organisation requires a very similar approach to the one Team Purple is taking. Building relationships with those who are most affected by our organisation is about listening to what individuals want. Working with involved residents is about supporting them and their personal choices, and not trying to offer one uniform route to involvement. We can't expect everyone to fit in with one way of doing things because that's easier for us.

For example, Joan Swift, chair of PA Housing's Resident Council, is a long-established member of the PA Housing team, but she is not a member of our Board.

At present, PA Housing does not have any residents on the Board, but Joan has come to the conclusion that she makes a bigger impact fulfilling her current roles. She has been involved in tenant scrutiny for the last eight years, and she sits on our Customer Service Committee, a committee reporting to the Board.

PA's resident Scrutiny Group agrees an annual programme of work and takes an in-depth look at our services and makes recommendations. These are presented to the Customer Services Committee for approval before going to the Board.

Being a member of the Scrutiny Group is a serious commitment. Members come together physically or virtually three times a year, producing three reports, which each involve a solid month's work. When they're completing a report, the Group spends four days a week investigating elements of our services.

It's effort that really pays off – the Board has always acted on the Group's recommendations, following input from Joan and her fellow Customer Services Committee members. Everybody involved in scrutiny get the satisfaction of knowing their work is valued, and – most importantly – acted on.

Other residents may not want to commit the kind of time involved in scrutiny, and there are many other opportunities for them to get involved. Whether it's editing our resident magazine or responding to our surveys, even with social distancing, everyone is able to contribute in a way that suits them.

Whatever role an individual decides to play in ensuring their fellow residents receive the services they deserve, they must feel empowered and supported by the organisation, which should also provide them with the training they require.

At PA, providing help, support and training is an absolute priority. During a time when our involved residents could feel isolated from what is happening at PA Housing, our resident involvement team has worked even harder to keep in touch and ensure they continue to feel valued, and not overloaded, overwhelmed or taken for granted.

For us, trust is built through a constant process of listening, acting, communicating, adapting and treating residents as the unique individuals they are.

By Hattie Llewelyn-Davies

Building trust and embedding resident voice

Hattie is the Chair at PA Housing

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