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Tea and a chat - Raj Sharma, Resident Involvement Coordinator

Category: testimonial, Housing, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, Supported Housing, PA Housing, COVID-19, covid


Raj joined us via Zoom to tell us how he's been reflecting on everything PA Housing has achieved through resident involvement, and also how he's even more determined to ensure customers have their voices heard.

What is your average day usually like?

Gorgeous doesn't just happen, so I'm up at 5am in order to get ready, and to clean and vacuum my home. I'm usually at the Leicester office by between 8.30 am and 9 am, and I tend to begin by catching up with members of our resident groups, making sure they have everything they need.

My job encompasses everything PA does to communicate with residents. I work with our customer-facing staff members, as well as external agencies in the Midlands and London, including other registered providers, in order to give residents a voice. This can mean a lot of different things –– from sorting out interpreters for residents who are facing a language barrier, to working with members of our Customer Forum as they go about approving PA's policies.

I talk to Melissa Lacide, my counterpart in the South, at least once or twice a day. Together, we organise lots of different workshops to gain residents' input into the work we do as PA. However, it is important residents don't feel like they're being interviewed, which is why we like our resident champions to engage with their neighbours on our behalf.

Residents from across the country – who have already been running coffee mornings to engage with others living in their schemes, blocks, and local communities – are now coming together in one single Wellbeing Group. This is an initiative driven by them, and I'm excited to see how it develops.

What has your average day been like during the Covid-19 crisis?

I’m a very ‘out and about’ person, and I tend to need to be with people in order to emote ¬– so lockdown has been difficult. However, Zoom and other video conferencing platforms have been a God send.

Melissa and I spend our time in our communities, so we understood the need that already existed. We knew this situation would hit people hard, but I've spoken to people who haven't eaten for days at a time, which you wouldn't believe possible in this day and age.

PA Housing's Tenancy Sustainment Team has been helping people who have asked for food vouchers, and Resident Involvement have been helping by sending out emergency care packs, which contain all your basic essentials, including toilet rolls, toothpaste, toothbrushes shower gel, hand wash, milk, eggs, sugar, biscuits, bread, tinned beans, pasta, and rice.

I'm responsible for coordinating the packs in the Midlands, and I've been using small local caterers to assemble and deliver the parcels. These businesses, which usually cater our meetings and workshops, are really struggling, so it is good to be able to support them.

Anybody could find themselves in the situation where they need to rely on others, but often people are too proud to ask for help. We get around this by telling those who clearly need support that we're going to drop off a care pack, just in case.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned during this unusual time?

When you’re running around left, right and centre during normal daily life, you can lose focus. This situation has given me time to really sit back and reflect on all the work we’ve done at PA over the years, and how far our residents have come as a result.

I've also been thinking about what we need to do next. We are blessed as an organisation – we have residents who care, and who want to help us to change and improve where they live – but our journey isn't over. A big part of my job has always been helping individual residents to gain confidence and to have their say, but there're plenty more people out there who need a voice.

I've been doing lots of reading, and also finding out about regional BAME and LGBTQ+ groups outside of PA Housing that I might be able to get involved with. I want to do more.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Every part. I love all of it. The best thing about my role is working with residents. I love talking to people and listening to them. I think I am an open, streetwise person, but some of the things residents tell me about their lives still take me by surprise.

Most of all, I love taking residents' feedback and working it into a plan for improving PA Housing's services.

What would you say makes you unique?

Every single person brings a certain element of uniqueness, and that's why I think PA Housing's 'Everybody is Unique' campaign is so smart - it's one of the sweetest things we've ever done as an organsiation. What we are trying to understand as an organisation, about valuing people as individuals, is something I've lived and breathed my whole life.

I believe the thing that makes me most unique is how transparent I am. There’s no hidden agenda with me – I’m just here, trying to make the best out of a situation, and being fabulous doing it.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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PA Housing

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