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Tea and a chat - Deana Clarke, Neighbourhoods on Tour Coordinator

Category: testimonial, Housing, gender, Gender Focus, Gender Balance, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, Supported Housing, gender agenda, female potential, female focus


Today, Neighbourhoods on Tour Coordinator Deana Clarke joins us via Zoom update us on Team Purple going virtual, and to reflect on what she's learned about engaging with customers via phone.

What is your average day usually like?

It depends on where I am in the country. Since 1 April 2019, I've been PA Housing's Neighbourhoods on Tour coordinator, which means organise Team Purple's tours across Surrey, Central London, Northampton, Nottingham and Leicester.

I stay in a lot of hotels when I'm down in London or Surrey, but I always make sure I'm near a park, and wake up at 6am go straight for a run. It's such a great time in the morning, and I find it really great for headspace. Then I'll do an exercise routine when I get back to my room.

I always log on to my emails by 9am and check if anything has arisen in relation to the scheme we're visiting that day, then I travel to the site, set everything up and talk to the Neighbourhood Coordinators about anything we need to be aware of before residents come to see us.

The Neighbourhoods on Tour events run between 2pm and 6pm to give people chance to get talk to us after work. Afterwards, I'll pack everything away and travel to the next destination or home. At the end of each day, I write up a report of the day, detailing any questions that arose so the Neighbourhood Coordinators can follow them up.​

I usually do three tours a week and make sure I'm always back in the Leicester office on Fridays. That's when I stock up my purple PA Housing van ready for the following week's tours, and schedule future events – I plan about six months ahead.

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

During lockdown we're still doing tours, but virtually. We're doing ten per week, with each tour involve myself and the relevant Neighbourhood Coordinator.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, we'd already decided that we were going to start doing shorter pop-up sessions, where we'd visit schemes with fewer homes. When lockdown happened, I took the pop-up sessions we'd already scheduled and made them virtual.

Now we have two-hour slots dedicated to each pop-up, during which we'll call around 30 properties. We send a text messages to everybody in the scheme explaining that we'd planned to visit them in-person, but now we're carrying on with Neighbourhoods on Tour via the phone.

We then call residents and spend as long as they want talking about any repairs they need doing, any housing management issues we should be aware of, including anti-social behaviour they are dealing with, as well as discussing how the Covid-19 crisis is affecting their lives.

Some calls are going on for 45 minutes and the whole experience has been really positive, although heartbreaking at times. Many customers have burst into tears because they're scared of being made redundant or worried about paying bills. One woman cried because she was missing her grandkids so much. I'm not going to lie, I've cried too – once it gets to 5pm, I need to go for a walk to clear my head.

I can't thank PA Housing's Tenancy Sustainment Team enough for the work they've done with the residents I've referred to them. I really believe our customers will remember us for approach we've taken throughout this crisis.

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

I learned that people open up over the phone, because they're in their own home and they feel comfortable. Not everybody feels comfortable to see us when Neighbourhoods on Tour is set up at their scheme. I think some are likely to feel intimidated.

What I've taken away from all of this is that, if we're going to talk to as many customers as possible, we need to follow up tours with phone calls – that way we'll engage more of those who didn't come to see us face-to-face.

What is your favourite part of your job?

I don't have just one favourite part. I love all of my job. I love speaking to people and being there for them. I love what Team Purple is about and working with people who really care. Life seems to be going really quickly – I think that must mean I'm enjoying myself.

What would you say makes you unique?

I've worked in four different roles within PA Housing, so I have a broad knowledge of the business. I'm a people person and I like to build relationships with people at every level, and that's come in really useful when working on behalf of the residents I meet during Neighbourhoods on Tour.

​I love to learn and at the moment I'm learning sign language – it means that when we're back on tour, there will be at least one person from PA Housing able to talk to deaf residents.



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