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Tea and a chat - Roger Sketcher, Project Surveyor

Category: testimonial, Housing, Staff Testimonial, Supported Housing, PA Housing, COVID-19, covid, surveyors

Testimonial

In the first of a series of articles featuring members of the PA Housing team, Project Surveyor Roger Sketcher joins us via Zoom to talk about his day job, and to share what life has been like for him during lockdown.

What is your average day usually like?

I work in PA Housing's stock investment team, delivering its planned programme of investment in new kitchens, bathrooms, windows and roofs.

The plan covers the next 30 years, and in any one year, I'll usually work between PA Housing's customers and contractors, as we go about replacing kitchens and/or bathrooms in about 150 to 200 homes across my patch, which is the Midlands.

Having a new kitchen fitted is quite an invasive thing to ask residents to go through. It can take 10 days to replace a kitchen, and we're essentially ripping out what is usually the most precious room – the heart of a home. The biggest part of my job is building a rapport with our customers and helping them through that process.

I'll start by surveying homes and identifying what work needs doing, and then I ensure that contractors and builders are delivering the high-quality improvement work PA Housing is paying for. I usually visit up to 10 properties a day, making sure work is progressing as it should be.

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

Before lockdown, I'd be up at the crack of dawn to miss the traffic to get to PA Housing's office in Leicester by 8am. I'd also plan my day to try and miss the traffic at the end of the day, to get home at a reasonable time.

Through the lockdown experience, I've realised I can do the administration side of my job anywhere. I've worked from home in previous roles and I happy to rely on my own initiative and get things done, although I know it doesn't suit everyone. Without my commute, I've had extra hours in my day to go walking or cycling, and that's been extraordinary.

When lockdown first happened, I was half-way through kitchen installations, and my job was initially about making sure residents and their properties were safe. Since then, I've been liaising with the contractors who were ready to hand completed properties back over to PA Housing, and I've been continuing my surveying work using photographic data – it's been possible to check on the condition of external things, like windows, roofs and chimneys.

The past couple of months have also been a good opportunity to conduct some database analysis and making sure all of our systems work as well as they should do. I've also used the time to help my colleagues with PA Housing's welfare calls to check on thousands of customers.​

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

Conducting the welfare calls has been fascinating, and it has really brought home why PA Housing as an organisation is here.

Some of the customers I've spoken to have been people who I've coincidentally previously worked closely with during the replacement of their kitchen or bathroom, and a proportion of them are really struggling for the absolute basics – they are falling through the cracks.

Even with having been in close contact with these customers before, I'd have never known they were at the point of potentially needing to rely on the food parcels PA Housing has been able to provide. The whole experience has made me realise how fortunate I am.

​What is your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part of my job of being a Project Surveyor is its combination of technological knowledge and working on behalf of customers.

At PA Housing, we know what we want for our customers and their homes, and that's something I'm proud of. A new kitchen or bathroom is supposed to last 25 years, so we got to get it right every time.

What would you say makes you unique?

I've lived through not one, but two, Covid-19 lockdowns. I was snowboarding in France when it went in to lockdown and had to get on the first flight home, and then our lockdown hit.

We'd gone to France for a long weekend and before we went all of the advice was that it was still fine to go – but that changed within 48 hours.

The experience of snowboarding on completely empty runs – not another person from top to bottom – was something I'll never forget.

 

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