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Tea and a chat - Vicki Gooch, Home Ownership Coordinator

Category: testimonial, Flexible Working, Flexible, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, Supported Housing, Support Worker, PA Housing, home working, COVID-19, flexibility, covid, social care, social housing

Testimonial

Today, Vicki joins us via Zoom to tell us how much she's missing her team, why having empathy helps her to engage with leaseholders, and, crucially, what exactly is a Section 20?

What is your average day usually like?

My days can be quite varied, but if I have a large Section 20 to serve, it will take a whole day. A Section 20 is a notice to tell PA Housing's leaseholders that we intend to carry out work that they will have to pay a contribution towards the work.

The notices apply to work over a certain amount, in addition to service charge, and they're usually served when PA's doing fire improvement work, cyclical decorations, windows, roofs, and, on certain occasions, expensive day-to-day repairs. If PA doesn't issue Section 20 notices ahead of work being carried out, then we are unable to recover costs from our leaseholders.

Projects can cost quite a big bulk of money, but the total sum is split equally between each property, in a block of flats, for example. PA covers the amount for each of the properties it owns and rents to tenants – leaseholders only ever pay their share. ​

One of the biggest challenges I face day-to-day is getting the information I need from other PA Housing teams in order to be able to serve Section 20 notices. I've recently come up with a tick list system, which I've sent out to everybody. It should help in gathering a lot of the details I need.

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

It's been really busy, right from the very beginning of lockdown – budgets for the financial year had just been given out, and the Assets Team had new programmes up and running. They'd already begun sending me Section 20 notices to serve – so I've been getting on with that.

Leaseholders are sometimes unhappy with the amount of money they are having to pay, but a lease is a binding contract and the work we're doing needs to be carried out in order for us to maintain our assets.

During recent months, I've been having more conversations with leaseholders who are concerned about their finances, especially with a lot of them having been furloughed. We're doing what we can to help.

The Home Ownership Team officially catches up on Wednesdays, when we have a group chat, but we also speak a lot during the day. Despite this, I don't like working from home. I'm a people person, so I enjoy face-to-face interactions in the office. I like to take a break from my screen, and go for a coffee and a chat.

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

My husband works nights, so I'm on my own a lot in the day. I now understand what it feels like to be alone and isolated. I hadn't realised how low it makes you feel.​

What is your favourite part of your job?

My team. I've got a really good team, with a really supportive manager. The Home Ownership Team is a little, specialist, team with a lot of leasehold knowledge, and we're always sharing information and helping one another out. I feel like I now have far more appreciation for the strength we draw from one another.

On the subject of my team, can I just say a big, "Thank you" to Ashley Coleman, who's recently left Home Ownership to take a new role within PA. Best of luck, Ashley!

What would you say makes you unique?

I'm very understanding, and I have a lot of empathy. I often think about how I would feel to receive a Section 20 notice telling me I'd need to pay thousands of pounds towards something, and that helps me to provide good customer service – it's important to be honest, clear and transparent.​

Poor customer service makes me very agitated, so I'm very focused on doing what I've said I am going to – so even if I haven't managed to get the information needed to provide an update to a leaseholder, I'll still call them, as promised, to explain that is the case.

 

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PA Housing

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