[Sasha -R- is seen here with Lou, a new Housing Outreach Worker who was shadowing her for the day]
Sasha's job as a Senior Housing Officer is really varied and no two days are the same. She is featured in this month's 24 Housing magazine with a `Day in the life' profile. The article gives you a small snap shot of a typical day of a housing officer at Advance.
Sasha joined Advance in 2004 after studying for a degree course in Housing & Social Work and below she tells us a bit more about her typical working day.
My kids catch an early bus to school so getting them ready without fuss or forgetting something is a perfect start to the day. Then over to my local Costa as I won a competition for a free daily coffee for a year – bliss. Then I sit in the car park and call my 90 year old Nan for a chat. She’s wise and wonderful so I can’t imagine a day starting without my daily conversation with her.
What does your day look like?
I get to work around 8.30am and check my emails and check rent accounts. As we are dealing with vulnerable adults this could involve conversations with the local Housing Benefit departments or support workers. Some of our customers don’t have housing benefit; some have appointees or `money managed’ payment plans so we have to work closely with these departments to keep our customers out of rent arrears and sustain their tenancies. In April our annual rent increases were applied so we have to contact local authorities to make sure customer don’t go into rent arrears and the correct benefit entitlement is being received.
We very rarely take our tenants to court for arrears as we monitor and manage all the accounts very closely and regularly. Twice a month I schedule arrears meetings with the Housing Officers in my area to discuss the higher cases and create action plans to tackle the arrears, prevent them getting worse and share good practice.
What sort of customers do you support?
Advance provides housing and support for people with long term disabilities and mental health conditions. We house adults with long-term disabilities who want to purchase their home to access the HOLD scheme (housing for people with long-term disabilities) or people who reside in our rented stock. We visit all our customers at least once a year to see how things are going for them in their homes.
On any given day I might attend a house meeting with my support colleagues which has been arranged so that customers’ views can be listened to and any issues resolved. We invite other agencies to these meetings such as the police or fire service to give advice on personal safety, fire safety or safety in the community.
We have more recently been working closely with the Probation Service to provide housing for ex-offenders. We might get a call from Probation that someone is to be released and one of our support team will assess their needs while still in prison. Each person gets assessed and receives a package of support.
We are all working together to break the cycle of offending. Our homes are close to all services such as the GP and other local amenities. We know from studies that having a safe and comfortable place to call home can help provide a positive starting point for ex-offenders who might otherwise be made homeless or go straight back into offending behaviour. Each house gets regular visits from their housing officer and support officers to make sure things are on the right track.
Sometimes customers move on so when that happens I will go out and inspect the room/property to see if anything needs doing to bring it up to the right standard for the next tenant. This could involve decorating, replacement carpets or cleaning. I might also be showing the property to a prospective tenant or signing a tenancy agreement with a new customer. There is no better feeling than handing over keys to someone for their new home.
I manage 6 staff directly, Housing Outreach workers and Housing Assistants, and support a further 3 Housing Officers who manage areas in my patch. I’m responsible for the training of new starters and for keeping my own statutory and mandatory training up to date.
What would be your perfect day?
We were so lucky to visit family in New Zealand this year. I would say sitting in a beach house watching the sun set with family on North Island – it doesn’t get much better than that.