Keeping in touch makes a big difference

Advance makes regular welfare calls to some of its more vulnerable customers. The importance of this has become abundantly clear during the Covid 19 outbreak.  

For example Regional Housing Officers/Housing Outreach Workers will usually contact all new tenants and shared owners 8 weeks after moving into their new home. During COVID-19 this has been assessed on a case by case basis as to whether it will be a visit or phone callA monthly telephone call will take place with a Regional Housing Officer contacting those shielding to check on their welfare. Also, tenants who have no support in addition to their annual visit will receive a bi-monthly telephone call to check on their welfare throughout the year. This is carried out via Regional Housing Officer or a Housing Outreach Worker.

Before Covid 19 our housing team were usually very hands on and spent a lot of time seeing customers face to face as well as interacting with them over the phone.  During lockdown it became clear that we needed to target our calls to customers who needed us the most.  First we called all of our 128 customers over the age of 70 to see how they were getting on and to reinforce some of the government messages around shielding and self-isolating.

We then asked our housing team to identify any customers who they felt would be particularly vulnerable and a call was made each week to check in on them.  Some didn’t need calls beyond two or three weeks and others have been followed up for at least 12 weeks.

Kevin one of our housing outreach workers was concerned about a gentleman who does not use the phone.  At the beginning of lock down he visited KT with a social worker and plans were put in place to make sure  KT’s medication would be delivered regularly as he was shielding.  Food parcels were also arranged.  Kevin also supported the customer to get his new bank card from the post office and continued making welfare calls for more than 12 weeks.

Our rented housing customers receive an enhanced and intensive management service which involves help with understanding their tenancies, support with benefits and other tasks to help them maintain a successful tenancy and live as independently as possible.   During lockdown we had to become more agile and turn what is a more face to face service into one over the phone.  It has been a successful undertaking and we feel that customers have benefited from this regular interaction.  Going forward we hope to carry on with a mix of regular welfare phone calls as well as face to face visits.

Our shared ownership customers have a slightly different arrangement with us.  They are either deemed as capable of living independently with or without support.  We are involved in helping to maintain the property in collaboration with the customer and we visit all shared owners once a year at least.

Advance has supported more than 1000  people with a long term disability, over the last 20 years, to purchase their own homes on the open market through the government-backed HOLD (home ownership for people with long term disabilities) scheme.  We currently have more than 650 customers who own their own homes, some live very independent lives  and others require support to help with daily tasks. 

Although living independently some of our customers struggle with interactions with external service providers, or their health changes over time and some daily tasks become more difficult. 

One of our housing officers Simon has quite a number of older customers and he called several of them to see how they were getting on.  His interventions have made a big difference to two shared owners in particular.

RD has been living in Bristol for several years. His flat is part of a managed block and he has had a number of problems including a rat infestation and problems with getting repairs done. R is not always been able to communicate with the managing agent, nor address problems with the property. Since we have been working closely with him and making regular telephone calls, we have resolved the rat problem, enabled his flat to be decorated and are currently working with the managing agent to resolve issues of repairs and access. R reports that he feels much more supported and knows that if there is a problem he is not able to deal with, he can always call us for assistance.

SW has been an Advance shared owner for many years, moving to her most recent property in 2011. Due to advancing Multiple Sclerosis, she has recently been unable to read or action correspondence which has meant problems with her benefits. This was picked up at an early stage due to regular contact and we have identified a friend who can act on her behalf. We have also appealed some benefit decisions on her behalf. Without our intervention her benefits issues would have gone unaddressed resulting in her income being stopped.